Folksongs of Another America

September 8th, 2015
Cover of Jim Leary's Folksongs of Another America
James P. Leary

James P. Leary

Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937–1946, is an omnibus–a multimedia boxed set containing a 430-page hardcover book, 5 music CDs, and 1 documentary DVD. It could be described as James P. Leary’s magnum opus, and it is now available at Mills Music Library. Leary is the Birgit Baldwin Professor of Scandinavian Studies, a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, a co-founder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a longtime friend and supporter of Mills Music Library.

Leary mined much of his material from The Wisconsin Folksong Collection, 1937-1946, which includes work done by UW-Madison faculty member Helene Stratman-Thomas as part of the Wisconsin Folk Music Recording Project, co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin and the Library of Congress during the summers of 1940, 1941, and 1946; and recordings collected by song catcher Sidney Robertson Cowell during the summer of 1937 for the Special Skills Division of the Resettlement Administration.

The University of Wisconsin Press co-published Folksongs of Another America in August with Dust-to-Digital, in collaboration with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Association for Cultural Equity /Alan Lomax Archive. It has been receiving rave reviews, and Leary has been busy promoting it. A recording of an interview Leary did with Veronica Rueckert for Wisconsin Public Radio in July is available to listen to (or download) here. Dust-to-Digital has made a playlist of selections from the CDs available on SoundCloud.

Leary will be giving a talk about his book, and screening the publication’s accompanying 25-minute documentary film Alan Lomax Goes North, on Thursday, November 12, at 6:30pm in Memorial Library, Room 126. The event is free and open to the public. Mills Music Library will have a display at the event showing key archival holdings that figured significantly in this project, and the University of Wisconsin Press will have copies of Folksongs of Another America available for purchase and autographing.