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Homegrown Plus: Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

In this photo of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Jay plays fiddle and Molly plays guitar. Photo is accompanied by the Homegrown 2020 logo, which includes the words "Library of Congress American Folklife Center Homegrown 2020 Concert Series, "Homegrown at Home."

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. Photo courtesy of the artists.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re proud to continue the series with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, an American roots music duo based in New York’s Catskill Mountains. They are best known for their work on the soundtrack of Ken Burns’s PBS documentary series, The Civil War. Jay’s composition “Ashokan Farewell” became the musical centerpiece of the Grammy-winning soundtrack and was nominated for an Emmy. Their performance left a lasting impression on everyone who tuned in. Jay’s fiddling is known for playfulness, drama, soul and technical verve, as he explores many musical styles and idioms that he has internalized and made his own. Molly’s inventiveness on piano and guitar supports the tunes and follows the flow of the melody. Her rich and expressive vocals round out the experience of their award-winning concert presentations. Jay and Molly have recorded numerous albums of traditional and original fiddle music along with vintage country and jazz. They head the Ashokan Center, home of Ashokan Music & Dance Camps, founded in 1980.

In this photo of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason at Folk Alliance International 2020, Jay holds his fiddle and speaks into his mic while Molly holds her guitar.

Jay Ungar and Molly Mason at Folk Alliance International 2020. Photo courtesy of Folk Alliance International.

Jay and Molly came to the Homegrown series through the Archive Challenge. They performed one of our tunes in the Archive Challenge showcase at Folk Alliance International in 2020, and we knew we wanted more! So we invited them to perform in the Homegrown series and they agreed to perform more material from the American Folklife Center Archive–with a few other favorites as well. They also did a great job talking about the archival recordings they used and how they were influenced by great musicians of the past. It’s a wonderful concert video, which you can see in the player below.

 

In the conversation, we talked about their lives and careers; their musical influences; how Jay came to compose “Ashokan Farewell” and how they came to play on the soundtrack of The Civil War; and how they drew on archival resources to create their concert. Watch it in the player below!

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

The Third Season of the ‘America Works’ Podcast is Here!

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is kicking off 2022 with the much-awaited third season of “America Works,” a podcast series celebrating the diversity, resilience and creativity of American workers in the face of economic uncertainty. The new season, launched today, features riveting stories from a teacher and workers at a circus, a meat plant, a vineyard, and a now-closed Boeing factory, among others. The first episode is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and at loc.gov/podcasts. Subsequent episodes will be released each Thursday through March 10, 2022. This blog post contains links and an episode guide to the season.

Homegrown Plus: Iona Fyfe

Welcome to another post in our Homegrown Plus series, in which we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with  Iona Fyfe, who is a folksinger from Aberdeenshire in the North East of Scotland. Iona is recognized as one of Scotland’s finest young ballad singers, rooted deeply in the singing traditions of the North East. Winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018, Iona has been described by Global Music Magazine as “one of the best Scotland has to offer.” In her Homegrown concert, Iona sang a variety of traditional ballads associated with her part of Scotland. She also honored the American Folklife Center by taking what we call the “Archive Challenge”: learning a song from one of our archival recordings. In Iona’s case, the song was “The White Fisher,” as sung by Bell Duncan in the James Madison Carpenter collection. In our conversation, Iona and I talked about a lot of topics, including the influence of great archival collections on Scottish folksinging; the importance of regional identity in Scottish music; the experience of getting a traditional music degree from a conservatory; the influence of teachers like Rod Paterson, Margaret Bennett, and Ian Russell; and Iona’s plans to draw further on AFC’s James Madison Carpenter collection. Watch both videos right here in this blog post!

Homegrown Plus: Changüí Majadero

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re happy to be continuing the series with the Cuban American band Changüí Majadero. Founded by tres guitarist and vocalist Gabriel García, Changüí Majadero was the result of García’s pivotal pilgrimage to the Guantanamo region of Cuba, where he learned the musical style called changüí from the living masters of the style. He says he was inspired to spread the spirit of Cuban folkloric music mixed with a dash of East Los Angeles grit. The band’s concert included songs they learned during research in the American Folklife Center archive, along with other songs from their repertoire. Our conversation with Gabriel provides an introduction to the band and to the unusual style known as changüí, including the instruments, rhythms, and history of this important musical tradition.

Homegrown Plus: Joe Jencks

In the “Homegrown Plus” series we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both videos together in an easy-to-find blog post. We’re continuing the series with our friend Joe Jencks, who is an accomplished singer-songwriter but also a lover of traditional songs, especially work and labor songs. For his Homegrown concert, he performed an entire set of songs from the AFC archive, making this concert also an example of an artist taking the Archive Challenge. We’re delighted that Joe took the challenge, and we think he did a fantastic job in his exemplary concert video. You can watch his concert, his interview video, and a bonus Archive Challenge song from Folk Alliance International, all in this blog post!