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VARIOUS ARTISTS 'Anthology of American Folk Music' (6 CD Box Set) SF-40090-6CD

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In this day of unlimited access to literally thousands of records of music from every corner of the world, it is hard to realize the impact that this project--otherwise known as the "Harry Smith Collection"--had over a whole generation when it appeared in 1952. First of all, there were only a relative handful of "LPs" on the market at the time, and most of them were classical(the 1st Bluegrass LP. for example, wasn't issued until 1956 or 1957). The strangely fascinating booklet that accompanied the original issues(3 separate boxed of 2 LPs each)was an eye-catcher, but it was the music itself that was a revelation--here were 84 examples of forgotten rural American music that were essentially unknown to anyone outside the South. To young collectors & musicians like Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Ralph Rinzler and many others, these recordings provided a catalyst & an impetus to seek out the authors of this wonderful music, and amazingly quite a few of the artists were still living and soon found--people like Mississippi John Hurt, Gus Cannon, Tom Ashley, Dock Boggs and Buell Kazee among others. The music was real in a society that was starting to become increasingly artificial, and really, it changed many people's lives, directly or indirectly. The thing that made this set so special was Harry Smith's impeccable taste--to come up with these 84 tracks out of a collection that numbered some 20,000, amazes me today more than ever. How did the zany & clearly eccentric Smith have the taste, knowledge & boldness to include such gems as J.P. Nester's TRAIN ON THE ISLAND, Ernest Phipps' SHINE ON ME, Hoyt Ming's INDIAN WAR WHOOP or the brilliant MINGLEWOOD BLUES by Cannon's Jug Stompers? An equally ambitious project, but with less inspired choices, could have effectively terminated interest in this aspect of American music rather than spurred it on. In reissuing this Anthology, the Smithsonian has done a remarkable job: the look and feel of the original LPs are retained here, with 6 CDs in a box with a reprint of the original booklet of notes. In addition, there is another huge new 68 page booklet of notes, photos and commentary to help document this major work, which includes so many wonderful examples of Blues, Cajun music, Sacred Harp, and old-time songs, ballads & tunes. One of the 6 CDs is an interactive CD-Rom on which you can see some photos, film footage & interviews. Obviously a must for anyone interested in rural American music, and a bargain at the price.