Montag, 12. September 2016

The Almanac Singers - Which Side Are You On?


The Almanac Singers were a group of folk musicians who achieved popularity in the radical left/anti-fascist circles of early 1940s America, using the music of the people and the soil in a classic leftist way to promote their intellectual concerns.

As much a political and philosophical collective as they were an actual singing group, the Almanac Singers, whose entire recorded output was done in the span of a year between March 1941 and February 1942, were in many ways the godfathers of the urban folk revival that broke into the commercial radar (and the pop charts) two decades later. They are the very root of the politicised modern American folk music which rose from the ashes in the early 1960s to take over the world...

Anchored by the hybrid banjo sound (part Appalachian, part his own invention) of Pete Seeger, the group also included, at one point or another, Lee Hays, Millard Lampell, Bess Lomax, Arthur Stern, Sis Cunningham, Josh White and his wife Carol White, and when it suited him, Woody Guthrie, who famously noted that the Almanac Singers were "the only group in the world that rehearsed on stage."

A lesson in applied folk song, the group played Southern folk songs given a whole new utility by being filtered through a left-leaning political agenda and a strong belief in the power of labor unions. The Almanac Singers may have sounded like a stylized and urban version of a mountain string band, but they were hardly the folks you'd call to play a Saturday night sugaree. Hit the picket line on Monday morning, though, and this was your band.

This 31-track, single-disc set from Britain's Rev-Ola Records contains virtually everything of note that the Almanac Singers recorded, including an intimate, unassuming version of Guthrie's "Hard, Ain't It Hard," a decidedly non-blues take on "House of the Rising Sun," and a stirring rendition of "The Sinking of the Rueben James." The sound is wonderful, bringing out the loose (and as Guthrie reminds) unrehearsed intimacy that was the Almanac Singers greatest strength. Everything you need is here.

The Almanac Singers - Which Side Are You On?
(192 kbps, front cover included)

1 Kommentare:

folkarchivist hat gesagt…

From my 2007 review at woodyguthrie.de:

Revola's Almanac Singers release contains a total of 31 tracks (roughly 75 per cent of The Almanac Singers' total recorded output between May 1941 and June 1942), from their first release " Songs for John Doe" to their Feb 1942 "Dear Mr. President." Upon listening, Revola's claim that their compilation contains "many rare radio session tracks not heard since originally broadcast" cannot be corroborated at all.
The tracks on Revola's release stem from the following Almanac Singers original releases (in chronological order):

"SONGS FOR JOHN DOE" (in its entirety)
BALLAD OF OCTOBER 16th (track 27, mistitled as "Ballad of October")
BILLY BOY (track 25)
'C' FOR CONSCRIPTION (track 30)
LIZA JANE (track 23)
PLOW UNDER (track 22)
THE STRANGE DEATH OF JOHN DOE (track 31)
WASHINGTON BREAKDOWN (track 28)

"TALKING UNION"
ALL I WANT (track 17)
GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN (track 18)
TALKING UNION (track 16)
THE UNION MAID (track 15)
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? (track 20)

"SONG FOR BRIDGES/BABE O' MINE"
SONG FOR BRIDGES (track 19)
BABE O' MINE (track 5)

"DEEP SEA CHANTEYS AND WHALING BALLADS" (in its entirety)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN (track 9)
BLOW YE WINDS, HEIGH HO (track 10)
THE COAST OF HIGH BARBARY (track 11)
THE GOLDEN VANITY (track 12)
HAUL AWAY, JOE (track 13)
WAY, RIO (track 8)

"SOD-BUSTER BALLADS" (in its entirety)
THE DODGER SONG (track 21)
GROUND HOG (track 1)
HARD, AIN'T IT HARD (track 3)
HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN (track 4)
I RIDE AN OLD PAINT (track 2)
STATE OF ARKANSAS (track 6)

"DEAR Mr. PRESIDENT"
BELT LINE GIRL (track 26)
DELIVER THE GOODS (track 24)
(THE SINKING OF THE) REUBEN JAMES (track 14)
ROUND AND ROUND HITLER'S GRAVE (track 29)
SIDE BY SIDE (track 7)

...a nice selection for beginners, with another introductory essay by Nicole Garcia -- and once again, a reissue which most likely can only be sold legally this side of the Atlantic (in Europe)... The CD could have benefitted from a more chronological approach, as in the case of the Naxos reissues of Almanac Singers recordings.
Once again, the recording quality is very good (for recordings of this vintage), making this a rather nice intro to The Almanac Singers' repertoire, especially since three of their albums are included in their entirety.

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