Link to Living Tradition Homepage





JAYME STONE - Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project

JAYME STONE - Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project
Borealis Records BCD235

Alan Lomax, one of the great field collectors of folk music, was born in January 1915 so this is his centennial year. To appreciate the weight of his achievements in a 60-year career, try the websites of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center and the Association for Cultural Equity’s Global Jukebox, or seek out the Lomax The Songhunter documentary which followed his death in 2002. You could also raise a glass while listening to Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project.

Jayme, a Canadian banjo player, has gathered like-minded singers and musicians (he calls it a “collaboratory”) to celebrate and re-imagine traditional songs and tunes collected by Lomax from the 1930s onwards. Over 19 tracks and a bountiful 66 minutes, his main collaborators are Tim O’Brien (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Bruce Molsky (fiddle), Margaret Glaspy (vocals), Moira Smiley (vocals, accordion), Brittany Haas (fiddle), Julian Lage (guitar), Eli West (voice, guitar) and Nick Fraser (drums). From shanties to gospel song, from prison songs to Trinidadian calypso, from ballads transported from Britain and Ireland to Kentucky and Virginia fiddle tunes, the music honours not only Lomax’s work but also the lives of the people he recorded. In Jayme’s words they were “often marginalised by mainstream society” and “their lives unfolded at a time when segregation, racial oppression, class divide and gender inequalities often robbed them of their dignity and freedom.”

Margaret Glaspy takes many of the lead vocals and, for me, just doesn’t carry it off. But if I can listen to songs like The Devil’s Nine Questions (a version of Riddles Wisely Expounded, with ensemble singing, body percussion and a Balkan rhythm) or Whoa, Back, Buck (Eli West’s rendition of an ox-driving song which Lead Belly got from his uncle), or can tap my toes to Bruce Molsky’s Julie And Joe (a happy marriage of Julie Ann Johnson and a Cajun-style Old Joe Clark) then I’m more than happy. The warmth and spontaneity wins you over.

The album comes with a handsome 52-page booklet. In his foreword, Stephen Wade explores the vitality of folksong with its process of inheritance and invention. Lomax summed this up with his observation that “folk singing has more than nine lives.” Like all us non-felines, he only had one life – but he certainly made it count.

Tony Hendry

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.