Academic journal article Western Folklore

Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest

Academic journal article Western Folklore

Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest

Article excerpt

Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946. By James P Leary. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2015. Pp. xxi + 430, track list, preface, introduction, photographs, illustrations, bibliography, index, general index, 5 CDs, DVD. $60.00 hardcover book in boxed set.)

James Leary's landmark project consists of five CDs, a documentary DVD, and a massive volume of 187 annotated songs. It is a capstone for Leary's remarkable career, and it is a testament to the value of collaborative work in folklore and ethnomusicology. This boxed set is a remarkable presentation of fieldwork conducted primarily by Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene StratmanThomas in Wisconsin and Michigan from 1937 to 1946. Their fieldwork recordings have been remastered through the Dust-toDigital project in collaboration with the Association for Cultural Equity, the American Folklife Center, and the University of Wisconsin. The excellent media materials and the meticulous scholarship provide a rich documentation of major fieldwork excursions.

in his scholarship and in his leadership at the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, Leary has been the major advocate for broadening our understanding of folklore in the upper midwestern United States. Much of his work has demonstrated the vibrancy of traditional and ethnic music in this region. This new publication supports this lifelong project and offers a wider argument. Namely, Leary challenges ways that scholarship in folk music often neglects depth and breadth of music in the Midwest. This bias has resulted in overgeneralized claims about the importance of other regions-especially the southeastern and the western states-when we conceptualize American folk music. The recordings in Folksongs of Another America clearly demonstrate that canonical genres such as Anglo-American ballads, string band music, and worksongs have a long history in midwestern regions. The new book also complements these older ideas of folk music by showing how there is a long history to the incredible diversity of ethnic traditions in the region.

Following an introductory chapter that gives context to Leary's project as well as to the fi eldwork of Robertson, Lomax, and Stratman-Thomas, the book provides six chapters that correspond to each of the five CDs and the DVD. Robertson's documentation consists primarily of tunes performed by lumberjacks, farmers, and European ethnic groups in wisconsin. …

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