Folk Music in America

"Folk Music in America" is a series of 15 LP records published by the Library of Congress between 1976 and 1978 to celebrate the bicentennial of the American Revolution. It was curated by librarian/collector-cum-discographer Richard K. Spottswood, and funded by a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The music, pulled primarily from the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Song (now Archive of Folk Culture), spans nearly a century (1890-1976) and virtually every form that can be considered American music. This includes native American songs and instrumental music, music of immigrant cultures from all over the world, and uniquely American forms like blues, jazz and country.


Download “Folk Music in America” (1.1GB) (Individual links below)

At 15 LP records (252 songs, 12 hours), the series stretches what can be considered a single publication, but represents a somewhat comprehensive survey of American folk music of the 20th century. The booklets (included here in PDF form) transcribe lyrics, share images and tell short stories about sources and symbols helpful in understanding the material. Each disc is organized along a theme, which follow. Click the links below to download the “discs” individually, or the image above to download the whole anthology. If you absolutely have to choose, I’m partial to volumes 1, 6 and 14.

  1. Religious Music - Congregational and Ceremonial
  2. Songs of Love, Courtship, and Marriage
  3. Dance Music - Breakdowns and Waltzes
  4. Dance Music - Reels, Polkas, Etc.
  5. Dance Music - Ragtime, Jazz, Etc.
  6. Songs of Migration and Immigration
  7. Songs of Complaint and Protest
  8. Songs of Labor and Livelihood
  9. Songs of Death and Tragedy
  10. Songs of War and History
  11. Songs of Humor and Hilarity
  12. Songs of Local History and Events
  13. Songs of Childhood
  14. Solo and Display Music
  15. Religious Music - Solo and Performance

Some notes about method:

  • All tracks are in “mono”. Some of the tracks were recorded in stereo, but for the sake of keeping a sane workflow, minimizing hosting and serving cost, and cleaning up after well-used records, I decided to sum them all to mono.
  • Some tracks skip or have otherwise unavoidable blemishes, it’s just part of transferring old records. Try to enjoy it despite these. If you catch something particularly grievous, email me and I’ll try to make it better. Alternately, if you’re an engineer and would like to try your hand at a better production, email me and I can send you the Audacity project files.
  • All tracks are listed under the genre of “folk” in the ID3. This can obviously be broken down more meaningfully, but I don’t want to confuse anyone’s libraries or misidentify.
  • Finally, many of the foreign language recordings include diacritics that I couldn’t be bothered to include in the titles, but they’re correct in the booklets. It was a big project, ok?! I hope you enjoy the recordings despite some of these imperfections.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’ll probably be posting selections from Folk Music in America for the next few weeks. I want to make sure this gets the exposure it deserves, so thanks for your patience.

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