The May selection for our Record of the Month Club is the long-awaited vinyl pressing of Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork recordings–a stunning 2xLP collection of music documented during Alan Lomax’s final American field recording sessions from 1978 to 1983. A completely overlooked and underrepresented period in American folk and blues history, this album includes performances by RL Burnside, Napoleon Strickland, Boyd Rivers, Tommy Jarrell, and many more never before released on vinyl.
We still have available copies for new Record of the Month Club signups!
If you’re already in the club, we’re shipping these now, and if you live in Oxford you can swing by the shop to pick up your copy.
Here’s what Ben wrote about the record:
By the 1980s, even the well-informed listener might have considered the ‘folkloric’ musical traditions of the rural South and Southwest to be virtually extinct. But a trip into the country spaces where artists like RL Burnside, Napoleon Strickland, Boyd Rivers, Tommy Jarrell lived could easily deconstruct this myth. Alan Lomax was the preeminent documentarian of American musical traditions, particularly blues and blues-adjacent folkways. He built his career around a series of iconic field trips taken into the rural south collecting field recordings that would form the bedrock of the American archive. Compiled by Mississippi Records and pressed to two 160gram LPs, this collection represents his last journey, taken across the South between 1978 and 1983 trolling some of his most famous haunts with a video crew in tow. The trip would produce a wealth of footage edited down to the American Patchwork Series, which aired on American Public Television in the early 90s, but the audio has rarely been released. With liner notes by Nathan Salsburg of the Lomax Archive and artwork by the American painter Joe Light, these recordings shed light onto the full, persistent life of these still vibrant traditions.
Here’s what Mississippi Records wrote about the release:
From 1978 to 1983, Alan Lomax and a video-crew travelled through the American South and Southwest, documenting its traditional music — miners, moonshiners, and Primitive Baptists in Kentucky; flat-footers, string bands, and Piedmont blues in North Carolina; Cajun cowboys, fiddlers, and zydeco stompers in French-speaking Louisiana; and fife-and-drum ensembles, gospel quartets, former railroad track-liners, levee-camp muleskinners, and players on the pre-war blues circuit in Mississippi.
This footage ultimately totaled some 350 hours and was edited into Lomax’s “American Patchwork” series, which aired on American public television in 1991. But given the strictures of the form, hundreds of discrete performances and compelling scenes were left unseen and unheard.
This set brings together some of the standout recordings Lomax made in his attempt to document the last vestiges of the “local surround” in Mississippi, Appalachia, and Louisiana. Intimate performances by R.L. Burnside, Tommy Jarrell, Boyd Rivers, Napoleon Strickland and more, newly remastered by Timothy Stollenwerk and never before released on vinyl.