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Caught My Ear: The Pineconers Live at Albert Hall, 1983!

Woman Playing a banjo onstage.

Janice Sherwood of the Pineconers, November 1983. Photo by Carl Fleischhauer. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Call number: AFC 1991/023: CCF-021 Find the archival scan here.

Every so often I dive into our online collections in search of interesting fieldwork materials to share, especially anything from the large-scale field surveys that the Center facilitated from the late 1970s on through the mid- 1990s (visit an interactive Story Map about these projects). Just the other day I visited the Pinelands Folklife Project collection, used the faceted search options to pull together all audio files also tagged as “songs” and started listening. This particular 32-minute field recording caught my ear, so I’ll share it in full:

I’ll highlight a specific song below, but first want to offer some context for the recording that I gleaned from the field notes produced by Carl Fleischhauer, one of the Center’s staff working on the project. These notes describe the evening of November 19, 1983  that he spent in a building on Chapel Street in Waretown, NJ at a community music event. Known as “Albert Hall,” the building was once the “old Waretown Auction in Waretown plaza” and Carl describes it in his notes like this:

It looked and in some ways “felt” like the historic photos I have seen of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, or the old Opry, long before it got to the Ryman Auditorium. The hall seated two hundred or so, and had a refreshment and souvenir stand at the back.

He even created a physical layout of the floor plan in his notes using ASCII characters! Very cutting edge (though not to scale, as he indicates):

Image of manuscript page featuring floorplan of all created using ASCII characters. Also contains written description of building interior.

Documentation – Carl Fleischhauer – Field Notes, Pinelands Folklife Project collection. Call number: AFC 1991/023: Box 13, Folder 116. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

On that evening, Carl was with Mary Hufford (also working on the Pinelands project) and audio recordist, Russ Herr. The team was able to patch their tape machine into the PA and created a fairly nice audio capture of the music. While the entire set is worth listening to, there is one song in particular that echos the primary goal of the Pinelands Folklife Project: exploring the relationship between local culture and the surrounding environment. The song is called “A Home in the Pines,” and was composed by Bill Britton (uncle of Janice Sherwood, a member of the Pineconers) and Merce Ridgeway, Sr. back when they performed in a group called The Pinehawkers during the 1940s and 1950s. In this recording, it’s performed by The Pineconers and the lineup that night was Sam Hunt (banjo), Joe Albert (washtub bass), Gladys Eayre (guitar and vocals), and Janice Sherwood (banjo and vocals). For a bit more info about the recording, visit Mary Huffords recording log. To find “A Home in the Pines” you can drag the audio player head to about 17:18, and and the song ends at 19:44. Featuring lyrics celebrating the physical landscape and a valued sense of place, the song is an homage to the Pinelands.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share a few other wonderful audio clips from this rich field collection that have caught my ear.

Announcing the AFC’s 2023 Community Collections Grant Recipients

The American Folklife Center is excited to announce the 2023 recipient cohort of the Community Collections Grants program. Over this year, recipients will undertake cultural research and documentation projects focused on a wide range of cultural traditions and practices across the U.S. and territories. Their work will ultimately be included in the Library’s permanent collections, […]

Missouri Friends of Folk Arts Collection Comes to AFC

The American Folklife Center is delighted to announce the acquisition of the Missouri Friends of the Folk Arts collection from Julia Olin and Barry Bergey. The collection includes concert recordings of iconic blues and old time musicians like Henry Townsend and Robert Jr. Lockwood; festival performances from the Frontier Folk Festival; fiddling traditions from Ozark and Midwestern regions; and traditional arts documentation from around the state of Missouri. Communities documented include the French speaking towns around Old Mines, Native American communities, and several Spanish speaking communities. Bergey and Olin wrote this blog post to introduce the collection to researchers at the American Folklife Center.

Live! At the Library: Alilo’s Vocal Harmonies from Georgia

Way back in 2022, after the Homegrown Plus Premiere series from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was over, we managed to squeeze one more concert into the Homegrown 2022 season. With support from The Embassy of Georgia and The America-Georgia Business Council, we held a live a cappella holiday concert in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress. The group was Alilo, a well known professional vocal ensemble from (you guessed it!) the country of Georgia. This blog presents the concert video, along with photos and links to more Georgian content.

AFC Kicks off Homegrown 2023 with Jake Blount February 23

The American Folklife Center is kicking off the 2023 Homegrown concert series with a solo performance by banjo player, fiddler, and singer Jake Blount, an award-winning musician and scholar of African American musical traditions. Blount draws on historical sources for his music, including field recordings in the AFC archive. Blount’s performance will be part of Live! at the Library and the Black History Month celebrations at the Library of Congress, and is presented in cooperation with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The concert is at 6:00 pm in the Members Room (LJ 162) in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building.

Community Collections Grants: “And We are Still Here:” Stories of Resilience and Sustainability from Houma Culture Bearers in Louisiana

Below is an excerpt from a post on the Library’s Of the People blog by Folklife Specialist Guha Shankar who interviews Community Collections Grant recipient Professor Tammy Greer (and team) about their project, “And We are Still Here:” Stories of Resilience and Sustainability from Houma Culture Bearers in Louisiana. This post is part of the Of the […]

Community Collections Grants: An Interview with Mark “Boots” Lupenui

Below is an excerpt from an interview by Folklife Specialist Guha Shankar with Community Collections Grant recipient Mark “Boots” Lupenui entitled, “Heirloom Songs” from Kohala, Hawai’i: Documenting a Fragile Musical Legacy, as part of a series on the Library’s Of the People blog featuring the 2022 awardees of the AFC’s Community Collections Grants program. The […]

Happy Holidays: AFC’s 2022 Video Mummers’ Play

Happy Holidays from the American Folklife Center! In this blog post, you can enjoy our 2022 holiday mummers’ play.  As you may know, every year, in the week of the Library’s holiday party, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress.  Dressed in costumes that range from striking to silly, we sing, act, rhyme, and dance for other Library staff members and for members of the public. Our performances are based on the ancient tradition of mumming, which has come down to our archive in the form of play scripts, songs, photos, and other items collected in the early twentieth century. This year’s play was called The Flute of Ice: A Mumming from the Vault. This blog post includes the video, the script, explanatory notes, and still photos from the performance and dress rehearsal.

The American Folklife Center: 2022 in Review

As 2022 draws to a close, we at the American Folklife Center want to take time to reflect on a year devoted to deepening our commitment to community-centered stewardship, adapting to hybrid work and planning for the future. The year was marked by the Library’s return to full onsite operations, leadership transitions, and moves to new public and staff spaces that make way for the transformation of the Jefferson Building. The year brought waves of change and staff rose to the challenge. Read about the year’s highlights in this blog post from AFC’s new director!

The Truth Behind the Hanukkah Dreidel: Metafolklore, Play, and Spin

Hanukkah this year will be celebrated from December 18 to December 26. Jewish children all over the world will be playing a gambling game with a traditional spinning top known as a dreidel. Many of them will also be told stories about the origin and meaning of the dreidel, stories which claim that the dreidel once had a subversive purpose or that it was created to commemorate a great miracle. These stories are themselves interesting folklore. Since the dreidel is a traditional toy used to play a traditional game, such stories about the dreidel and game can be called metafolklore–that is, folklore about folklore. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of these stories about the origin of the dreidel and examine the toy’s real history.