In a previous blog post, Jennifer Cutting and I explained the background to our Lomax Challenge showcase at last year’s Folk Alliance meeting. (We also presented the first four videos here and the next four here.) At the event, eighteen artists signed up to perform their own versions of songs they learned from Alan Lomax field recordings here in the American Folklife Center archive. I promised to share the rest of the videos in due time, so here is another pair.
We’ll begin with the duo Taarka,the husband-and-wife team of David Pelta-Tiller (mandolin, tenor guitar, vocals) and Enion Pelta-Tiller (five-string violin, vocals), who are influenced by jazz and swing as well as folk. They chose to perform “Cold Mountains,” a song Alan Lomax recorded from Texas Gladden in Bluefield, Virginia, on August 25, 1959. You can find that field recording at this link. Taarka’s version adds guitar and fiddle to Gladden’s plaintive unaccompanied vocal.
Next up is Mary Battiata, the leader of the Alt-Country band Little Pink. Mary treated us to her version of “Doney Gal.” John Lomax collected “Doney Gal” from Mrs. Louise Henson of San Antonio, Texas. John and Alan Lomax published it in their book Our Singing Country, with Henson’s commentary:
One time my uncle came to see us folks on our ranch in Oklahoma. When he got ready to go the rain was pouring down; but the weather didn’t stop him. We watched him ride over the hill headed for the roundup, singing his favorite cowboy song:
“It’s rain or shine, sleet or snow,
Me and my Doney Gal are bound to go.”
He was a good singer, too. He called his horse ‘Doney Gal, his sweetheart. None of us ever saw him again.
See Mary’s performance below:
This year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the American Folklife Center, Jennifer and I ran another challenge: this time we asked performers to select recordings from the whole range of the archive, not just Lomax’s work. Once again, we invited a videographer, and we’ll add those videos the Library’s website and to Folklife Today once we get through with the Lomax challenge. Stay tuned!