"Been All Around This World" explores the breadth and depth of folklorist Alan Lomax's seven decades of field recordings. From the earliest trips he made through the American South with his father, John A. Lomax, beginning in 1933, to his last documentary work in the early 1990s, the program will present seminal artists and performances alongside obscure, unidentified, and previously unheard singers and players, from around America and the world, drawn from the Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. It is produced and hosted by Nathan Salsburg, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity, the non-profit research center and advocacy organization that Lomax founded in 1983. (Photo of Alan Lomax by Peter Figlestahler.)
S2 E4 - "Making It In Hell": Parchman Farm, 1933–1969
Brutality and inhumanity were central to the Southern state prison farms, in their theory and their practice, and of them all, the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman Farm was the most brutal and inhuman. Both John A. and Alan Lomax made repeated visits to Parchman, recording — under the eye of the disinterested white captains, sergeants, and warden, and the guns of the "trusty" prisoner-guards — a body of American song unmatched in its depth, dignity, and power. Folklorist and prison documentarian Bruce Jackson once said that the group work songs sung by the black inmates of the Southern penitentiary farms were means of "making it in Hell." Alan Lomax, writing in 1947, said that: "In the pen itself, we saw that the songs, quite literally kept the men alive and normal.... These songs, coming out of the filthy darkness of the pen, touched with exquisite musicality, are a testimony to the love of truth and beauty which is a universal human trait." In this episode, spurred by the ongoing horrors being reported in the Mississippi Department of Corrections in general and at Parchman in particular, we listen back over the four decades of recordings made by the four white folklorists (the Lomaxes, Herbert Halpert, and William Ferris) who took the trouble to visit the place and document the singing of its prisoners: work songs for clearing ground, felling trees, picking cotton, or breaking rocks, as well as solo field hollers, spirituals, and blues.No one can mourn the passing of this song tradition and the system of black disenfranchisement and white supremacy that made it necessary to its singers. But, despite the 1971 class-auction lawsuit that forced federal reorganization of Parchman due to its epidemic use of "cruel and unusual punishment," it's only differently awful in 2020. In his harrowing "Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice," Michael Oshinsky provides a 1975 quote from a convict named Horace Carter, who’d been at Parchman for fifty years. What was missing in the “new” Parchman, Mr. Carter said, was “the feeling that work counted for something… awful bad as it was in most camps, that kept us tired and kept us together and made me feel better. I’m not looking to go backwards. I know the troubles at old Parchman better than any man alive. I’m 73 years old. But I look around today and see a place that makes me sad.” This episode was completed before the announcement that William Barr's Justice Department will open a civil rights investigation into conditions at Parchman. It's hard to imagine an administration with less sympathy for incarcerated people of color, but who knows, maybe, at last, Parchman Farm will be shuttered for good. “These songs are a vivid reminder of a system of social control and forced labor that has endured in the South for centuries, and I do not believe that the pattern of Southern life can be fundamentally reshaped until what lies behind these roaring, ironic choruses is understood.” —Alan Lomax, 1958For streaming audio of all of Alan Lomax's 1947, 1948, and 1959 Parchman Farm recordings, visit research.culturalequity.org. PLAYLIST:[Bed music:] Unidentified ensemble, including Lonnie Robertson, guitar, and possibly "Black Eagle," cornet. Camp 1, April 1936. *Frank Devine and unidentified man: In the Bye and Bye. Unidentified camp, August 1933. *Bowlegs (real name unknown): Drink My Morning Tea. Camp 12, August 1933. *Unidentified men: He Never Said A Mumblin' Word. Unidentified camp, August 1933. *M.B. Barnes, Louella Dade, Passion Buckner, Alberta Turner, Bertha Riley, Lily Mallard, Christine Shannon, and Josephine Douglas: Oh Freedom. Women's camp, April 1936.*Big Charlie Butler: Diamond Joe. Unidentified camp, March 1937.
[Bed music:] John Dudley: Cool Drink of Water Blues.
