Taut as a tuned string, a boy twangs his mandolin during a festival at Horse Pens 40, a cluster of natural stone corrals atop Chandler Mountain that have become a center for the folkways of country life.

National Geographic - October, 1975

Today we’re thrilled to announce the release of “Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection” by our non-profit record label smithsonianfolkways

Lead Belly’s arrangement of American folk songs had a tremendous influence on artists for much of the 20th century. Artists like Led Zeppelin (“Gallows Pole”), Nirvana (“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”), Credence Clearwater Revival (“Midnight Special”), the Animals (“House of the Rising Sun”). And you’ve definitely heard “Black Betty” in countless commercials and sports arenas.

Listen to the whole album on Folkway’s website and follow the smithsonianfolkways tumblr as they trace the influence of Lead Belly through the performances of artists like Nina Simone, Johnny Cash and even Raffi (of Baby Beluga fame)

The Common Houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum, is native to the mountains of southern Europe. This plant has been cultivated for centuries. Thought to protect against decay, witchcraft, and thunderstorms, it is often grown on the roofs of houses or in window boxes. The juice has also been used in herbal medicine as an astringent and treatment for skin and eye diseases, to ease inflammation and, mixed with honey, to treat thrush…

More about this species: Encyclopedia of Life

Image by Arnold Paul via Wikimedia Commons 


There’s a lot of good music in our country you never hear on the radio. You don’t hear it on the juke boxes or on TV. Just ordinary old-fashioned songs which one person teaches to another.

from the liner notes to Pete Seeger’s Folk Songs for Young People

Of all the things that Pete Seeger did to promote American Folk music, one of the most lasting has to be performing for and with children, and putting out albums of folk songs just for kids.

How many of us in the U.S. learned classic songs like Jimmie Crack Corn or On Top of Old Smokey from listening to Pete Seeger albums at home or at school?

[Album art all courtesy Smithsonian Folkways which also has a TON of Pete Seeger albums available, including those above.]


Pete Seeger - “Buffalo Gals” (via SmithsonianFolkways)

His banjo “surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” 

Today we are remembering Pete Seeger, legendary singer-songwriter who passed away yesterday. Pete was instrumental in establishing our Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. They’ve prepared a tribute page in his honor

Pirates, shanghaiers, slavers, and smugglers are just some of the central characters in this album of lusty, authentic maritime songs; others are ardent patriots, hard-pressed immigrants, and weathered sailors sheltering in the taverns of the seven seas. All are midway between some dicey spot in life and an uncertain future. Their compelling stories of bold adventure are excitingly re-told here by an all-star crew of Irish singers and musicians led by vocalist/author Dan Milner.

Smithsonian Folkways


For all my lefty friends, here are a couple of interesting “sinister” guitars at Folkway Music in lovely downtown Waterloo, Ontario, Canada (you’ll notice the Google vehicle took this image in 2011, so the shop is not yet Folkway!)

Sorry, what?  You don’t like the word sinister to describe lefties becasue you think it means “evil”??  No way man, it means “left”!  It’s from Latin.  Really it is!  You don’t believe me?!?  Oh for f*ck’s sake just look it up!!     You’re not going to look it up are you?  Geez.  do I have to do EVERYTHING in this relationship?!? Here: I have looked it up for you!  Happy now?!?

Anyhoo:  The PRS on top was lovely - I wish more guitar makers would tell you what it is on the truss rod cover!  :D  And the price was reasonable at ~$2100.

The acoustic is simply sublime.  It’s a 1927 Martin 0-18K (the “K” is for “Koa”).  How rare is that?  A LEFT-HANDED 1927 MARTIN 0-18K! I believe this one was originally right-handed, but was converted to left.  Kind of like a 1920s “Jimi Hendrix” makeover…

Here are more details: