Monday, April 11, 2011

To the Archive!

We love old songs. One of our goals for this next album is to preserve some old public-domain folk songs while giving them a fresh style. At the end of March, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian Folklife Archive in Washington DC and search out these old traditional river songs.  It was an unforgettable experience.

(Side note) - It just so happens that the archive is located in the same office as Smithsonian Folkways Records.  This is the record label that produces albums and compilations from our favorite artists of all time (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ella Jenkins, Elizabeth Mitchell, etc etc… ), so we were pretty much in high heaven!

The archive itself is located in a huge temperature controlled room and it consists of hundreds of thousands of records, tapes, CDs, album notes, studio logs, original cover art, lyric sheets, etc.  By using large index books, we (with the help of Jeff Place, Head Archivist and two-time Grammy winner!) would pull recordings from this collection, listen to them, and find dozens of amazing songs that related to our river adventure theme.  Of course some of what we heard was unusable, but after listening to about 100 songs over 2 days, we found some real gems! Expect to hear some on the album! 

The Last River Rat

In preparation for our trip, we’ve been having some great phone conversations with Kenny Salwey, storyteller, author, hunter, trapper, and self-proclaimed “Last River Rat” who has lived off the Mississippi for his whole life.  Kenny is a fascinating person and we have thoroughly enjoyed listening to his advice, reading his stories, and watching videos about his river philosophy. Here is a link to the BBC film about the Mississippi and the last river rat, Kenny. Check it out:

We will see Kenny present the BBC film and do a book reading in St. Paul in April and we will also meet Kenny on the river as we canoe by his shack near Alma Wisconsin in June.  We can’t wait to spend some time with this guy, sing some songs, and hear some of his stories!