Legendary Folklorist Alan Lomax: ‘The Land Where the Blues Began’

In 1933, 18-year-old Alan Lomax took a break from col­lege to trav­el into the Amer­i­can South with his father, John Avery Lomax, on a quest to dis­cov­er and record tra­di­tion­al folk songs for the Library of Con­gress. It was the begin­ning of a jour­ney that would last the rest of his life.

With his father, and lat­er on his own, Lomax trav­eled the back roads of Appalachia and the Mis­sis­sip­pi Delta, from reli­gious revival meet­ings to prison chain gangs, in pur­suit of South­ern folk music in all its forms. Along the way he dis­cov­ered and record­ed such sin­gu­lar artists as Mis­sis­sip­pi Fred McDow­ell, Vera Hall and Lead Belly. Lat­er, Lomax would widen his field of research to focus on Euro­pean folk music, but in 1978 he went back to the Mis­sis­sip­pi Delta with a cam­era crew to doc­u­ment a cul­ture that was rapid­ly dis­ap­pear­ing.

The result, The Land Where the Blues Began (watch it online here), is a fas­ci­nat­ing look at tra­di­tion­al coun­try blues in its native envi­ron­ment. Filmed in lev­ee camps, church­es, juke joints and on front porch­es across Mis­sis­sip­pi, the doc­u­men­tary draws atten­tion to musi­cians unknown out­side the Delta. The Land Where the Blues Began is a must-see for blues fans, and is now part of our col­lec­tion of Free Movies.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Leg­end of Blues­man Robert John­son Ani­mat­ed

The Rolling Stones Jam With Their Idol, Mud­dy Waters

Mud­dy Waters on the Blues and Gospel Train

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