Greg Vandy

Harry Smith was crazy as catshit. The Portland-born, Bellingham-raised eccentric (1923-1991) couldn’t comprehend paying bills. He would talk to people about things like “bioelectromagnetics,” even if they weren’t listening. And if he ever had money (which was rare), he would buy books and records, not food. But in 1952 he assembled a collection of “race” and “hillbilly” 78s that became a landmark—The Anthology of American Folk Music. Tonight, KEXP’s resident Americana historian, Greg Vandy (who hosts “The Roadhouse” every Wednesday at 6 p.m.), presents an evening of talk, music, and film about Smith and his legacy. (It’s a sidebar to the Frye’s ongoing “Old, Weird America” show.) Though it served as the template for the folk revival (Dylan, Baez, etc.), the Anthology was much more than that. With tracks arranged into three groups (ballads, social music, and songs), Smith’s collection summarized the American folk narrative—from our roots in the British Isles and Africa to “contemporary” issues such as the boll-weevil plague. BRIAN J. BARR

Thu., Dec. 3, 7 p.m., 2009

 
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