Hailed by the Journal of Folklore Research as “A landmark presentation of traditional music of the Upper Midwest,” the hardcover edition of James P. Leary’s Folksongs of Another America included five CDs and a DVD, received a Grammy nomination for Best Album Notes, and sold out within a year of its publication. Thanks to a partnership between the University of Wisconsin Press and the University of Wisconsin Libraries, sound files for each of the five CDs—as well as the film Alan Lomax Goes North, coproduced with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress—are now accessible and downloadable through the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.
Challenging and considerably broadening popular and scholarly definitions of American folk music, Folksongs of Another America recovers the diverse, multilingual traditions of immigrant, Native American, rural, and working-class performers in America’s Upper Midwest during the 1930s and 1940s. The book extensively documents 187 tunes and songs in more than twenty-five languages, with full original lyrics and English translations, and biographical notes on the performers. The companion musical tracks and documentary film—drawn from field recordings made by Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas from 1937 to 1946—offer still more to discover, ponder, and pursue.
As Professor Leary writes in his preface to the paperback edition, “The songs and tunes figuring in Folksongs of Another America had been hidden for too long to let them vanish once again. May their persistence spur new understandings and performances, along with ongoing recognition and appreciation of the many peoples, tongues, and sounds that—whether past or present, from mainstream or from margin, deservedly acknowledged or unjustly ignored—have always made America great.”
Click the images below to listen to the companion musical tracks and view the documentary film that accompany Jim Leary’s book Folksongs of Another America.
“Pigtown Fling, the Sidney Robertson Recordings” (CD 1)—Recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, Scots Gaelic, and Serbian performers captured by fieldworker Sidney Robertson in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1937.
“The River in the Pines, the Wisconsin Lumberjacks Recordings” (CD 2)—Performances of the acclaimed Wisconsin Lumberjacks band of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, recorded by both Sidney Robertson and Alan Lomax during National Folk Festivals in Chicago and Washington, D.C., in 1937 and 1938.
“Harps and Accordions, the Alan Lomax Recordings” (CD 3)—Alan Lomax’s 1938 Michigan field recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, French Canadian, German, Irish, Lithuanian, Ojibwe, Polish, and Swedish performers.
“When the Dance Is Over, the Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, part 1” (CD 4)—Recordings made throughout Wisconsin in 1940, 1941, and 1946, encompassing African American, Anglo-American, Belgian, Cornish, French Canadian, Ho-Chunk, Irish, Oneida, Welsh, and lumberjack performers..
“My Father Was a Dutchman, the Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, part 2” (CD 5)—Recordings made throughout Wisconsin in 1940, 1941, and 1946, featuring Austrian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Icelandic, Italian, Lithuanian, Luxemburger, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Swiss performers.
“Alan Lomax Goes North” (video)—This documentary film combines digitally restored silent color film footage, related field recordings, voice-over readings from Lomax’s correspondence and field notes, and onscreen text to create an audiovisual narrative featuring the performers and scenes that captivated Alan Lomax during his 1938 Upper Midwestern foray.
The Wisconsin Lumberjacks: (back row, left to right) Earl Schwartztrauber, Frank “Frenchy” Uchytil,
J. H. Wallis, mayor of Rice Lake; (front row, left to right) Otto Rindlisbacher, Iva Kundert Rindlisbacher, Ray Calkins, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, 1938. (author’s collection, courtesy of Lois Rindlisbacher Albrecht).
Folksongs of Another America prints by Isabella C.G. Leary.
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