Happy 2019! A look back at 2018.

All of us at the Southern Folklife Collection want to wish you a very happy new year. 2018 was a very productive one for the SFC:

2018 was the second year of our partnership with YepRoc Records and saw the release of three new recordings. In February, we released Doc Watson, Live at Club 47 with a record release party at Club Passim featuring songwriter and 2017 IBMA Guitar Player of the Year Molly Tuttle accompanied by her bandmates in The Goodbye Girls, Allison de Groot, Lena Jonsson, Brittany Karlson and guitarist and singer Stash Wyslouch.  Live at Club 47 documents Doc Watson in top form recorded in February 1963, between his first solo public performance at Gerdes Folk City in New York City in November 1962 and his breakthrough performance in August 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival. 55 years after the recording, Live at Club 47 reached #9 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart.DocWatson_LiveAtClub47_COVER to album. Sepia toned photo of Doc Watson holding acoustic guitar standing outside in front of a barn

Black and White photo of Tia Blake in black shirt with leaves in background. Shot in ParisIn March we released a special 10” vinyl EP for Record Store Day, Tia Blake, Paris and Montreal Demos 1973-1976.  Tia released only one record in her lifetime, Folksongs & Ballads, for a small record label in France. Her demos had briefly been available on a CD reissue by Water Records that had quickly gone out of print. We hated to see this material unavailable to a broader audience, and with both Tia’s and her mother Joan’s blessing, made the tracks available again on vinyl, newly remastered by Brent Lambert of Kitchen Mastering, from the SFC’s 24bit 96kHz transfers of the analog masters. The demos are intimate and beautifully sung in Tia’s rich melancholy voice. The recordings are some of our favorites in the collection.

July saw the release of Bluegrass Champs, Live from the Don Owens Show. These rare live 1950s radio broadcasts featured Scotty, Donna, Van, and Jimmy Stoneman of the Stoneman Family.

The recordings came from the legendary private collection of Leon Kagarise and were produced by Joe Lee of Joe’s Record Paradise.  Live from the Don Owens Show reached #2 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album chart.

At the end of July, we completed the implementation phase of Extending the Reach of Southern Audiovisual Sources, our 2015-2018 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant has been transformative, allowing us to implement large-scale preservation and access workflows for archival audio and video holdings of the Southern Folklife Collection. This August we started a new expansion phase of the grant to broaden the focus to all archival AV materials in the Wilson Special Collections Library and to pilot AV digitization services for partner institutions across the state through UNC Libraries’ North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

Another key initiative has been providing access to our collections backlog. In 2018, brief online finding aids and library catalog records were created for many of the SFC’s hidden collections. We hope to complete this process and have all of the SFC’s collections discoverable in 2019. For an updated listing of our collections visit our website.

My thanks for your continued support! We are looking forward to 2019, which is the 30thAnniversary of the SFC’s official opening. We have a number of events and exhibits planned. More news to come.

Tia Blake Record Release Party

Saturday, June 23 at 2PM

 All Day Records 112A E Main St, Carrboro, North Carolina  

— Come join us to celebrate the reissue of Tia Blake’s classic record Folksongs and Ballads (1971). The Tia Blake Collection is part of the Southern Folklife Collection. Transfers from the original master tapes were conducted in the SFC studios. —

In the early spring of 2011, SFC curator Steve Weiss asked me to create an inventory of a small collection he had recently accessioned. Water Music, a record label based in California, was planning a reissue of Folksongs and Ballads by Tia Blake and her Folk Group. The producer was searching for photographs and other media to include as part of the release. The box of materials included few photographs, some open reel tapes, a flier for the group’s single performance (see below), some business correspondence, a copy of her LP, released in 1971 by the tiny French label SFP (Societe Francaise de Productions Phonographiques).

After some initial research, Tia Blake remained a mystery to me. She recorded just the one album in 1970 as a teenager living in France, had one performance (above photo), and left France never to perform publicly again. Blissfully unaware the the album I held is considered a lost gem of psych folk music–a rare collaboration between a young American woman living in France and European musicians enamored with American traditional music–and highly sought after by collectors, I was struck by Tia Blake’s warm, deep and  and powerful vocals. The arrangements are sparse and very skillfully arranged, accentuating the intimate sadness of Blake’s voice. Made up entirely of traditional tunes in the public domain, the album feels familiar but the casual grace of Blake’s vocals and the acoustic accompaniment make for a remarkable and lovely listening experience.

Along with a copy of the album were two open reel tapes: one including outtakes and rehearsal demos from the initial recording session, and another with three tracks performed by Tia Blake solo and recorded at a CBC studio in Montreal in 1976.  All of these tracks are included on the CD reissue. A composition about her father (with whom she lived in the Amazon in 1975) remains one of our favorites.“My Father is a Lonely Man” by Tia Blake, CBC recording 1976

Ms. Blake became a writer and eventually settled in North Carolina. The Southern Folklife Collection is honored to be the repository for the Tia Blake Collection and very pleased to have contributed to reintroduce her music to the world. Please join us on Saturday, June 23 at All Day Records in Carrboro to celebrate the release of the album.

Two important things you should know about this event:
1. The reissue is CD-only at this time, there will be CDs for sale
2. Tia Blake will be present, but will not be performing