Smithsonian Folkways Songs of America, plus folk classics and fiddle tunes
Written by Randy Black on July 7, 2016
Viking Twang Episode 92 7-7-2016
Good evening, welcome to Viking Twang Episode 92. My name is Randy Black, happy to be here on a Thursday evening after we’ve gotten through some technical hiccups.
I hope you enjoyed your Fourth of July Weekend. Just in time for this week’s show, Smithsonian Folkways Records has come up with eight songs that they feel define the American experience. So that’s going to set the tone as we play three sets of songs from Smithsonian Folkways. The second set will feature classic fiddle tunes, while in the third set, we’ll play some great folk music. To kick it off is Pete Seeger:
1 – Turkey Red; W.C. Beck & the Portland Country Underground.
2 – Yankee Doodle; Pete Seeger. Originally a song of derision from British soldiers toward the Continental Army, American soldiers made it their own. Pete Seeger recorded it in 1957.
3 – Battle Hymn of the Republic; Tom Glazer. Julia Ward Howe wrote this song in 1862 to the tune of “John Brown’s Body.” Tom Glazer recorded it on a record of Civil War songs in 1972. He was also a movie producer and writer of that classic song, “On Top of Spaghetti.”
4 – He Lies in the American Land; Pete Seeger. Slovakian steelworker Andrew Kovaly wrote this early last century to express the disappointment many immigrants felt about not finding the American Dream. Pete recorded it in 1956.
5 – This Land Is Your Land; Woody Guthrie. A song more subversive than many people think. Woody wrote it in 1940 in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”
6 – Freedom Road; Josh White. Langston Hughes wrote the lyrics during World War II, hoping that the country would be a better, more fair place after the war. Josh White recorded it in 1963.
7 – War Mothers’ Song; Anita Anquoe George. George is a member of the Kiowa tribe; the song was written by another tribe member right after World War II, again hoping the country would improve for marginalized groups. George recorded it in 1994.
8—We Shall Overcome; The Freedom Singers. This is an old song recorded in 1963 by the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Singers, who rose out of the 1962 Albany Movement in Georgia. The singers were Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson, Cordell Reagon, and Rutha Harris.
9 – De Colores; Aguila Negra & Baldemar Velasquez. Velasquez was the leader of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in Toledo, Ohio, and led the band Aguila Negra. This became the official anthem of Cesar Chavez’ United Farmworkers Union. It may date back to the 16th century; this version was recorded in 1995.
We haven’t played any straight fiddle tunes in a while, so here’s a selection from a 2007 Smithsonian Folkways release, Classic Old-Time Fiddle.
10 –Old Joe; Johnny Warren fiddling with Curley Seckler’s Nashville Grass.
11 – Ain’t Gonna Rain No More; Hoyt Ming and the Pep Steppers.
12 – Richmond Blues; Fred Price with Clint Howard.
13 – Bill Cheatham; Buddy Pendleton with the Stony Mountain Boys.
14 – Mississippi Sawyer; Wade Ward.
15 – Piney Woods Gal; Tommy Jarrell with Frank Bode.
We’ll close the show with a set of classic folk music from a 2004 Smithsonian Folkways album by that name. Dave Van Ronk has a story of a lawman gone wrong, and paying the consequences:
16 – Duncan and Brady; Dave Van Ronk. A song about a barroom shooting in St. Louis in 1890. Dave recorded it in 1957.
17 – Freight Train; Elizabeth Cotten. Cotten was a long time musician, playing her guitar left-handed, but wasn’t discovered until she was hired as a housekeeper by Mike Seeger’s parents. She wrote this song when she was 11 or 12, but first recorded it when she was 65.
18 – Big Rock Candy Mountain; Harry McClintock. Harry claimed to write this in 1895, but it wasn’t recorded until 1928, and hit number 1 on the country charts in 1939.
19 – Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos); Barbara Dane. Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics in 1948, after a plane carrying undocumented workers back to Mexico crashed in Los Gatos Canyon. Martin Hoffman put it to music ten years later and Barbara Dane made this recording in 1973.
20 – No More Auction Block; Paul Robeson. The origins of this song have been traced as far back as Fisk University’s Jubilee Singers in the 1870s. Paul Robeson first recorded it in 1937.
21 – Changes, Phil Ochs. Bob Dylan’s contemporary in the early New York folk scene, though he never made it as big. Phil recorded this in 1965.
22 – Twang Theme; Countrypolitans.