What do Lead Belly, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and the University of Alberta have in common? Folkways Records.
In New York City in 1948, Moses Asch incorporated Folkways Records, with the intent to record “the people's music.” From the beginning until Asch’s death in 1977, Folkways released 2,160 albums and amassed recordings of music, spoken word, poetry and sounds from around the world.
The passion that Asch and this small company showed for American traditional and contemporary roots music aligned with the burgeoning respect the public had for blues music and its artists. One gift of Asch’s ideals is a legacy of music and sound: he insisted that every single title in his collection would never go out of print, ever.
Another gift became a legacy for the University of Alberta.
In the 1970s and '80s, Asch’s son, Michael Asch, was a professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta. To show his appreciation for the city, province and university, Moses presented a complete copy of the entire collection of Folkways Records.
The only other complete and maintained collection resides in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The university would build an entire department based on this collection and Moses's ideals, called Folkways Alive!
There are thousands of blues songs in the collection, and the performers are synonymous with the genre: James P. Johnson, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Lead Belly, Son House, Lightnin' Hopkins, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and many more. Folk singer Bob Dylan would record some of his earliest material for the Folkways label, as would Lucinda Williams, who recorded both blues covers and original songs.
Here is Lead Belly, talking with the producer and staff at his final session for Folkways Records, and performing “Careless Love.”
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on Jun 04, 2012