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This Land is Their Land: Alan Lomax's Presto K8 Returns Via New Web Series 'The 78 Project,' Premieres in March at SXSW

By Ian Holubiak i.holubiak@classicalite.com on Feb 07, 2014 03:37 PM EST

You'll recall that Alan Lomax began his tour of the United States in the 1940s. He set out with a Presto Model K8 recording machine--a 78 r.p.m. direct-to-disc field recorder--in hopes of archiving regional music from around the nation and, ultimately, the globe.

During his travels, he met musicians the likes of Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters. So, yeah, the passage of the Presto Model K8 is deep-seated in Americana.

And today, it's back for another tour.

Alex Steyermark, a director and music supervisor for films, and music journalist Lavinia Jones-Wright acquired a K8 machine in 2010 and set out on a similar path that Lomax did.

Steyermark and Jones-Wright approached musicians they knew--Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Roseanne Cash, Marshall Crenshaw--asking them to indulge in the project, too.

The result came in the form of The 78 Project. And this week, Steyermark and Jones-Wright released an LP titled The 78 Project: Volume 1, which features 13 performances recorded in New York from 2011 to 2012.

In pursuit of Lomax's dream, the duo documented their travels via a web series, which will premiere this March at the South by Southwest Festival.

"One of the things that motivated us to make the film was that in the web series, each episode was about one artist," Jones-Wright said in an interview with the New York Times.

"The film gave us an opportunity to explore more of the context. We visited the Library of Congress to examine the Lomax recordings. We interviewed the sons of the man who invented the Presto. And we went to the factory to see how the discs are made," she continued.

Thus far, Steyermark and Jones-Wright have recorded about 50 performances, and they hope to contribute more to their documentary web series.

As a show of respect for their efforts, here's the father of folk, himself, as heard on Lomax's original Presto K8 recording machine.

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TagsAlan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Prest K8 Recording Machine, Library of Congress, Richard Thompson, Loudon Wainwright III, Roseanne Cash, Marshall Crenshaw, The 78 Project, Alex Steyermark, Lavinia Jones-Wright