Monday, November 8, 2010

Folkways selections: Mississippi John Hurt - "Monday Morning Blues" & Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson "Dark Holler"

Huge news! I have internet in my apartment! After six months of self-inflicted internet deprivation we finally caved and got the cable guy over here. I have to admit that having dependable access to the internet is a luxury I'm not too fond of living without.

Today I'm switching things up a little bit. Since I never really laid out any rules for this blog I'm switching over to LP format and changing genres but still bringing y'all something unique and difficult to find. I'm only really setup for the 45 format so I don't have a scanner that'll fit LPs, an iPhone photo will have to do. This record is one of my favorites out of my entire collection. I'm a huge fan of early American folk music and thus a huge fan of the original Folkways compilations. In terms of packaging and creating records as a whole product (meaning equal attention to art, layout, and content) Folkways were way ahead of their time. Usually you can find the compilations in original format for pretty cheap and they're ALWAYS worth picking up. There's a lot of interesting comps of field recordings, Afghani folk music, early American folk, Russian folk, you name it and there's a good chance they've documented it. Anyway, this one is one of my favorites. It's aptly titled "The Friends of Old Time Music," and it features a variety of early American folk musicians ranging from finger-style blues, to banjo heavy folk and so on. It also happens to feature two songs from one of my all time favorite musicians, Mississippi John Hurt. If you're not familiar with the man you need to make yourself familiar. A pioneer in the finger-picking style of blues, he possessed the greatest natural sense of rhythm and melody. He created complex, full sounding, pieces just using his fingers and his ol' guitar. "Monday Morning Blues" is one of his blues dirges that make me want to crawl up inside myself and never come out. His voice is particularly haunting on this track.

The next track is from South Appalachian banjo-folk pioneers Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson. Ashley is known for his very distinctive style of picking appropriately called clawhammer because of the way it looks when the person is using it. To be honest this song haunts me constantly. It's otherworldly with it's minor key tuning and Ashley's crooning narrative.

I think the narratives told in the early folk songs are an often under-appreciated part of American history. There's so many incredible stories told in the lyrics of these songs, as well as in the lives of the musicians. They come from a place and time in America that is almost completely diminished but fortunately can be revisited in some small way but listening and appreciating these mostly forgotten songs. Sorry to get nostalgic on y'all but I have that tendency come Autumn. Hope you dig these.

Mississippi John Hurt - "Monday Morning Blues"

Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson - "Dark Holler"


  1. Clarence Ashley is always a pleasure - thank you.

  2. How come you never see a copy of the Anthology of American Folk Music on vinyl anywhere? You'd think a copy would show up on ebay occasionally.
    Thank for the tunes,

  3. I just listened to Monday Morning Blues, and it cuts out around the 4:09 mark. Sounds like a cable got unplugged while you were ripping it.