S2 E3 - Singing from the Sacred Harp, 1928-1983
Sacred Harp -- the four-part shape-note singing tradition long confined to the American South, but recently enjoying remarkable international popularity and participation -- fascinated and challenged Lomax for most of his career. He recorded it multiple times, trying with increasing technological sophistication to capture its indelible magic. In this episode, we survey Alan's Sacred Harp recordings and the tradition's development, ethos, and survival. Intro: United Sacred Harp Musical Association Convention: The Bower of Prayer (#100) (Fyffe, Alabama, October 1959) 1. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers: Weeping Pilgrim (417) (Gennett 6583, Richmond, Indiana, 1928) 2. Alabama Sacred Harp Singers: Present Joys (318) (Columbia 15272, Atlanta, Georgia, 1928)Interstitial: Martha Woodard, Mission (204) (Gadsden, Alabama, June 1982) 3. Alabama Sacred Harp Singing Convention: Ballstown (217) (Jefferson County Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama, August 1942) 4. United Sacred Harp Musical Association Convention: The Parting Hand (62) + Hallelujah (146) + Amazing Grace (45) (Fyffe, Alabama, October 1959) Interstitial: Martha Woodard, Murillo's Lesson (358) (Gadsden, Alabama, June 1982)5. Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers: How Long (Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington, D.C., August 1983) 6. Holly Springs Sacred Harp Convention: Help Me to Sing (376) (Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church, H.S., Georgia, June 1982*) 7. Alan Lomax extemporizes on musico-historical dimensions of Sacred Harp, with Phil Summerlin and Buell Cobb (Holly Springs Primitive Baptist Church, H.S., Georgia, June 1982) *An egregious error of chronology was made in this episode: Lomax's last shape-note recordings were in fact of the Wiregrass singers in 1983, as the Holly Springs recording took place in the summer of 1982 and not 1983 as repeatedly stated. Apologies!
S2 E2 - The Mississippi Hill Country, 1942-1978
1. Sid Hemphill and band: The Carrier Line (or the Carrier song). Sledge, Mississippi, August 1942. 2. Sid Hemphill and Lucius Smith: Going Away, Won't Be Long. Senatobia, Miss., September 1959. 3. Miles and Bob Pratcher: I'm Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die. Como, Miss., 9/59.4. Fred McDowell with Fanny Davis and Miles Pratcher: Shake 'Em On Down. Como, 9/59. 5. Rosa Lee Hemphill Hill: Faro. Como, 9/59.6. Sidney Hemphill Carter: Pharoah. Senatobia, 9/59.7. Ed Young; Lonnie Young, Sr.; G.D. Young: Ida Reed aka Oree aka Little and Low. Como, 9/59.8. R.L. Burnside: Going Down South. Coldwater, Miss., August 1967. (Recorded by George Mitchell.)9. R.L. Burnside: Coal Black Mattie. Como, August 1978. 10. Napoleon Strickland: Shake 'Em On Down. Como, 8/78. 11. Lucius Smith: New Railroad. Sardis, Miss., 8/78.12. Othar Turner and band: My Babe. Gravel Springs, Miss., 8/78.
S2 E1 - The Southern Journey at 60
The Fall 2019 season of the program will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the so-called "Southern Journey" field-recording trip and explore various regions, traditions, and performers Lomax and Collins visited and recorded. This first episode is a (highly cursory) survey. 1. Hobart Smith: Railroad Bill. Bluefield, Virginia, August 25.2. Texas Gladden: Whole Heap of Little Horses. Salem, Virginia, August 26.3. Charlie Higgins, Wade Ward, and Bob Carpenter: Did You Ever Seen the Devil, Uncle Joe? Galax, Virginia, August 31.4. Fred McDowell with Fanny Davis and Miles Pratcher: Gravel Road Blues. Como, Mississippi, September 22.5. Ed Young, Lonnie Young, Sr., and Lonnie Young, Jr.: Church I Know We Got Another Building. Como, Mississippi, September 21.6. Ed Lewis and group (consisting of, at least, Wesley Lee Brown, Oscar Crosby, Robert Lewis, Willie Matthews, John Edmonds, Willie P. Roberts, and Henry Mason): I'll Be So Glad When the Sun Goes Down. Camp B, Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary), September 19 or 20.7. Vera Ward Hall: Wild Ox Moan. Livingston, Alabama, October 10.8. Almeda Riddle: Rainbow Mid Life's Willows. Heber Springs, Arkansas, October 6 or 7.9. Big John Davis and the Spiritual Singers of Coastal Georgia (soon to be renamed the Georgia Sea Island Singers): Moses, Don't Get Lost. St. Simons Island, Georgia, October 12.
