I don’t know very much about Alan Lomax, but I know that his name is synonymous with “music history” and usually blues, cultural folk, country and Americana. So when I read today that his entire archive has now been made digital at CulturalEquity.org I had to take a peek. What I found was a search engine that wants for user-friendliness, but does contain some incredible gems nonetheless.
It’s not lost on me that this release comes on the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. I assume this is a coincidence, but equally assume that nothing is ever a perfect co-incidence. There’s usually a connection somewhere in the ether.
So I found my copy of the Journals of Kurt Cobain that’s been kicking around my various writing and creation spots. The volume usually finds itself useful as a sturdy, large surface on which to write, as I recline in bed or on the couch. But now I’m sorting through the Lomax archive, listening to 1947 “Negro Prison Songs” from the Mississippi State Penitentiary recordings, and trying to connect the dots from Mississippi in the 1940s through Seattle in the 1990s to where I am today. What started as chain-gang prison songs in the Dixiecrat South somehow made it to Cobain’s lilly-white Aberdeen, WA. And then his piercing voice somehow made it to this Texan evangelical small-town boy, who grew up only a day’s drive from the Deep South, and now lives only a half-day’s drive from Aberdeen. I don’t understand it, but I’m better for it. Music is the glue.
I also learned today that the Band of Heathens is going to be playing a free show, in my hometown, right around the time that I’ll be visiting my parents and sisters this summer. And I also remembered that I have a Pete Seeger: The Power of Song documentary from the library that I haven’t watched yet. So it’s been a pretty darn good music day overall, and it’s about to get better.