folk ballads

Anthology of American Folk Music

The Anthology of American Folk Music is a 1952 six-album compilation of eighty-four American folk recordings from 1927 to 1932. Harry Smith compiled the collection from his personal collection of 78 rpm records. The collection is famous due to its role as a touchstone for the US folk music revival in the 1950s and 1960s.


Although Harry Smith considered himself an abstract-expressionist, with a special interest in film, he had a hobby of collecting old folk and country records. At a time when many people considered these records to be ephemeral, he took them seriously and accumulated a collection of several thousand recordings.

Smith chose records from the period between "1927, when electronic recording made possible accurate music reproduction, and 1932, when the Depression halted folk music sales."

The compilation is divided into three two-album sections: Ballads, Social Music, and Songs. The first two albums consist of ballads. Each song tells a story about a specific event or time. Smith arranged the songs in historical order. Thus, many of the first songs are old English folk ballads, and the latter deal with the hardships of being a farmer in the 1920s. The first album of social music largely consists of music likely performed at social gatherings or dances. Many of the songs are instrumentals. The second album of social music consists of religious and spiritual songs. The final two albums of the original release consist of regular songs. The fourth volume, first released in 2000, consists of songs about working.


Harry Smith created the liner notes himself, and these notes are almost as famous as the music. Smith also edited and directed the design of the Anthology, including an illustration by scientist/alchemist Robert Fludd on the cover. Smith also penned short synopses of the songs in the collection, which were made to resemble newspaper headlines-- for the song King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O by Chubby Parker, Smith notes: Zoologic Miscegeny Achieved Mouse Frog Nuptuals, Relatives Approve. Smith used a fragmented, collage method that presaged some postmodern artwork. Smith incorporated the music into his own unusual cosmology. Each of the four albums is associated with a color (Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow respectively), and an element (Water, Fire, Air, and Earth). In the 1960s, Irwin Silber replaced Smith's covers with a Ben Shahn photograph of a poor farmer.

The Anthology originally appeared on the Folkways label established by Moses Asch. In 1997, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings republished the collection on six CDs. In 2000, Revenant Records released a fourth collection (compiled by Smith) that includes union songs and songs recorded as late as 1940.


The Anthology has had enormous historical influence. Smith's methodology of sequencing tracks, along with his inventive liner notes, called attention to the set, imbuing it with a talismanic aura (the cover image is a monochord drawn by Robert Fludd). This reintroduction of near-forgotten popular styles of rural American music from the selected years to new listeners had impact on American ethnomusicology, and was both directly and indirectly responsible for the aforementioned folk music revival.

The music on the compilation provided direct inspiration to much of the emergent folk music revival movement. The Anthology made widely available music which previously had been largely the preserve of marginal social economic groups. Many people who first heard this music through the Anthology came from very different cultural and economic backgrounds from its original creators and listeners. Many previously obscure songs became standards at hootenannies and folk clubs due to their inclusion on the Anthology. Some of the musicians represented on the Anthology saw their musical careers revived, and made additional recordings and live appearances.

This document is generally thought to have been enormously influential on the folk & blues revival of the '50s and '60s, and brought the works of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, Dick Justice and many others to the attention of musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and featured such legendary acts as The Carter Family and Clarence Ashley. The Harry Smith Anthology, as some call it, was the bible of folk music during the late 1950s and early 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. As stated in the liner notes to the 1997 reissue, the late musician Dave van Ronk had earlier commented that "we all knew every word of every song on it, including the ones we hated."

