A cappella album, ‘FOLK,’ available today, shines a light on the origins of country music.
Acclaimed music writer/industry veteran John Lomax III announces today’s release of FOLK, marking the start of the Sesquicentennial birthday celebration of his grandfather, famed Texan folklorist, John Avery Lomax (Lomax Sr.). The unique album includes 16 solo a cappella performances, sung by Lomax III’s father, John Avery Lomax Jr. The CD illustrates the recordings gathered during multiple expeditions from 1908-1947, by John Avery Lomax and his son, Alan. In addition, The University of Texas Press will reissue Lomax Sr.’s account of these early recording trips in his 1947 autobiography, Adventures of a Ballad Hunter. The tenacious ballad seekers crisscrossed 35 states, recording 5,500 stories, cowboy melodies, children’s tunes, Appalachian ballads, prison laments, work songs and lullabies.
"The songs my father sings on FOLK are part of the soundtrack of my life,” says Lomax III. “He learned them from his father who learned them during a life of song-catching. Now you can enjoy these vivid slices of our shared American heritage."
Lomax III continues these pioneering efforts begun when his grandfather first heard the songs of working cowboys on the Chisholm Trail near his childhood home in the mid-1880s. Some of the best known of these are “Home on the Range,” “Git Along Little Dogies” and “The Buffalo Skinners,” the latter two presented on FOLK.
“The Lomax family has exerted a Texas-sized impact on American vernacular music for more than 100 years,” says Todd Harvey, Folklife Specialist at the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. “Generation after generation of them have documented, published books and recordings, lectured, concertized, broadcast, and in a dozen other ways promoted the entire vital enterprise of traditional culture. The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress proudly preserves the original Lomax materials and makes them available to all the people of the world.”
In 1932, Lomax Sr. and Alan received a grant from the Library of Congress to traverse the mud-encrusted roads and dirt byways of the south to gather fresh material, much of which appeared in their American Ballads and Folk Songs volume. In this 16,000-mile trek they both contracted malaria, slept on cots on the roadside, battled foul weather, meager food, rutted roads and equipment breakdowns. They persevered, gathering material that could very easily have been forever lost to future generations.
“My father and uncle, Alan, discovered and first recorded Muddy Waters and Leadbelly and dozens of other folk, blues and gospel artists,” Lomax III says.
In later years John Avery Lomax Jr. added to the family’s musical contributions by recording two albums for Folkways Records, establishing the Houston Folklore Society and managing blues legend Lightning Hopkins for a decade. FOLK is a piece of iconic music history which Lomax III hopes will rekindle interest in these unique songs of Americana.
As a member of the media, you can listen to FOLK here.
Lomax Family Information
- John Avery Lomax Sr. (September 23, 1867 – January 26, 1948) Famed Texan folklorist who collected recordings across early United States with son Alan
- John Avery Lomax Jr. sings solo a cappella on FOLK.
- John Lomax III produced FOLK and former manager of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and Kasey Chambers.
- FOLK is John Jr.’s follow up to 1956 LP, Sings American Folk Songs.
- John’s father and uncle (Alan) discovered and first recorded Muddy Waters and Leadbelly and dozens of other folk, blues and gospel artists.
- John Jr.’s Houston Folklore Society gave early stages to Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, K.T. Oslin.
- John Jr.’s brother Alan, created The Global Jukebox and earned the coveted N.A.R.A.S. Trustee’s Award.
- John Jr.’s sister Bess Lomax Hawes co-wrote Kingston Trio classic, “M.T.A.” and was a founder of the American Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
- John Jr. managed and booked blues legend Lightning Hopkins.
- John Jr. planned the recording trip when Leadbelly was discovered.
- John Jr.’s brother Alan Lomax and sister Bess Lomax Hawes, each won the prestigious National Medal of Arts.
- John Jr.’s son, FOLK producer John Lomax III was an early manager to Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle & Kasey Chambers.
- John Jr.’s grandson, John Nova Lomax, won an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award and is a Sr. Editor at Texas Monthly.
- John Jr.’s younger son, Joseph Franklin Lomax was a TV producer, journalist, photographer, publisher and keeper of the FOLK tapes.