Anthology of American Folk Music

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August 29, 2016


Steve Badd

I talked to Eric, the owner of Mississippi, and he told me that this version is a new mastering from original 78's and was not sourced from the Folkways masters. The new masters were sourced primarily from a single collector who had most of the source 78 recordings that were used in the original Folkways pressings. They did a certain amount of sonic cleanup, but not obsessively as to preserve as much fidelity as possible.

[From the hoffman forums]

The Celestial Monochord

If you read my writing closely, you can see I try to distinguish what I know from what I just assume, and I do a lot of assuming. The guy may be telling the truth. But I do remain skeptical. (Cough! Cough! Coughmusicbusiness! Coughmusicbusiness! Cough!)

You should be able to very clearly *hear* that these are new spins of different 78s - or even of the exact same copies but 60+ years older. Why didn't they advertise the fact (if it's so) that they made new transfers, since that means something to anyone who knows anything. Why the big secret?

A friend of mine owns the Mississippi Records set and has offered to sit me down and let me listen. Maybe we'll put the three together - the 1952, 1997, and 2014 boxes - and dream up something to say about the experience.


I have the vinyl Doxy music label version from 2009. Any idea what their source material was?

The Celestial Monochord

Hey Mikkel - Oh yeah! I forgot all about that Doxy version! From Italy, if I remember right? It had different cover art all its own - something from Fludd or his era, and in four different colors for each volume.

Nope, I don't know where they got their sound. In fact, except for the 1952 and 1997 versions, I don't know where *anybody* got their sound.

With Doxy, Mississippi, and DINTE ... if you snoop around various discussion lists, you see people debating, passing on hints, whispers, claims under this table, into that sleeve, thru speakeasy slots in closed doors. It must be a label-culture thing.

Charging people for A Product In A Box without describing publicly in detail what's in that box, where it came from ... nope. In those cases, I'm content assuming it's just burned off another release, which is an entirely familiar practice.

The Celestial Monochord

Incidentally, at the time Mississippi Records was first offering its LP set I did contact them to ask about where the audio came from, but was rebuffed - they completely ignored my inquiry.

Chris Berry

If you're wondering what the Anthology would have looked like on Folkways on-demand cassette, go here:

very bland but you did get the original booklet folded up inside (the Anthology would have been three boxes). I have dozens of these (this isn't my picture, though).

The Celestial Monochord

Many sincere thanks, Chris - that's definitely interesting and very much what I'd expect. I understand the real thing would be SO CLOSE to this.

Still, those are already Smithsonian-Folkways. They'd be the tapes you'd get during the period between the Smithsonian's acquisition of Folkways (1987, I think) and their release of the CD set (1997). I was thinking of the form of the Anthology itself you'd get in, say ... 1983? Between the last pressings of the Anthology vinyl (I don't know ... 1975?) and 1987.

Whose were the dark ages. The lean, uncertain years. The heroic, I'm gonna keep this old boat afloat until the water reaches my lower lip years. That's what I'd really like to see. And the Harry Smith liner notes are a strange beast quite unlike other Folkways notes, so those specifically would be interesting to see.

Obviously, I know it seems like a trivial distinction, but once you're already in the mindset of looking for the absolutely genuine article of an obsolescent obscurity, well ... that's where you are.

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