Track listing


  1. "Henry Lee" — Dick Justice
  2. "Fatal Flower Garden" — Nelstone's Hawaiians
  3. "The House Carpenter" — Clarence Ashley
  4. "Drunkard's Special" — Coley Jones
  5. "Old Lady and the Devil" — Bill & Belle Reed
  6. "The Butcher's Boy" — Buell Kazee
  7. "The Waggoner's Lad" — Buell Kazee
  8. "King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O" — "Chubby" Parker
  9. "Old Shoes And Leggins" — Uncle Eck Dunford
  10. "Willie Moore" — Burnett and Rutherford
  11. "A Lazy Farmer Boy" — Buster Carter and Preston Young
  12. "Peg and Awl" — The Carolina Tar Heels
  13. "Ommie Wise" — G.B. Grayson
  14. "My Name Is John Johanna" — Kelly Harrell
  15. "Bandit Cole Younger" — Edward L. Crain
  16. "Charles Guiteau" — Kelly Harrell
  17. "John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man" — The Carter Family
  18. "Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand" — Wiliamson Brothers and Curry
  19. "Stackalee" — Frank Hutchison
  20. "White House Blues" — Charlie Poole w/ North Carolina Ramblers
  21. "Frankie" — Mississippi John Hurt
  22. "When That Great Ship Went Down " — William & Versey Smith
  23. "Engine 143" — The Carter Family
  24. "Kassie Jones" — Furry Lewis
  25. "Down On Penny's Farm" — The Bently Boys
  26. "Mississippi Boweavil Blues" — The Masked Marvel
  27. "Got the Farm Land Blues" — The Carolina Tar Heels

Social music

  1. "Sail Away Lady" — "Uncle Bunt" Stephens
  2. "The Wild Wagoner" — Jilson Setters
  3. "Wake Up Jacob" — Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers
  4. "La Danseuse" — Delma Lachney and Blind Uncle Gaspard
  5. "Georgia Stomp" — Andrew & Jim Baxter
  6. "Brilliancy Medley" — Eck Robertson and Family
  7. "Indian War Whoop" — Hoyt Mingand his Pep-Steppers
  8. "Old Country Stomp" — Henry Thomas
  9. "Old Dog Blue" — Jim Jackson
  10. "Saut Crapaud" — Columbus Fruge
  11. "Acadian One Step" — Joseph Falcon
  12. "Home Sweet Home" — The Breaux Freres (Clifford Breaux, Ophy Breaux, Amedee Breaux)
  13. "Newport Blues" — Cincinnati Jug Band
  14. "Moonshiner's Dance Part One" — Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Cafe Orchestra
  15. "Must Be Born Again" — Rev. J. M. Gates
  16. "Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting" — Rev. J. M. Gates
  17. "Rocky Road" — Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
  18. "Present Joys" — Alabama Sacred Harp Singers
  19. "This Song of Love" — Middle Georgia Singing Convention
  20. "Judgement" — Sister Mary Nelson
  21. "He Got Better Things For You" — Memphis Sanctified Singers
  22. "Since I Laid My Burden Down" — Elders McIntorsh and Elder Edwards' Sanctified Singers
  23. "John The Baptist" — Moses Mason
  24. "Dry Bones" — Bascom Lamar Lunsford
  25. "John the Revelator (song)" — Blind Willie Johnson
  26. "Little Moses" — The Carter Family
  27. "Shine On Me" — Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Singers
  28. "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room" — Rev. F.W. McGee
  29. "I'm In the Battle Field for My Lord" — Rev. D.C. Rice and His Sanctified Congregation


  1. "The Coo Coo Bird — Clarence Ashley
  2. "East Virginia" — Buell Kazee
  3. "Minglewood Blues" — Cannon's Jug Stompers
  4. "I Woke Up One Morning In May" — Didier Hebert
  5. "James Alley Blues" — Richard "Rabbit" Brown
  6. "Sugar Baby" — Dock Boggs
  7. "I Wish I Was a Mole In the Ground" — Bascom Lamar Lunsford
  8. "Mountaineer's Courtship" — Ernest Stoneman and Hattie Stoneman
  9. "The Spanish Merchant's Daughter" — The Stoneman Family
  10. "Bob Lee Junior Blues" — The Memphis Jug Band
  11. "Single Girl, Married Girl" — The Carter Family
  12. "Le Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme" — Cleoma Breaux and Joseph Falcon
  13. "Rabbit Foot Blues" — Blind Lemon Jefferson
  14. "Expressman Blues" — Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell
  15. "Poor Boy Blues" — Ramblin' Thomas
  16. "Feather Bed" — Cannon's Jug Stompers
  17. "Country Blues" — Dock Boggs
  18. "99 Year Blues" — Julius Daniels
  19. "Prison Cell Blues" — Blind Lemon Jefferson
  20. "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" — Blind Lemon Jefferson
  21. "C'est Si Triste Sans Lui" — Cleoma Breaux and Ophy Breaux w/ Joseph Falcon
  22. "Way Down The Old Plank Road" — Uncle Dave Macon
  23. "Buddy Won't You Roll Down the Line" — Uncle Dave Macon
  24. "Spike Driver Blues" — Mississippi John Hurt
  25. "K.C. Moan" — The Memphis Jug Band
  26. "Train On The Island" — J.P. Nestor
  27. "The Lone Star Trail" — Ken Maynard
  28. "Fishing Blues" — Henry Thomas

