Voices of Mississippi; Portugal; More

Folk Music & Beyond Playlist for May 25, 2019
Hour 1: Voices of Mississippi with Sandy Miranda

Since the 1960s, William Ferris has occupied groundbreaking roles as a documentarian of African-American folklore and as a public advocate for Southern vernacular traditions.

The bulk of his field recording and research took place in the ’50s and late ’70s, and since then he has served, like his friend B.B. King, as a diplomat for the South, building upon the voices he has gathered in the many talks he has given around the world.

As the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, which is now run by Judy Peiser, Ferris sought to place the region’s everyday vernacular culture at the same table as the region’s modernist heritage in literature, art, and photography. He pioneered African-American folklore studies at Yale with many notable colleagues such as Amiri Baraka and Toni Morrison.

He later led the National Endowment for the Humanities, and today, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ferris continues to spread the gospel of Southern Culture as an elder statesman of the field, not unlike Alan Lomax, his primary hero and mentor.

Voices of Mississippi, the 4-CD box set that we will sample today, just won a Grammy for Best Historical Album and one for Best Liner Notes, which is actually a 120-page book, for reasons you are just about to discover.

  1. Lovey Williams / I Feel So Good 2:07
  2. Wallace Pine-Top Johnson / Stackalee and Billy Lyons 2:45
  3. Scott Dunbar / Lil’ Liza Jane 3:00

The approach William Ferris has to folklore comes from a curiosity about the natural world of his youth, because he was raised on a working farm with a dozen African-Americans living with them who helped work the cotton fields and take care of the cattle. He says they were like one big family.

  1. Mississippi Fred McDowell / I Got a Letter from Hot Springs 3:55
  2. Wallace Pine-Top Johnson / Baby Loves to Boogie 3:14
  3. Scott Dunbar / The Memphis Mail 3:31

Scott Dunbar used his wits to survive, in a pre-blues style, telling stories in song with a call and response closer to African roots.

  1. Unidentified Musician with Mississippi Fred McDowell / Little Red Rooster 3:02
  2. Leland Musician / Darlin’ Why You Trest Me So? 2:19
  3. Inmates at Parchman Farm / Water Boy Drowned in the Mobile Bay 1:57

[26 min]

Bill Ferris looked at Mississippi thorough a wide lens, also documented storytelling, quilters, folk art, shape-note singing, white sanctified churches, fiddle traditions, and more. He worked in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement at a time when that was often dangerous. Tells some harrowing stories of narrow escapes while he was working.

Gospel Set

  1. Providence Missionary Baptist Church: Paulette ’67 / So Glad I Got Good Religion 3:21
  2. Church of God in Christ: ’68 Clarksdale / I Know the Lord Will Make a Way 2:08
  3. Fannie Bell Chapman & the Spiritual Hosts: Jackson ’72 / We’re So Glad to Be Here 3:52
  4. Rose Hill Church: ’72 Jackson / Thanks for Bill Ferris
  5. The Southland Hummingbirds: ’78 Lula Junction / I’ve Been Born Again 3:18 (!!!)
  6. Lovey Williams & Family: ’66 Morning Star / The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow 2:52
  7. Mary and Amanda Gordon: ’78 Vicksburg / Cross of Calvary 2:50
  8. The Southland Hummingbirds ’68 Lula Junction / There Are Days 2:59
  9. Reverend Isaac Thomas & Rose Hill Church ’68 Lula Junction / Lord, Remember Me 2:52
  10. Alex Haley: ’89 Atlanta / The South (Storytelling CD)

[27 min]

Folk Music & Beyond Playlist for May 25, 2019
Hour 2: African-Influenced and Other Roots Music

Moving into a different part of the Diaspora, here are some songs from African-influenced parts of Spain, Portugal, & Cabo Verde.

Radio Tarifa / #6 into #7 El Baile de la Bola / Soledad / Rumba Argelina / World Circuit 7:03

Tarifa is at the southernmost tip of Spain, close enough to North Africa for the sounds of the early morning prayers to carry across the strait. Here flamenco, Arabic and medieval musics combine to move us to a new third place.

Catarina Dos Santos / #1 Caminho / Radio Kriola: Reflections on Portuguese Identity / ARC 5:18

Catarina blends Angolan, Cape Verdean, Brazilian, jazz and Portuguese music, hearing all of these and more as she grew up in the cultural diversity that is Portugal.

António Zambujo / #2 A Casa Fechada / Quinto / Universal 2:55

António blends fado from his native Portugal with bossa nova from Brazil—a big favorite. And he tours here occasionally. Incredible Portuguese classical guitar.

Cesária Évora / #1 Isolada / Voz d’Amor / Bluebird 5:27

One of the most iconic performers ever to grace the stage at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, this Cape Verdian diva is divinely romantic and mournful at the same time. Featuring the cavaquinho, recorded in Paris.

[~21 min]

Now to the women of Nueva–Bossa Nova from Lebanon and Rio, and a samba from Sao Paolo.

Tania Saleh (Lebanon) / #8 Ayya Shi / Acoustic Women / Putumayo 1:30

Mixes Lebanese folk, rock, jazz, Brazilian, and electronic.

Fernanda Cunha (Rio) / #1 Amanheceu / Acoustic Women / Putumayo 2:39

Based in Rio, she mixes samba and bossa nova.

Rita Ribeiro (Sao Paolo) / #11 Banho Cheiroso / Samba Bossa Nova / Putumayo 3:51

Smooth samba in traditional style.

[8 min]

In some other interesting new and very rootsy releases, we visit French Quebec, American roots, English roots, and then to Italy.

Le Vent du Nord / #1 Evolution Tranquille / Territories / Borealis Records 3:41

Allison Russell / #3 Quasheba, Quasheba / Songs of our Native Daughters / Smithsonian Folkways 4:48

Russell’s haunting exploration of and tribute to her ancestor Quasheba, a woman who had been sold into the slave trade in Ghana. (with Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, & Seyla McCalla (cf. the article in the current New Yorker about Giddens)

Leveret / #4 The Wounded Huzzar (English) / Diversions / RootBeat Records 4:59

And now something that just hit my mail box with some GREAT songwriting.

Willie Nelson / It’s Hard to Be Humble / Ride Me Back Home / Legacy

Willie Nelson / Ride Me Back Home / ″ / ″