News that Dust-to-Digital have put out a new release always feels me with excited anticipation of what it may be: Greek music from 1905-1956 / The 78RPM era in Southeast Asia? Lance and April Ledbetter who run the label have been exploring folk music from around the world digging into and restoring archived wonders to unleash into the world in the most beautiful of packages since 1999. Their John Fahey release came with an 88-page hardback book and Goodbye Babylon (gospel recordings made between 1902-1960) came with a 200 page book all presented in a cedar wood box which had everyone raving about the existence of this incredible label.
Lance and April uncover these lost sounds like archaeologists dusting away the desert sand to uncover some sacred text. The packaging and presentation corresponds to the high regard they give to each release.
So what’s new?
PARCHMAN FARM: PHOTOGRAPHS AND FIELD RECORDINGS, 1947-1959
44 audio recordings, 12 previously unreleased, all newly remastered;
77 photographs, many published for the first time;
Essays by Alan Lomax, Anna Lomax Wood, and Bruce Jackson.
Produced by Steven Lance Ledbetter, founder of Dust-to-Digital, and Nathan Salsburg, curator of the Alan Lomax Archive.
In 1947, ’48 and ’59, renowned folklorist Alan Lomax went behind the barbed wire into the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck—and, in 1959, a camera—Lomax documented as best an outsider could the stark and savage conditions of the prison farm, where the black inmates labored “from can’t to can’t,” chopping timber, clearing ground, and picking cotton for the state. They sang as they worked, keeping time with axes or hoes, adapting to their condition the slavery-time hollers that sustained their forbears and creating a new body of American song. Theirs was music, as Lomax wrote, that “testified to the love of truth and beauty which is a universal human trait.”
More here: www.dust-digital.com/parchman-farm
LEAD KINDLY LIGHT
176-page hardcover, clothbound book with 2 CDs featuring recordings of Rural Southern Music: Old Time, String Band Music from Appalachia, extremely rare Country Blues and African American gospel singing from 1924-1939.
159 Photographs from the Collection of Sarah Bryan reproduced in full color
46 Audio Recordings from the 78 RPM Record Collection of Peter Honig
A portrait of the rural American South between the dawn of the twentieth century and World War II, Lead Kindly Light brings together two CDs of traditional music from early phonograph records and a fine hardcover book of never-before-published vernacular photography. North Carolina collectors Peter Honig and Sarah Bryan have spent years combing backroads, from deep in the Appalachian mountains to the cotton and tobacco lowlands, in search of the evocative music and images of the pre-war South.
More here: www.dust-digital.com/lead-kindly-light
MAKING PICTURES: THREE FOR A DIME
180-page hardcover book, 271 images reproduced in full color
In the 1930s, the Massengill family of rural Arkansas built three portable photography studios on old truck frames, attached each to the back of any car that would run, and started a mobile photo booth business that would last for a decade. Without formal training or help, the Massengill family invented and improvised ways to mimic the popular photo booths they had seen in drugstores and brought their business to the dirt roads and open fields they knew well. Making Pictures: Three for a Dime, featuring Massengill family prints and photo albums collected by the artist Maxine Payne, illuminates a sliver of the Depression-era South previously unseen by the public.
More here: www.dust-digital.com/making-pictures
ARKANSAS AT 78 RPM: CORN DODGERS AND HOSS HAIR PULLERS
CD Digipak with 32 page booklet featuring liner notes by Tony Russell and photographs from the collection of Maxine Payne
Produced by April and Lance Ledbetter utilizing transfers from the Music Memory archive, “Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers and Hoss Hair Pullers” features original recordings made between 1928-1937. The CD and the 32-page booklet serve as a companion album to the newly-released photograph book, “Making Pictures: Three for a Dime” by Maxine Payne. All of the photos in this package are from the same cache of photographs taken by the Massengil family in their mobile photo-booth trailer throughout rural Arkansas in the 1930s-1940s.
More here: www.dust-digital.com/arkansas
The work they do at Dust-to-Digital is priceless, pay their website a visit if you haven’t done already, you won’t be sorry. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of musical wonders!
If you want to meet them and some of the other people behind these releases then head on over to The Bitter Southener to read Chuck Reece’s (editor-in-chief) article on them here.
Vist Dust-to-Digital here: www.dust-digital.com