Huddie Ledbetter, more commonly known as "Lead Belly," is having a Smithsonian Folkways moment for his latest tribute: Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. An anthology and coffee-table book that broadly chronicles Belly's career, it's essential to folk fans of any stripe.
"This is not rock 'n' roll. It's not pop music. It's not folk music; it's this sort of transcendental guitar music," Steve Lowenthal emphatically tells me over the phone. And, indeed, his new book, Dance of Death: The Life of John Fahey, details the style (and story) of perhaps this country's most influential "American primitive" guitarist.
Perhaps the reincarnation of Alan Lomax, or just a messiah to the entire music collector community, Zero Freitas has slightly become an enigma with his extensive music library that he is now attempting to make into a non-profit. A wealthy businessman with too much time on his hands, perhaps, has led to an uncanny musical expedition determined to catalog every record in the world.
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. 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.