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Begin exploring Smithsonian Folkways recordings
The Classic series is an enjoyable introduction to the diverse repertoire of American music available from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Each explores the breadth and depth of a genre while the notes trace its significance within American musical heritage. Longtime lovers of American roots music and newcomers alike find value and enjoyment in the Classic series. Compiled and annotated by GRAMMY award winning Smithsonian Folkways Archivist Jeff Place, award winning bluegrass radio presenter Lee Michael Demsey, blues historian Barry Lee Pearson, and others, the series has produced compilations of bluegrass, folk, blues, maritime, old-time, and mountain music.
Look for more Classic titles each year.
- Classic American Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways
SFW40215 (2015) Born of the British ballad, its American offspring was the blank canvas for all type of tale, the more calamitous or scandalous, the better.
- Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways
SFW40211 (2014) Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways ventures beyond the blues to show the true breadth of African American secular song.
- Classic Banjo from Smithsonian Folkways
SFW40209 (2013) The banjo is a “bigger than life” instrument, a symbol of deep southern American heritage.
- Classic Harmonica Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
SFW40204 (2013) In the 1850s, clockmaker Matthias Hohner began making harmonicas in Germany. By the turn of the century, his market expanded to America...
- Classic Celtic Music from Smithsonian Folkways
SFW40560 (2013) Few genres carry such a rich and deep history as Celtic music, which reflects centuries of culture of Ireland and the British Isles, as well as their North American inheritors.
- Classic Sounds of New Orleans
SFW40183 (2010) From street parades to nightclubs, from church houses to dance halls, music is key to New Orleans' uniqueness. Drawn from the Smithsonian Folkways repository of classic New Orleans sounds, this collection treats us to the city's many musical veins.
- Classic Appalachian Blues
SFW40198 (2010) The "mountain cousin" of the Delta blues, Appalachian blues bears the stamp of a distinctive regional blend of European and African styles and sounds born at the cultural crossroads of railroad camps, mines, and rural settlements.
- Classic Protest Songs
SFW40197 (2009) War, social injustice, personal plaints, and calls for action have long fueled musical creation and performance. In Classic Protest Songs, Mark Gustafson and Jeff Place tap the historic Smithsonian audio collections to compile 22 songs.
- Classic Piano Blues
SFW40196 (2008) Storyville nightclubs, Beale Street juke joints, gambling houses, barrelhouse bars in the lumber and turpentine camps of East Texas—these were the places African American piano bluesmen called home.
- Classic African American Gospel
SFW40194 (2008) Spirituals, guitar evangelists, "shout" bands, quartets, and choirs sing out the sacred sounds of African American gospel music. This Smithsonian Folkways "Classic" spans over a half century of select recordings.
- Classic Old-Time Fiddle
SFW40193 (2007) Old-time fiddler Jake Krack and Folkways archivist Jeff Place compiled and annotated this collection of vintage Southern Appalachian string band music from the Smithsonian archives.
- Classic African American Ballads
SFW40191 (2006) Classic African-American Ballads is a sampling of an important, historic, and engaging slice of America's Black music heritage. The heyday of the Black ballad tradition (1890-1920) left a lasting strain of creativity.
- Classic Canadian Songs
SFW40539 (2006) Canadian identity was once truly a mosaic—of disparate regions and small communities widely dispersed over a vast and inhospitable landscape.
- Classic Labor Songs
SFW40166 (2006) Songs of the American labor movement over the 20th century called for just wages, dignity, and a fair shake. They voiced grievances, affirmed the value of the worker to society, and expressed hope for life in a more just world.
- Classic Railroad Songs
SFW40192 (2006) As 19th-century America expanded, so too did the "ribbons of iron" that crisscrossed the vast landscape and sparked the imagination of music-makers.
- Classic Bluegrass Vol. 2
SFW40163 (2005) Compiled from over 40 years of classic bluegrass recordings on the Folkways and Smithsonian Folkways labels, Classic Bluegrass, vol. 2 showcases many of the key artists who shaped the sound of this internationally-acclaimed, all-American music.
- Classic Southern Gospel
SFW40137 (2005) Showcasing some of the best in bluegrass gospel and country gospel from the Smithsonian Folkways archives in a single, special priced album.
- Classic Folk Music
SFW40110 (2004) We often take for granted the supremacy of artists such as Doc Watson, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie McGhee, and other folk music legends.
- Classic Maritime Music
SFW40053 (2004) More than just sea chanteys, maritime musical tradition encompasses an ocean of songs from people who have lived and worked on the water.
- Classic Old-Time Music
SFW40093 (2003) This collection of old-time social and instrumental string-band music spotlights instrumental prowess. Old-time music features playing styles that pre-date bluegrass, emerging from the string band tradition.
- Classic Blues Vol. 2
SFW40148 (2003) For over a century, the blues have continually forged new musical alliances and pushed against boundaries, reaping rich harvests from infusions of diversity, innovation and vitality.
- Classic Blues
SFW40134 (2003) A living and dynamic tradition, blues is forged in hard times but powerful enough to bring on the good times. From boogies to ballads, full of innuendo and irony, this classic collection is a jukebox in a jewel case.
- Classic Mountain Songs
SFW40094 (2002) Riding the wave of the renewed interest in traditional American music, Classic Mountain Songs showcases a handful of the greatest mountain ballads as performed by some of the most influential folk singers and songwriters of the 20th century.
- Classic Bluegrass
SFW40092 (2002) It all began in 1956 with the release of the historic Folkways album American Banjo: Three-Finger and Scruggs Style (SFW 40037), the first-ever full-length bluegrass LP. From that point on, Folkways Records was synonymous with great bluegrass music.
At only $12 each, these compilations are essential additions to any music collection.