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* box set *

Recorded: 1927–33

Released: 1952 (originally),
August 19, 1997 (CD)

Rating: 4.843 (average of 9 ratings)

Genre: folk

Quotable: --

Album Tracks *, Disc 1 (Ballads): 1. Henry Lee (DICK JUSTICE) 2. Fatal Flower Garden (NELSTONE'S HAWAIIANS) 3. The House Carpenter (CLARENCE ASHLEY) 4. Drunkard's Special (COLEY JONES) 5. Old Lady and the Devil (BILL & BELLE REED) 6. The Butcher's Boy (BUELL KAZEE) 7. The Waggoner's Lad (BUELL KAZEE) 8. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O ("CHUBBY" PARKER) 9. Old Shoes And Leggins (UNCLE ECK DUNFORD) 10. Willie Moore (BURNETT AND RUTHERFORD) 11. A Lazy Farmer Boy (BUSTER CARTER AND PRESTON YOUNG) 12. Peg and Awl (THE CAROLINA TAR HEELS) 13. Ommie Wise (G.B. GRAYSON) 14. My Name Is John Johanna (KELLY HARRELL) 15. Bandit Cole Younger (EDWARD L. CRAIN) 16. Charles Guiteau (KELLY HARRELL) 17. John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man (THE CARTER FAMILY) 18. Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand (WILIAMSON BROTHERS AND CURRY) 19. Stackalee (FRANK HUTCHISON) 20. White House Blues (CHARLIE POOLE W/ NORTH CAROLINA RAMBLERS) 21. Frankie (MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT) 22. When That Great Ship Went Down (WILLIAM & VERSEY SMITH) 23. Engine 143 (THE CARTER FAMILY) 24. Kassie Jones (FURRY LEWIS) 25. Down On Penny's Farm (THE BENTLY BOYS) 26. Mississippi Boweavil Blues (THE MASKED MARVEL) 27. Got the Farm Land Blues (THE CAROLINA TAR HEELS)

Album Tracks, Disc 2 (Social Music): 1. Sail Away Lady ("UNCLE BUNT" STEPHENS) 2. The Wild Wagoner (JILSON SETTERS) 3. Wake Up Jacob (PRINCE ALBERT HUNT'S TEXAS RAMBLERS) 4. La Danseuse (DELMA LACHNEY AND BLIND UNCLE GASPARD) 5. Georgia Stomp (ANDREW & JIM BAXTER) 5. Brilliancy Medley (ECK ROBERTSON AND FAMILY) 6. Indian War Whoop (HOYT MINGAND HIS PEP-STEPPERS) 7. Old Country Stomp (HENRY THOMAS) 8. Old Dog Blue (JIM JACKSON) 9. Saut Crapaud (COLUMBUS FRUGE) 10. Acadian One Step (JOSEPH FALCON) 11. Home Sweet Home (THE BREAUX FRERES – CLIFFORD BREAUX, OPHY BREAUX, AMEDEE BREAUX) 12. Newport Blues (CINCINNATI JUG BAND) 13. Moonshiner's Dance Part One (FRANK CLOUTIER AND THE VICTORIA CAFE ORCHESTRA) 14. Must Be Born Again (REV. J. M. GATES) 15. Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting (REV. J. M. GATES) 16. Rocky Road (ALABAMA SACRED HARP SINGERS) 17. Present Joys (ALABAMA SACRED HARP SINGERS) 18. This Song of Love (MIDDLE GEORGIA SINGING CONVENTION) 19. Judgement (SISTER MARY NELSON) 20. He Got Better Things For You (MEMPHIS SANCTIFIED SINGERS) 21. Since I Laid My Burden Down (ELDERS MCINTORSH AND ELDER EDWARDS' SANCTIFIED SINGERS) 22. John The Baptist (MOSES MASON) 23. Dry Bones (BASCOM LAMAR LUNSFORD) 24. John the Revelator (BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON) 25. Little Moses (THE CARTER FAMILY) 26. Shine On Me (ERNEST PHIPPS AND HIS HOLINESS SINGERS) 27. Fifty Miles of Elbow Room (REV. F.W. MCGEE) 28. I'm In the Battle Field for My Lord (REV. D.C. RICE AND HIS SANCTIFIED CONGREGATION)

