Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2019 release schedule features voices both new and familiar, including a pair of collaborative albums conceived by prominent musicians, one co-produced by Rhiannon Giddens, and the other helmed by Laurie Anderson. Other highlights of the revitalized label’s releases for the first six months of the year include: insurgent folk trio Lula Wiles’ Folkways debut, vinyl re-issues of recordings from three singular female musicians Lucinda Williams, Elizabeth Cotten and Mary Lou Williams and monumental box sets dedicated to Pete Seeger and ‘The Social Power of Music.’
January 25 – Lula Wiles – ‘What Will We Do’
On ‘What Will We Do,’ Lula Wiles channel infectious energy and bold insight into music that strikes with purpose. The band fosters contradiction, embracing the spirit of traditional American music, yet unflinchingly calling into question the virtues of the culture that produces it— country songs that shine a light on a country’s crimes; love songs about being alone; murder ballads that challenge the standards of morality. Lula Wiles exist in the tense space where tradition and revolution meet, from which their harmonies rise into the air to create new American music.
February 22 – Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell – ‘Songs of Our Native Daughters’
‘Songs of Our Native Daughters’ gathers together kindred musicians Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell in song and sisterhood to communicate with their forebears. Drawing on and reclaiming early minstrelsy and banjo music, the Native Daughters collaborators reclaim, recast, and spotlight the often unheard and untold history of their ancestors, whose stories remain vital and alive today. The material on Songs of Our Native Daughters – written and sung in various combinations — is inspired by New World slave narratives, discrimination and how it has shaped our American experience, as well as musicians such as Haitian troubadour Althiery Dorval and Mississippi Hill Country string player Sid Hemphill, and more.
February 22 – ‘The Social Power of Music’
From parties to protests to prayer, music is a powerful catalyst for celebration, for change, and for a sense of community. Through making music together, we become bigger than ourselves. Whether singing with our families and friends or with thousands of strangers in an arena, music transforms lives, engages individuals, and connects local and global communities. ‘The Social Power of Music’ chronicles the vivid, impassioned, and myriad ways in which music binds, incites, memorializes, and moves groups of people. This richly illustrated 124-page book, with 80+ tracks on 4 CDs, invites listeners into musical practices, episodes, and movements throughout the U.S. and beyond. These songs of struggle, devotion, celebration, and migration remind us that music has the potential to change our world.
March 1 – Smithsonian Folkways Vinyl Reissue Series – Lucinda Williams ‘Happy Woman Blues,’ Elizabeth Cotten ‘Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar,’ and Mary Lou Williams ‘Mary Lou Williams’
April 5 – Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, and Jesse Paris Smith – ‘Songs of the Bardo from the Tibetan Book of the Dead’
An understanding of death is essential to Tibetan culture and Buddhist practice, but mortality is universal. Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, an ancient text used to usher practitioners through the interval between death and rebirth, ‘Songs of the Bardo’ is a spiritual collaboration and sonic experience by visionary artists Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal, and Jesse Paris Smith. The words have continued to offer a guiding hand through life’s most feared transformation, and on this album, the musicians create an utterly mesmerizing soundscape to allow the listener the wide-open space and flexibility to contemplate and meditate on their own path through this life.
May 3 – Pete Seeger – ‘The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’
He was a singer, a rebel, and a voice of the people. With a banjo and a selfless dedication to justice and the transformative power of music, he inspired all of humanity to question the status quo, to sing out and speak up against oppression wherever they witnessed it. His body of work reflects a deep reverence for the earth and all of those who walk on it; you can hear it in his voice and in the voices of the thousands of people who sang and continue to sing with him every day.
‘Pete Seeger: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’ is a career-spanning anthology of one of America’s most quintessential, celebrated, and influential musicians. Featuring classic recordings, 20 previously unreleased tracks, historic live performances, and special collaborations, this set encompasses over 60 years of Pete’s Folkways catalog, released on the occasion of his 100th birthday. 6 CDs and a 200-page extensively annotated and illustrated book.