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Sound Sessions from Smithsonian Folkways

Sound Sessions from Smithsonian Folkways is an audio journey into the rich, eclectic, and sometimes eccentric Smithsonian Folkways archive. Host Sam Litzinger and archivist Jeff Place comb the stacks for music and stories about this historic record label for monthly broadcasts that feature newly digitized audio, including rare outtakes, interviews, and never-before-heard recordings. Programs cover American folk icons, emerging artists who are continuing and transforming musical traditions around the world, and the sounds of our everyday lives, from the natural environment to the office desk. Interviews with Smithsonian Folkways staff and the artists bring a fresh, behind-the-scenes perspective to a record label that preserves a national musical treasure, documents 'people's music' from around the world, and connects people to their own and others' heritage.

This project was made possible with the generous support of the Smithsonian Women's Committee.

  • Ella Jenkins Ella Jenkins - First Lady of Children's Music
    52 minutes

    Episode 14 features an interview with Ella Jenkins, the "First Lady of Children's Music." Ella recorded her first album for Folkways Records in 1957 and continues to entertain children of all ages.

  • Quebe Sisters - Texas Swing Fiddle
    52 minutes

    Host Sam Litzinger explores Texas Swing through the works of the Quebe Sisters, performers at the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. When Grace, Sophia and Hulda Quebe (pronounced kway-bee) take to a stage to play and sing their vintage-style three-part harmony, audiences are mesmerized.

  • Lead Belly
    52 minutes

    Alvin Singh II, director of the Lead Belly Foundation ( (and Lead Belly's great-nephew), joins fellow-archivist Jeff Place and host Sam Litzinger to discuss the life and music of Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter, the vastly influential "king of the twelve-string guitar."

  • Sonam Dorji of Bhutan
    52 minutes

    Bhutan, a small nation nestled between India and China, was one of the featured programs of the 2008 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Bhutanese musician Sonam Dorji joins Smithsonian Folkways Associate Director Atesh Sonneborn and host Sam Litzinger on the Festival grounds in a discussion about the music, people, and culture of Bhutan, the 'Land of the Thunder Dragon.'

  • Joe Hickerson
    52 minutes

    Joe Hickerson, folk singer, folklorist, archivist, and librarian, joins fellow-archivist Jeff Place and host Sam Litzinger for an animated discussion of folk music collecting, the Library of Congress archives, and the story behind Where Have All the Flowers Gone? the song he co-wrote with Pete Seeger. Hickerson was the Librarian and Director of the Archive of Folk Song/Culture at the Library of Congress from 1963 to 1998 and currently writes the column "Song Finder" for Sing Out! Magazine.

  • Oud Music
    52 minutes

    On this edition of Sound Sessions, Jeff Place and Smithsonian Folkways associate director—and oud enthusiast—Atesh Sonneborn join host Sam Litzinger to discuss the music of the oud. The pear-shaped stringed instrument, pronounced "ood," appears in virtually every genre of music across a large swath of the globe, including the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Europe. The discussion follows the oud's origins, sound, and notable performers across varied musical forms.

  • The Silk Road
    52 minutes

    Host Sam Litzinger and archivist Jeff Place invite Richard Kennedy, acting director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, as their audio guide for a musical and cultural journey along the famed Silk Road trade route. In this program, Kennedy discusses the flow of ideas, culture, music, and art that crossed the mountains and deserts of Central Asia to East Asia and the Mediterranean.

  • Jean Ritchie
    52 minutes

    Jean Ritchie is an American folk singer, songwriter, and dulcimer player from rural Kentucky who, upon moving to New York City in the 1940s, became known as the 'Mother of Folk.' Host Sam Litzinger and archivist Jeff Place discuss the life and music of Jean Ritchie with guest Stephanie Smith, assistant archivist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

  • Pete Seeger
    52 minutes

    Pete Seeger is the dean of 20th century folk singers. He has been performing and lending his energies to causes he believes in for more than 60 years. Stories from Jeff Place and newly digitized interviews with Pete and musicians who know him lend a rich perspective to his life and music.

  • Paul Robeson
    52 minutes

    An American giant of 20th century music, Paul Robeson stood tall against racism, McCarthyism, and blacklisting to proclaim the majesty of African-American culture. Jeff Place and Dr. Bob Cataliotti discuss his life and work.

  • Dock Boggs
    52 minutes

    This Virginia miner revolutionized the banjo and influenced modern musicians from Bob Dylan to Jeff Tweedy. In this program Jeff Place shares music and interviews.

  • Bill Monroe
    52 minutes

    Known as "The Father of Bluegrass," Bill Monroe shaped this American musical form. Hear interviews and rare live recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

  • Woody Guthrie
    52 minutes

    Rare outtakes and stories from Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place give new meaning to the life and music of American folk icon Woody Guthrie and his relationship with Folkways Records.

  • Doc Watson
    52 minutes

    Focusing on the life and music of the Doc Watson, American roots music legend. Smithsonian Folkways archivist Jeff Place shares stories and plays songs and interviews to demonstrate the Doc Watson "style."

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