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Category: Homegrown Plus

A woman sings into a microphone

Natalie Merchant’s Concert Event Part 2: Archive Treasures Family Sing-Along

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Watch Natalie Merchant’s June 15 sing-along concert at the Library of Congress right here on the blog! The singer, songwriter, activist, and folklife advocate helped the Library mark the opening of the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery with a very special Family Day sing-along presentation. Around the sing-along and her evening concert, she spent a week in residence at the Library doing research, meeting with staff, and participating in the gallery opening and June Family Day activities. Natalie Merchant, who has remained one of America's most literate and literary pop stars since her days with the band 10,000 Maniacs in the 1980s and 1990s, is also an enthusiast and advocate of traditional folk music and a member of the American Folklife Center's Board of Trustees. In this important leadership and advisory role, she spends time imagining new ways to help the Center further its mission--including this sing-along. Alongside a few of her own compositions, the sing-along featured mostly traditional folksongs which have connections to our unparalleled archival collections. In this blog, you can watch the sing-along itself and then explore these archival connections, including source recordings, photographs, links, and the stories behind the songs.

A woman sings into a microphone with her hand up.

Watch as Natalie Merchant Sings the Treasures of a Nation–Including AFC Archival Treasures

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Watch Natalie Merchant’s June 13 concert at the Library of Congress right here on the blog! The singer, songwriter, activist, and folklife advocate helped the Library mark the opening of the new David M. Rubenstein Treasures Gallery with a very special "Live! at the Library" concert presentation. Around the concert, she spent a week in residence at the Library doing research, meeting with staff, and participating in our June Family Day activities. Merchant, who fronted the band 10,000 Maniacs during its most successful years and went on to a solo career of sustained depth and brilliance, is also a member of the American Folklife Center's Board of Trustees. Alongside a few of her own compositions, the concert featured mostly traditional folksongs which have connections to our unparalleled archival collections. In this blog, you can watch the concert itself and then explore these archival connections, including source recordings, photographs, links, and the stories behind the songs.

Homegrown Plus: Blues with Phil Wiggins (1954-2024)

Posted by: Stephen Winick

The passing of harmonica virtuoso and blues master Phil Wiggins on May 7, 2024, was a sad event for the music world, and particularly for the American Folklife Center. Phil was one of the most celebrated musicians in the blues nationwide, and one of the most important roots musicians of any kind in the Washington area. For those reasons among others, AFC has featured Phil in concerts probably more often than any other musician during the last few decades. In this post, we'll bring together most of Phil's appearances that were shot on video, show you some never-before-seen photos of Phil, and pay tribute to a longtime friend of the Center.

Five people outdoors holding musical instruments

Homegrown Plus: The Berntsons, Andrea Hoag, and Loretta Kelley

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus series with a couple of classic concerts of Scandinavian music.  Way back in 2009 we presented the Berntsons, a Norwegian American band who learned their music in rural Wisconsin before moving to Virginia. The Berntsons were joined onstage by the trio of Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley, and Charlie Pilzer. Among them they played pump organ, fiddle, Hardanger fiddle, six-string and twelve-string guitars, and double bass. Six years later, Hoag and Kelley returned with their fiddles for a program we called "A Tour of Norwegian and Swedish Fiddle Styles." Among them, the Berntsons, Hoag, Kelley, and Pilzer have earned Grammy awards and nominations, they've played on concert stages and at folk festivals nationwide, and, most importantly, they are preserving a living tradition of Nordic folk music for us to enjoy. Back in those days, we were recording interviews primarily on audio, but we did ask for extended essays on the performers. So in this post, you'll find both concert videos along with those essays provided by the musicians. 

Three people play Hardanger fiddle, viola d'amore, and Nyckelharpa.

Homegrown Plus: Northern Resonance

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus series with Northern Resonance, a Scandinavian string trio rooted in traditional folk music. As usual for this series, you’ll find a concert video, an interview video, and a set of links to explore. Northern Resonance perform traditional and newly composed roots music on a previously untested combination of instruments: Swedish viola d’amore, hardanger fiddle and nyckelharpa. They combine Scandinavian music with explosive rhythms and grand chamber-like arrangements, taking folk music in a new direction. The members of Northern Resonance are highly skilled and accomplished musicians. The three instruments they play are all bowed stringed instruments, and they all make use of sympathetic strings. The sympathetic strings are not played by the musicians, but vibrate due to their proximity to the bowed strings, providing the "resonance" of the group's name. With these unusual instruments and their lively tunes, Northern Resonance delighted our audience in the Whittall Pavilion on March 7, 2024. 

A man plays guitar and sings with an American flag in the background.

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

Posted by: Stephen Winick

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.

Five men in suits and ties.

Homegrown Plus: Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers

Posted by: Stephen Winick

It's time for another Classic Edition of Homegrown Plus! Embedded in this blog post, you'll find two concert videos (from 2009 and 2013) with the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, a 2013 interview video, and a set of links to explore. The Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, which since those days has shortened its name to the Brotherhood Singers, is a jubilee-style, a cappella, sacred gospel quartet from Covington, Kentucky. Over 30 years ago, Ric Jennings formed the quartet out of the renowned Ninth Street Baptist Church Men's Choir. Since the beginning, this community-based quartet has sung in churches, at special gospel programs, anniversaries, song services, and other sacred music events. In addition to continuing the traditional community role of the gospel quartet, the Brotherhood has expanded their reach to a global audience, performing both spiritual and secular songs. Enjoy their music in these classic videos!

A woman sings into a microphone and plays a frame drum.

Homegrown Plus: Charly Lowry

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus series with a thrilling concert by Charly Lowry, a dynamic singer-songwriter from Pembroke, North Carolina. An Indigenous woman belonging to the Lumbee and Tuscarora Tribes, she considers her work a platform for raising awareness around issues that plague underdeveloped and underserved Native communities. As usual for this series, you'll find a concert video, an interview video, and a set of links to explore.

A woman with a bass guitar and a man with drumsticks and a traditional rattle

Homegrown Plus: Sihasin’s Music from the Dine Navajo Nation

Posted by: Stephen Winick

We're continuing the Homegrown Plus series with one that slipped through the cracks: a thrilling 2020 video concert by Sihasin, the sibling duo of Jeneda and Clayson Benally. The Benallys are award winning musicians from the Diné Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. The name Sihasin is a Diné word that means hope and assurance, and the music reflects hope for equality, for healthy and respectful communities, and for social and environmental justice. Sihasin combines harmony vocals with bass and drums, in a style rooted in Native, rock, punk and world music. As usual for this series, you'll find a concert video, an interview video, and a set of links to explore. But there's also a bonus this time: Sihasin participated in our 2023 Archive Challenge at Folk Alliance International in Kansas City, so we have embedded that exciting video as well. And if that weren't enough, the concert features a real, live horse!