Concerts Celebrate the Centennial of Songcatcher Alan Lomax

Alan Lomax (far left) recording with musicians for “American Patchwork”
Alan Lomax (far left) recording with musicians for “American Patchwork”

Folklorist, songfinder, author, radio personality, ethnomusicologist, oral historian, activist, filmmaker, concert producer, recording artist, scholar, archivist, lecturer — Alan Lomax was all of these things… and more.

Lomax was born in Texas in 1915, and with his father, John, and on his own, recorded a vast treasure trove of American folk music for the Library of Congress as well as a wide variety of record labels. Again, with his father and individually, Lomax published a series of highly influential printed collections, including “American Ballads and Folk Songs,” “Folk Song U.S.A.” and the seminal 1960 volume, “The Folk Songs of North America in the English Language.”

This month around Greater Nippertown, there are two big concerts scheduled to celebrate the centennial of Alan Lomax’s birth and his great musical legacy:

Canadian Jayme Stone – a Juno Award-winning banjo player, composer, producer and performer of world music – kicks off his year-long Lomax Project tour at 7pm on Thursday (November 5) at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy. The show pays tribute to the pioneering work of Lomax, with Stone and his band reviving, recycling and re-imagining roots and folk music. In addition to Stone, the band features Moira Smiley (voice, accordion), Sumaia Jackson (fiddle, voice) and Joe Phillips (bass, voice).

For this “collaboratory,” the band will revive, recycle, and re-imagine the traditional music collected by Lomax, including Bahamian sea shanties, African-American a cappella singing from the Georgia Sea Islands, ancient Appalachian ballads, fiddle tunes and work songs collected from both well-known musicians and everyday folk.

Tickets are $20; $10 children & students age 17 and under.


Meanwhile, at 8pm on Saturday, November 14, Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs will present “A Great Notion: The Alan Lomax Century,” hosted by Lost Radio Rounders. In addition to the Rounders, the concert will feature Jonny & Annie Rosen (of Annie & the Hedonists), Mark Tolstrup, George Wilson and Rich Bala, all performing songs and stories culled from Lomax’s work.

Selections will include such indelible classics as “Do Re Mi,” “Midnight Special,” “St.
James Infirmary,” “Pretty Polly,” “Delia,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Tom Dooley,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Sloop John B.,” “In the Pines” and “Goodnight, Irene,” and nod to artists ranging from Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly to Big Bill Broonzy and Aunt Molly Jackson.

The concert is a benefit for the Caffe, and tickets are $20.

NOTE: More than 17,400 digital audio files of recordings that Lomax collected over the years are now available for free streaming at the Association for Cultural Equity

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