Harry Smith: Anthology of American Folk Music

How in the world am I supposed to summarize six amazing CDs in one blog post?

Pretty much everything that has happened in American music is here in one form or another. If you're a musician or a history buff or an anthropologist, or if you simply love music, you should check this out from the EPFL. (Make sure you get the booklet from behind the desk, too.)

Checking it out won't be enough, though. I've already renewed it once, and I've barely scratched the surface. Don't check it out unless you've got 80 bucks to spare, because there's a good chance you'll end up wanting to buy it. And really, this is something that no serious music collection should be without.

It's amazing. Really. Trust me on this one.

Music: 5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The music on here has, directly or indirectly, influenced pretty much every modern musician. If Harry Smith hadn't put together this collection of mostly forgotten recordings and released it in 1955, pop music as we know it today would not exist. Period. That's how important this is. James Brown and Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin and Johnny Cash and Tom Waits and Beck and pretty much everyone else would have all become bankers or shopkeepers or haberdashers or something.

Packaging: 5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
Harry Smith's original notes summarized each song with a single sentence, which resulted in garish headlines like "Wife's Logic Fails to Explain Strange Bedfellow to Drunkard." The notes that accompany this 1997 CD reissue aren't quite as much fun, but they are as thick as a book and fascinating to read. Best of all, they list recent versions of each song in a number of genres, so you can really dig in and learn about every piece of music on here. Again, this isn't something that can be digested in the three weeks that the EPFL gives you. Don't check this out if you're not willing to take the risk that you'll want to buy it.

Listen if you like: music and/or people

If it were food, it'd be: Water. The source of all food, and all life.

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