From I’m You, out now on Discrete Pageantry.
Well if my effusive album review didn’t inspire you to check out the new Hallelujah The Hills, then maybe this new video will do the trick.
Back in 1997, like a lot of music geeks, I was excited to pick up the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of Harry Smith’s 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music, which had originally been compiled from Smith’s collection of 78s from the 1920s and 30s and ultimately inspired the 1960s folk music revival. So, you know, pretty important in the history of rock and roll.
It was originally released at the height of McCarthyism, when the United States government was trying to root out immorality and subversion and unamerican activity from the lives of private citizens. The Anthology dispels the notion that people were any more moral back in the day. Nope, the “old, weird America” (as Greil Marcus refers to it) was just as f-ed up a hundred years ago as it is today with all the sex, murder, and corruption that you could imagine. The world hasn’t gone to hell; it’s always been hell.
Harry Smith was something of an alchemist. Marcus describes the Anthology as “an occult document disguised as an academic treatise on stylistic shifts within an archaic musicology.” Smith himself said, “I thought social changes would result.” Indeed, if you make the connections from the folk music revival to the civil right movement and environmental awareness, etc., you can see that Smith wasn’t wrong about that. Social changes did result.
Which is pretty insane.