The project offers a unique view of the history of American folk music.
In an effort to “promote greater understanding and sustainability of cultural heritage across the US and around the world,” The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage has released 837 recordings from Folkways Records, the label that recorded iconic names in the blues and folk genres such as Pete Seeger, The Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and Lead Belly.
The collection was donated to Smithsonian after the death of the founder of Folkways Records, Moses Asch. These tunes are just a part of the 2,000 songs donated from Asch’s recordings.
Open Culture reports that since Asch’s endowment, Folkways has created six additional labels and released over 300 new recordings.
In 2003, they partnered with the American Folklife Center for the “Save Our Sounds” project, which aims to preserve recordings like those made by Thomas Edison on wax cylinders. Folkways opens a window on an alternate world where cultural production is not a perpetual struggle for ratings, reviews, and sales dominance.
Since the publication of this article, we have been informed that the entire Smithsonian Folkways Recordings collection has been released on Spotify. That’s over 40,000 old-timey tunes for your listening pleasure!