Album Tracks, Disc 3 (Songs): 1. The Coo Coo Bird (CLARENCE ASHLEY) 2. East Virginia (BUELL KAZEE) 3. Minglewood Blues (CANNON'S JUG STOMPERS) 4. I Woke Up One Morning In May (DIDIER HEBERT) 5. James Alley Blues (RICHARD "RABBIT" BROWN) 6. Sugar Baby (DOCK BOGGS) 7. I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground (BASCOM LAMAR LUNSFORD) 8. Mountaineer's Courtship (ERNEST STONEMAN AND HATTIE STONEMAN) 9. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter (THE STONEMAN FAMILY) 10. Bob Lee Junior Blues (THE MEMPHIS JUG BAND) 11. Single Girl, Married Girl (THE CARTER FAMILY) 12. Le Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme (CLEOMA BREAUX AND JOSEPH FALCON) 13. Rabbit Foot Blues (BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON) 14. Expressman Blues (SLEEPY JOHN ESTES AND YANK RACHELL) 15. Poor Boy Blues (RAMBLIN' THOMAS) 16. Feather Bed (CANNON'S JUG STOMPERS) 17. Country Blues (DOCK BOGGS) 18. 99 Year Blues (JULIUS DANIELS) 19. Prison Cell Blues (BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON) 20. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON) 21. C'est Si Triste Sans Lui (CLEOMA BREAUX AND OPHY BREAUX W/ JOSEPH FALCON) 22. Way Down The Old Plank Road (UNCLE DAVE MACON) 23. Buddy Won't You Roll Down the Line (UNCLE DAVE MACON) 24. Spike Driver Blues (MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT) 25. K.C. Moan (THE MEMPHIS JUG BAND) 26. Train On The Island (J.P. NESTOR) 27. The Lone Star Trail (KEN MAYNARD) 28. Fishing Blues (HENRY THOMAS)

Album Tracks, Disc 4 (Labor Songs): 1. Memphis Shakedown (MEMPHIS JUG BAND) 2. Dog and Gun [Old English Ballad] (BRADLEY KINCAID) 3. Black Jack David (CARTER FAMILY) 4. Down on the Banks of the Ohio (BLUE SKY BOYS) 5. Adieu False Heart (ARTHUR SMITH TRIO) 6. John Henry Was a Little Boy (J.E. MAINER MOUNTAINEERS) 7. Nine Pound Hammer (MONROE BROTHERS) 8. Southern Casey Jones (JESSE JAMES) 9. Cold Iron Bed (JACK KELLY & HIS SOUTH MEMPHIS JUG BAND) 10. Packin' Trunk Blues (LEADBELLY) 11. Baby, Please Don't Go (JOE WILLIAMS & WASHBOARD BLUES SINGERS) 12. Last Fair Deal Gone Down (ROBERT JOHNSON) 13. Parchman Farm Blues (BUKKA WHITE) 14. Mean Old World (HEAVENLY GOSPEL SINGERS) 15. Hello Stranger (CARTER FAMILY) 16. Stand by Me (SISTER CLARA HUDMON) 17. West Virginia Gals (AL HOPKINS & BUCKLEBUSTERS) 18. How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? (BLIND ALFRED REED) 19. Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train (UNCLE DAVE MACON) 20. Governor Al Smith (UNCLE DAVE MACON) 21. Milk Cow Blues (SLEEPY JOHN ESTES) 22. No Depression in Heaven (CARTER FAMILY) 23. I'll Be Rested (When the Roll Is Called) (ROOSEVELT GRAVES) 24. He's in the Ring (Doing the Same Old Thing) (MEMPHIS MINNIE) 25. The Cockeyed World (MINNIE WALLACE) 26. Barbecue Bust (MISSISSIPPI JOOK BAND) 27. Dans le Grand Bois (In the Forest) (HACKBERRY RAMBLERS) 28. Aces' Breakdown (FOUR ACES)

