Thu 09.05.19

Sam Amidon presents 'The Anthology Of American Folk Music'

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Tribute to one of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ (Rolling Stone)

AB honours Harry Smiths ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’

AB launches the (ambitious) plan to, over the coming years, once again shine a spotlight on the masterful compilation ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’ (Folkways Records, 1952). ‘Anthology’ was compiled by American eccentric and 78 rpm collector Harry Smith and, with its 84 songs, it is considered to be the bible of American folk. In other words: the equivalent of ‘The Great American Songbook’.

Don’t know the name? Think twice! Both Harry Smith and the collector bagged three (!) Grammy Awards. It is considered by Rolling Stone to be one of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’. Beck, Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Elvis Costello are absolute admirers. Just like The White Stripes and Nick Cave, whose primal versions of ‘John the Revelator’, ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Henry Lee’ are to be found on ‘The Anthology’.

The plan? Every year, AB will invite an (inter)national artist here who has been influenced by (or is inspired by) this masterful collective work that, by the way, also abundantly exudes blues, cajun, gospel, jazz and hillbilly. The full evening programme will be a deep dive into ‘The Anthology’, with personal interpretations of songs from Harry Smiths epos.

Sam Amidon presents ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’

Following on from The Golden Glows, it is now the turn of Sam Amidon – our first international guest to become immersed in the work of ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’. This American singer, guitarist, fiddle- and banjo-player often borrows from American traditionals gathered together by musicologists like Alan Lomax and Harry Smith.

Amidon literally grew up in a family where Appalachian folk music formed the soundtrack of his youth. When Harry Smith’s ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’ was released on CD in 1997, it was a 16-year-old Sam that received the musical uppercut that would change his life: ‘When I heard old field recordings of fiddlers and singers on the mountain, it was as harsh and strange as an Albert Ayler free jazz album. Suddenly, here were vintage recordings buried under hiss and crackle, with strange accents and weathered voices. It sounded as alien as my first encounter with Ornette Coleman and was part of the same world of exploration.’

Sam Amidon received just one assignment from AB: rework songs from Harry Smith’s famous Anthology as if it were a modern masterpiece.

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