For years as a college radio DJ, I said that my dream job would be to work at Smithsonian Folkways, the institution’s record label that specializes in regional folk music, field recordings and spoken word. The dream is coming true — temporarily and with no pay, but I’ll take it.
To get myself psyched up, I wanted to make a D.C.-themed mix, mostly so I could start it with that Magnetic Fields song. Instead I pulled out the few Folkways records I have in my collection and picked some favorites. If you’re unfamiliar with the label, here’s a tiny primer.
The greatest thing about Folkways is the detailed liner notes that come with each record: descriptions of musicians and instruments, translations of lyrics, and social contexts to what you’re hearing. (Sorry I can’t share those too.)
The other greatest thing is that every single record they’ve ever released is still, in a way, in print. You can order anything from their catalog digitally, on CD, or on tape. If the professionally manufactured copies are gone, they will burn you a CD-R or dub you a tape and Xerox all the liner notes. You can also listen to snippets of everything online (that’s where I got all the spoken word bits.)
This is a pretty measly sampling of all Smithsonian Folkways has to offer. Hopefully through the summer I’ll have much more to share!
Track list: Continue reading