* See Notes

Sales (in millions):

sales in U.S. only 0.5 m
sales in U.K. only - estimated --
sales in all of Europe as determined by IFPI – click here to go to their site. --
sales worldwide - estimated 0.5 m


peak on U.S. Billboard album chart --
peak on U.K. album chart --

Singles/Hit Songs:

  • none

Notes: Originally released in 1952 as three separate two-album collections. The track listing reflects the CD listing in which each two-album collection was put on one CD. “In 2000, Revenant Records released a fourth collection (compiled by Smith) that includes union songs and songs recorded as late as 1940.” WK


Rated one of the top 1000 albums of all time by Dave’s Music Database. Click to learn more.

Anthology of American Folk Music
Various Artists
Anthology of American Folk Music was “originally released in 1952 as a quasi-legal set of three double LPs” JB covering “eighty-four American folk recordings from 1927 to 1932.” WK “This reintroduction of near-forgotten popular styles of rural American music…to new listeners had impact on American ethnomusicology” WK “could well be the most influential document of” JB “the folk & blues revival of the ‘50s and ‘60s.” WK “Many of the recordings that appeared on it had languished in obscurity for 20 years;” JB this collection “brought the works of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Dick Justice and many others to the attention of” WK “a new group of folkies, from Pete Seeger to John Fahey to Bob Dylan.” JB

“The man that made the Anthology possible was Harry Smith, a notoriously eccentric musicologist.” JB Although he “considered himself an abstract-expressionist, with a special interest in film, he had a hobby of collecting old folk and country records. At a time when many people considered these records to be ephemeral, he took them seriously and accumulated a collection of several thousand recordings.” WK

To create Anthology, Smith “compiled 84 of his favorite hillbilly, gospel, blues, and Cajun performances” JB “from the period between ‘1927, when electronic recording made possible accurate music reproduction, and 1932, when the Depression halted folk music sales.’” WK He divided the music into “three categories: Ballads, Social Music, and Songs. Smith sequenced the three volumes with a great amount of care, placing songs on the Ballads volume in historical order (not to be confused with chronological order) so as to create an LP that traces the folk tradition, beginning with some of the earliest Childe ballads of the British Isles and ending with several story songs of the early 20th century.” JB “Many of the first songs are old English folk ballads, and the latter deal with the hardships of being a farmer in the 1920s. The first album of social music largely consists of music likely performed at social gatherings or dances. Many of the songs are instrumentals. The second album of social music consists of religious and spiritual songs. The final two albums of the original release consist of regular songs.” WK

“The cast of artists includes pioneers in several fields, from the Carter Family and Uncle Dave Macon to Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, and the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers. Many of the most interesting selections on the Anthology, however, are taken from artists even more obscure, such as Clarence Ashley, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, and Buell Kazee.” JB

“Harry Smith created the liner notes himself, and these notes are almost as famous as the music. Smith also edited and directed the design of the Anthology, including an illustration by scientist/alchemist Robert Fludd on the cover. Smith also penned short synopses of the songs in the collection, which were made to resemble newspaper headlines – for the song King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O by Chubby Parker, Smith notes: Zoologic Miscegeny Achieved Mouse Frog Nuptuals, Relatives Approve. Smith used a fragmented, collage method that presaged some postmodern artwork. Smith incorporated the music into his own unusual cosmology. Each of the four albums is associated with a color (Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow respectively), and an element (Water, Fire, Air, and Earth). In the 1960s, Irwin Silber replaced Smith’s covers with a Ben Shahn photograph of a poor farmer.” WK

“The Anthology originally appeared on the Folkways label established by Moses Asch.” WK After being “out of print for more than a decade, Smithsonian/Folkways reissued the set in a six-disc boxed set, with the original notes of Harry Smith, as well as a separate book of new reminiscences by artists influenced by the original and a wealth of material for use in CD-ROM drives.” JB

Review Source(s):

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Last updated May 29, 2010.