“Welcome, fascinating, well produced” SingOut!
“A vibrant music portrait” Western Folklore
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Illinois has a rich folk and ethnic music heritage that seldom receives the scholarly, journalistic, or public attention it deserves. Of course, many people know the story of Chicago blues and jazz, but that’s really only part of the story. In fact, anyone who begins to examine the folk music history of Illinois soon discovers that the Land of Lincoln may well have the most diverse and vibrant musical traditions of any state in the nation.
Bucky Halker made that discovery several years ago in his musical travels and he set out to document the state’s music traditions and to make people more aware of them as well. Working with the Illinois Humanities Council and the Illinois Arts Council the Folksongs of Illinois is a CD series that now includes five volumes.
Folksongs of Illinois offers a wonderful selection of music from around that state, including works from 78 rpm recordings, older LPs, home recordings, archival and private collections, radio programs, and new studio recordings done specifically for the series. Listeners can hear blues, gospel, country, polka, reels, spirituals, traditional ballads, tamburitza kolos, ethnic comedy skits, corridos, Mexican son, Indian drumming, and bluegrass, to name a handful of styles.
The tracks in the series span many decades, artists and genres – from “anonymous” to multi-Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, from the 1927 recording of legendary Irish fiddler Tommy Dandurand to the 2010 studios recording of T-Rroma tamburitza band, from Henry Spaulding’s 1929 country-blues classic “Cairo Blues” to alt-country star John Langford’s spirited rendition of “The Mississippi Flood,” from Junior Wells to Big Bill Broonzy, from Janet Bean to Cathy Richardson, from Paulinho Garcia to Nicalai Feraru, from Lil Wally to Eddie Blazonczyk, from Betti Xiang to Los Pichardos to Sones De Mexico to Nelson Sosa.
Volume 5 focuses on Chicago since 1970 and the vast influx of immigrants from around the world. The compilation includes music from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Hawai’i, Japan, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Puerto Rico and the Midwest, just to name a few.
Volume 4 features Chicago in the post-WWII era. The City of Big Shoulders is a city of migrants and immigrants and here are some great performances from Irish, Chinese, Polish, Columbia, Mexican, American Indian, Puerto Rican, folk revival, and Filipino acts. There’s an introductory essay and liner notes with tons of information on the music and the acts. A big highlight is “Old Chy-Car-Go, ” a Woody Guthrie song about the Windy City which has never been recorded before.
On volume 3, tracks from Mahalia Jackson, Ella Jenkins, Lee Murdock, Burl Ives, Big Bill Broonzy, and Chris Vallillo are included, as well as great recordings by Swiss, Serbian, Polish, Finnish, Czech, and others, to name a few.
Volume 2 of the “Folksongs of Illinois” CD series offers a broad and vibrant sampling of fiddle traditions and fiddlers in Illinois. The compilation includes songs from Alison Krauss, Johnny Frigo, Eddie South, Pat Roche, Liz Carroll, the Prairie Ramblers, Martin Bogan & Armstrong, Sones De Mexico Ensemble, Polish Highlanders, and Paul Tyler and Chirps Smith, among others. Irish, African-American, Serbian, Scandinavian, Yankee, Mexican, and other fiddling styles are included.
Volume 1 provides an overview of the state’s diverse musical traditions with tracks from the Girls of the Golden West, Art Thieme, Janet Bean, Jon Langford, Carl Sandburg, Tramburitza Orchestra Javor, the Polish Mountaineers, Eleanor Kane Neary, Special Consensus, the Staple Singers, Henry Spaulding, and more. The compilation features new studio tracks, as well as tracks from old 78s, LPs, home recordings, field recordings, CDs, and radio transcriptions. Styles ranges from country blues to traditional folk to early country to gospel to tamburitza to Irish reels.