Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Great Blog: The Old, Weird America

As an enthusiastic music blogger, I spend a lot of time throwing around conclusory superlatives. Everything is "great" or "amazing" or "brilliant." (Remember, I'm not a critic--just a guy trying to point you to some good things.) So get ready, it's time for more gushing!

Today's post is about a brilliant newish blog called The Old, Weird America. Simply put, this blog is an amazing resource. The writer, a 33-year-old man from France, is using Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music "as a roadmap to explore American folk music and maybe other countries traditions along the way."

What that means is that each song from the Anthology is used as the starting point for a separate post about the song or the style. Not only do you get an informative description about the specific song from the Anthology, but you can also download and listen to other songs by the same artist and--even better--several other variations of the same song by different artists.

While you might think it would be tedious to hear 32 different versions of Froggy Went A-Courtin' (or 100 different performances of John Henry) that's not the case at all. There is a great variety of styles and structure from song to song, and the recordings span a number of years up to the present time. It's interesting to hear the differences as the songs evolve over the years (and sometimes split into two entirely separate songs). Give it a try.

Here are a few tracks I downloaded this week from the post about Song No. 8: King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O (a.k.a. Froggy Went A-Courtin'):

The first is a funny song about Kansas by Chubby Parker, the performer on the Anthology:

Chubby Parker - In Kansas ("The girls are fat as pigs in Kansas...")

The next two are modern variations on the primary song used on the Anthology:

Red Allen - Froggy Went A-Courtin' (buy)

Flat Duo Jets - Frog Went A Courtin' (buy)

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