Labor songs

  1. "Memphis Shakedown" — Memphis Jug Band — 3:04
  2. "Dog and Gun [Old English Ballad]" — Bradley Kincaid — 3:25
  3. "Black Jack David" — Carter Family — 2:41
  4. "Down on the Banks of the Ohio" — Blue Sky Boys — 3:20
  5. "Adieu False Heart" — Arthur Smith Trio — 2:51
  6. "John Henry Was a Little Boy" — J.E. Mainer Mountaineers — 3:13
  7. "Nine Pound Hammer" — Monroe Brothers — 2:14
  8. "Southern Casey Jones" — Jesse James — 2:56
  9. "Cold Iron Bed" — Jack Kelly & His South Memphis Jug Band — 3:07
  10. "Packin' Trunk Blues" — Leadbelly — 2:57
  11. "Baby, Please Don't Go" — Joe Williams & Washboard Blues Singers — 3:25
  12. "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" — Robert Johnson — 2:42
  13. "Parchman Farm Blues" — Bukka White — 2:40
  14. "Mean Old World" — Heavenly Gospel Singers — 2:48
  15. "Hello Stranger" — Carter Family — 2:46
  16. "Stand by Me" — Sister Clara Hudmon — 3:13
  17. "West Virginia Gals" — Al Hopkins & Bucklebusters — 3:05
  18. "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" — Blind Alfred Reed — 3:16
  19. "Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train" — Uncle Dave Macon — 3:11
  20. "Governor Al Smith" — Uncle Dave Macon — 3:08
  21. "Milk Cow Blues" — Sleepy John Estes — 3:05
  22. "No Depression in Heaven" — Carter Family — 2:57
  23. "I'll Be Rested (When the Roll Is Called)" — Roosevelt Graves — 2:32
  24. "He's in the Ring (Doing the Same Old Thing)" — Memphis Minnie — 2:59
  25. "The Cockeyed World" — Minnie Wallace — 3:02
  26. "Barbecue Bust" — Mississippi Jook Band — 2:41
  27. "Dans le Grand Bois (In the Forest)" — Hackberry Ramblers — 2:35
  28. "Aces' Breakdown" — Four Aces — 2:54

External links


  • Curry: Performer
  • Alabama Sacred Harp Singers: Vocals, Performer
  • Moses Asch: Liner Notes, Transfers
  • Clarence Ashley: Banjo, Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Elijah Avery: Guitar
  • Peter Bartok: Transfers
  • Andrew & Jim Baxter: Performer
  • Andrew Baxter: Fiddle, Performer
  • The Bently Boys: Performer
  • Tewee Blackman: Guitar, Vocals
  • Dock Boggs: Banjo, Vocals
  • The Breaux Fréres: Performer
  • Cleoma Breaux: Performer
  • Clifford Breaux: Guitar, Vocals
  • Ophy Breaux: Fiddle, Vocals, Performer
  • Richard Rabbit Brown: Performer
  • Richard Burnett: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Charlie Burse: Guitar
  • Joe Bussard: Transfers
  • Cannon's Jug Stompers: Performer
  • Gus Cannon: Banjo, Vocals, Jug
  • The Carolina Tar Heels: Performer
  • The Carter Family: Performer
  • A.P. Carter: Vocals
  • Buster Carter: Performer
  • Sara Carter: Autoharp, Vocals
  • Cincinnati Jug Band: Performer
  • Frank Cloutier: Performer
  • Philip Coady: Producer
  • Pat Conte: Transfers
  • Edward L. Crain: Performer
  • Julius Daniels: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Uncle Eck Dunford: Fiddle, Vocals, Performer
  • Norman Edmonds: Fiddle
  • The Elders McIntorsh and Edwards' Sanctified Singers: Bass, Vocals
  • Evelyn Esaki: Art Direction
  • Sleepy John Estes: Guitar, Performer
  • John Fahey: Liner Notes
  • Cleoma Breaux Falcon: Guitar, Vocals
  • Joseph Falcon: Performer
  • Garley Foster: Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
  • Columbus Frugé: Performer
  • Blind Uncle Gaspard: Performer
  • Reverend J.M. Gates: Performer
  • David Glasser: Mastering, Audio Restoration
  • G.B. Grayson: Fiddle, Vocals, Performer
  • Kelly Harrell: Vocals, Performer
  • Roy Harvey: Guitar
  • Didier Hébert: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Amy Horowitz: Executive Producer, Reissue Producer
  • Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers: Fiddle
  • Mississippi John Hurt: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Frank Hutchison: Performer
  • Jim Jackson: Guitar, Vocals
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Angeline Johnson: Vocals
  • Bessie Johnson: Tambourine, Vocals
  • Blind Willie Johnson: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Coley Jones: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Jab Jones: Piano, Jug
  • Dick Justice: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Buell Kazee: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Luis Kemnitzer: Liner Notes
  • Delma Lachney: Fiddle, Performer
  • Furry Lewis: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Noah Lewis: Harmonica
  • Kip Lornell: Liner Notes
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Uncle Dave Macon: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Michael Maloney: Producer, Production Coordination
  • Greil Marcus: Liner Notes
  • Masked Marvels: Performer
  • Rev. Moses Mason: Performer
  • Ken Maynard: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Rev. F.W. McGee: Performer
  • Sam McGee: Guitar
  • Memphis Jug Band: Performer
  • Memphis Sanctified Singers: Performer
  • Middle Georgia Singing Convention: Performer
  • Hoyt Ming and His Pep Steppers: Performer
  • Mary Monseur: Producer, Production Coordination
  • Steve Moreland: Producer
  • Clarence Nelson: Vocals
  • Rev. Sister Mary M. Nelson: Performer
  • Nelstone's Hawaiians: Performer
  • J.P. Nestor: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • North Carolina Ramblers: Performer
  • Jon Pankake: Liner Notes
  • Chubby Parker: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Charley Patton: Guitar, Vocals
  • Ernest Phipps: Vocals
  • Charlie Pilzer: Mastering, Audio Restoration, Transfers
  • Chuck Pirtle: Liner Notes
  • Jeff Place: Liner Notes, Reissue Producer, Transfers, Annotation
  • Charlie Poole: Banjo, Vocals, Performer
  • Yank Rachell: Mandolin, Vocals
  • Ben Ramey: Kazoo, Vocals
  • Bill Reed: Guitar, Vocals, Performer
  • Bill & Belle Reed: Performer
  • Pete Reiniger: Mastering, Transfers, Compilation Producer
  • Rev. D.C. Rice & His Sanctified Congregation: Performer
  • Rev. D.C. Rice: Vocals
  • Eck Robertson: Performer
  • Posey Rorer: Fiddle
  • Neil V. Rosenberg: Liner Notes
  • Leonard Rutherford: Fiddle, Performer
  • Luc Santé: Liner Notes
  • Peter Seitel: Editing
  • Jilson Setters: Performer
  • Will Shade: Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
  • Harry Smith: Producer, Editorial
  • Stephanie Smith: Research
  • Versey Smith: Tambourine, Vocals, Performer
  • William Smith: Performer
  • Peter Stampfel: Liner Notes
  • Alfred Steagall: Guitar
  • Uncle Bunt Stephens: Performer
  • Vol Stevens: Banjo, Mandolin
  • Alan Stoker: Transfers
  • Ernest V. Stoneman: Harmonica, Performer
  • Hattie Stoneman: Performer
  • The Stonemans: Performer
  • Scott Stowell: Art Direction, Design
  • Sally Sumler: Vocals
  • Henry Thomas: Guitar, Vocals, Performer, Quills
  • Ramblin' Thomas: Vocals, Performer, Bottleneck Guitar
  • Ashley Thompson: Guitar, Vocals
  • James Touchstone: Guitar, Vocals
  • Jack Towers: Transfers
  • Victoria Cafe Orchestra: Performer
  • Eric Von Schmidt: Liner Notes
  • Will Weldon: Guitar
  • The Williamson Brothers: Performer
  • Arnold Williamson: Fiddle, Vocals
  • Preston Young: Guitar, Vocals, Performer


Because of their potential public domain status, some of these recordings are available on the Web:


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