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A man plays guitar and sings with an American flag in the background.
Reverend Robert B. Jones Sr. performs in the Coolidge Auditorium, February 15, 2024. Photo by Stephen Winick

Homegrown Plus: American Roots Music with Rev. Robert B. Jones, Sr.

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We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus series with an entertaining and educational concert and interview by Reverend Robert B. Jones, Sr., an inspirational musician and storyteller celebrating the history, humor, and power of American roots music. His deep love for traditional African American and American music is shared in live performances that interweave timeless stories with original and traditional songs. For more than thirty years Robert has entertained and educated audiences of all ages in schools, colleges, libraries, union halls, prisons, churches and civil rights organizations. He brought that inspiration here to the Library of Congress on February 15, 2024, as part of the Homegrown series as well as the series Live! At the Library, and as part of our celebrations of Black History Month. As an ordained minister and a Baptist pastor, Rev. Jones has an unwavering faith the cultural importance of sacred and traditional American roots music. At the heart of his message is the belief that our cultural diversity is a story that we should celebrate, not just tolerate. This concert included blues, spirituals, gospel, rock, and even a touch of hip hop, delivered with voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica. Watch for the special sequence in which Rev. Jones is joined by his wife Sister Bernice Jones, his daughter Arnecia Jones, his son Robert Jones II (aka R.J.), and  his daughter-in-law, R.J.’s wife, Sister Rosa Warner Jones. As usual for this series, you’ll find a concert video, an interview video, and a set of links to explore. See the concert in the player below!

 

Rev. Jones makes his home in Detroit, Michigan, and performs throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, he is accomplished on guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and ukulele. He has recorded six albums of original and traditional songs. In addition to his solo performances, he often collaborates musically with his wife, Sister Bernice Jones, and his friend Matt Watroba. In 2017 Robert and Matt co-founded “Common Chords”, an educational organization designed to create community, cultural and historical connections through music and the arts. Jones is an award-winning blues radio host, has taught music history at Wayne State University, and serves as a member of the affiliate faculty at Boston’s Berklee School of Music. He has written, performed, and recorded a one man show entitled “An Evening With Lead Belly.” Jones is also a nationally recognized storyteller, and has been featured at many festivals including the National Storytelling Festival. During the interview I talked with him about all these aspects of his career. Watch it in the player below!

Collection Connections and Links

If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to African American roots music and culture.

Four people sing around a microphone
Family members Bernice Jones, Arnecia Jones, Robert Jones II, and Rosa Warner Jones joined Rev. Robert Jones on stage on February 15, 2024 in the Coolidge Auditorium. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Homegrown Plus Videos

Other Concert Videos

Folklife Today Blogs Highlighting African American Culture

Folklife Today featured a blog about the African American Spiritual “Come by Here” or “Kumbaya.

Folklife Today featured several blogs about the spiritual singers Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford.

Find all Folklife Today blogs that mention spirituals at this link.

Find all Folklife Today blogs that mention gospel at this link.

Find all our blogs highlighting African American history and culture at this link.

Folklife Today Podcasts

Folklife Today featured a podcast about the African American Spiritual “Come by Here” or “Kumbaya.

Folklife Today featured a podcast about the spiritual singers Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford.

Lectures

John Fenn wrote this blog post gathering most of our relevant lecture videos in 2018

Since then, we have featured several more relevant lectures, such as:

Online Collections

Now What a Time: Blues, Gospel, and the Fort Valley Music Festivals
Civil Rights History Project
Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories
Southern Mosaic: The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip
Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings

African American Materials in the Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings

Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project

African American materials in the Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection

Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection

African American materials in the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection

Florida Folklife from the WPA Collections

African American materials in the Florida WPA Folklife Collections

Working in Paterson: Occupational Heritage in an Urban Setting

African American materials in the Working in Paterson Collection

Lomax Digital Archive at the Association for Cultural Equity

Blues in the Lomax Digital Archive

Spirituals in the Lomax Digital Archive

Many Thanks

Thanks for watching and listening! Remember, the concert was part of the Library’s celebration of Black History Month.

Find out more about the concert at this link.

Find the whole Homegrown Plus series here.

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