S1 E7 - Sing Christmas
1. Villagers of Cáceres, La Mancha: Christmas processional, Christmas Eve 19522. Merritt Boddie and Marigolds band: Christmas Machete, Gingerland, Nevis, July 19623. Norman Edmonds and the Old-Timers: Breaking Up Christmas, Hillsville, Virginia, August 19594. Sophie Loman Wing and group: All Night Long, St. Simons Island, Georgia, June 19355. Kelley Pace and prisoners: Holy Babe, Cumins State Farm, near Gould, Arkansas, 19426. Vera Ward Hall: No Room At the Inn / Last Month of the Year, Livingston, Alabama, October 19597. Phil Tanner: The Gower Wassail, Columbia Studios, London, 19378. Shirley and Dolly Collins: The Moon Shines Bright, from “For As Many As Will” (Topic, 1978)9. 1959 United Sacred Harp Musical Association: Sherburne (#186), Fyffe, Alabama, September 195910. Villagers of Hío, Aragon: Buenas Entradas de Reyes, Hío, Galicia, November 195211. Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers with Hobart Smith, Nat Rahmings, and Ed Young: Yonder Come Day, St. Simons, Georgia, 1960. Preceded by 1962 discussion about the song between Jones and Antoinette Marchand. And the complete 1957 BBC broadcast of “Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year,” produced and hosted by Alan Lomax. Songs and performers listed here (although we have edited out Lomax's performance of "No Room At the Inn" for reasons [primarily] of file size). https://www.discogs.com/Various-Sing-Christmas-And-The-Turn-Of-The-Year/release/6156619
S1 E6 - Oh Freedom
Topical, protest, and resistance songs from Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas, Trinidad by way of New York City, Oklahoma by way of California, and the Mississippi State Penitentiary, better known as Parchman Farm.
1. Sarah Ogan Gunning: I Hate the Capitalist System. NYC, November 1937. 2. Hobart Smith: Peg and Awl. Bluefield, Virginia, August 1959. 3. Big Bill Broonzy: Black, Brown and White Blues. Decca Studios, NYC, March 1947. 4. Lord Invader: Yankee Dollar. Town Hall, NYC, December 1947. 5. Woody Guthrie: Dust Bowl Refugees. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., March 1940. 6. Nimrod Workman: 42 Years. Mascot, Tennessee, July 1983. 7. Floyd Batts: Dangerous Blues. Parchman Farm Camp 11, Parchman, Mississippi, September 1959. 8. M.B. Barnes & prisoners: Oh Freedom. Parchman Farm Women's Camp, April 1936.
Seeing this fine podcast back in my feed for a second season was like a small gift as I began my commute this morning. Host Salsburg takes a lot of care in his preparation and delivery of some of the most unique content currently offered in the podosphere. While Season 1 seemed to take a ‘less talk more rock’ approach, this first episode of Season 2 goes a more in-depth on the history behind the musical selections and how they came to be heard by lucky folks like you and me. As someone who has spent a good deal of time with the Lomax recordings, I really appreciate this additional context and insight from someone who is directly linked to the all of the work that goes into preserving and presenting the archive. Well done.
Keep up the great work, Nathan. Can’t wait to hear more!
Excellent presentation of essential music
A fun and detailed exploration of Lomax’s important work! I’m looking forward to more episodes.
As an audio engineer (I run the Orchard Recording Studio Podcast), I’m very interested in the equipment that Lomax chose to travel with throughout the decades. Just in case you can cover any of that. :)