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It could be said that Alan Lomax did more for folk music, both at home and abroad, than anyone else. With his portable tape recorder at his side, he traveled the United States and the world, recording anyone who would allow him to do so for no other reason than preservation of culture. To celebrate the centennial of his birth, one hundred recordings made around the globe, plus one of Lomax himself, span six LPs in a stunning affirmation of one man’s legacy to the realm of folk.
Root Hog Or Die pairs tracks from the American South and New York City, as well as the Midwest and New England, with songs from the Caribbean, British Isles, Italy, Spain, Morocco and Romania. Here, bluegrass fits perfectly between gospel choirs and island street music. Giants of blues, e.g. Son House, Skip James, Jelly Roll Morton, Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson, rub shoulders with fisherman on an Italian beach and wedding singers in Morocco. Steven Wright, a young boy from Harlem, plays “Hambone” on his body while Bob Dylan plays “Masters of War” in Lomax’s kitchen and voices shout to trumpet in Transylvania. Elsewhere numerous solo vocalists passionately sing songs of their heritage for posterity. The sheer scope of these recordings alone establishes Lomax’s importance to music history.
It should be noted that the majority of these tracks have never been previously released, making this much more than a mere compilation culled from Smithsonian Folkaways archives. Dive into the world of Alan Lomax, where music exists in every mode of life.
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