Visualizing American Roots Music: ALAN LOMAX WITH FRIENDS

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Alan Lomax with friends, 1979, Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, Greenville, MS

Photo by William Ferris

MBFP_5-79-9_879_0002. William R. Ferris Collection (#20367)

The photo above appears as part of Visualizing American Roots Music, an exhibit presented by the Southern Folklife Collection of twenty rare and unique photographs of iconic musicians. On view in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of the Wilson Special Collections Library through Dec. 31, 2013.

 

Previously Unreleased Mississippi Fred McDowell Recordings Now Available

Chapel Hill’s Devil Down Recordings has announced the release of “Come and Found You Gone”, The Bill Ferris Recordings, a new CD featuring over an hour of previously unreleased Mississippi Fred McDowell recordings made by Bill Ferris in 1967. From the Devil Down website:

These recordings are different from any other of Fred McDowell due to their very nature: rather than conducted with the production of a record in mind, the recordings were made casually over the course of a night. McDowell is here heard at his best, relaxed and energetic, performing many of his most famous songs as well as songs never before heard. With his foot tapping on the hardwood floor and laughter in the background, “Come and Found You Gone” brings the listener into that hot night in August, 1967, immersing them in the world of the blues house party, and guiding them through the night as it unfolded… The 18 track album includes a 16 page booklet featuring liner notes from blues researcher and Rolling Stone Magazine top 10 Professor Bill Ferris, Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, and leading French blues scholar Vincent Joos. This booklet also contains a dozen award-winning photographs taken by Bill Ferris in 1970 at Otha Turner’s 4th of July picnic in Potts Camp, Mississippi.

The SFC was proud to provide Devil Down with access to the original field recordings housed in the William R. Ferris Collection. You can stream tracks or purchase the CD at the Devil Down website.

Louis Dotson Plays The One-String

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Pictured is farmer and musician Louis Dotson of Lorman, Mississippi, photographed by Bill Ferris in 1973, constructing a “one-string guitar” on the wall of his front porch. The traditional instrument, sometimes referred to as a “diddley-bow”, is made by stretching a single guitar string between two nails and played as a slide guitar with a bottle neck or other object used to adjust the pitch. Dotson is quoted extensively in Ferris’ new book, Give My Poor Hear Ease:

“My daddy used to play music. He used to play all the time. That’s how I learned to play the guitar. After he died, the other boys, they took the guitar. I couldn’t get another one. So I decided to put me up a wire. I just call it ‘part of a guitar.’ It’s a one-string guitar, but it sounds like it’s got six strings on it. …Nobody else around here can play it but me. People, they come and listen to me. They say they don’t see how I can do it.”

Listen to a clip of Louis Dotson play “Bottle Up and Go” on the front porch of his farm (complete with crowing rooster), from SFC field tape #FT-10105:

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Clip and photo from the William R. Ferris Collection.

“Give My Poor Heart Ease” Coming This Fall

give my poor heart easeUNC Press has announced a November 2009 publication date for Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices Of The Mississippi Blues, the new book/CD/DVD from UNC’s own Bill Ferris. From the Press:

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, folklorist William Ferris toured his home state of Mississippi, documenting the voices of African Americans as they spoke about and performed the diverse musical traditions that form the authentic roots of the blues. Illustrated with Ferris’s photographs of the musicians and their communities and including a CD of original music and a DVD of original film, this book features more than 20 interviews relating frank, dramatic, and engaging narratives about black life and blues music in the heart of the American South.

The CD/DVD is set to include narratives and performances from Fannie Bell Chapman, Scott Dunbar, James “Son” Thomas, B.B. King and more, personally selected by Bill Ferris from his extensive field recordings housed in the SFC’s William R. Ferris Collection.

UNC Press has put together a great website where you can watch video clips, get bonus material, and preorder your copy.