The Southern Folklife Collection puts on a lot of cool events at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill every year, each surveying various aspects of traditional music. Few seem more perfectly suited to its mission, though, than Friday's free program, "The Southern Journey of Alan Lomax."
That's also the name of a book published last year by W. W. Norton & Company. The 136 pages document the legendary folklorist's 1959-60 journey through the backcountry of Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee. Along the way, Lomax captured a wide swath of Southern musicians with photographs and audio recordings. Friday's program features a discussion between Lomax's daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, and Grammy-honored writer Tom Piazza, who penned an essay accompanying the book's photos. Also on hand will be UNC professor William Ferris, who wrote the book's introduction; Columbia University professor John Szwed, author of Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World; and Alan Lomax Archive curator Nathan Salsburg.
You can't hardly put on a shindig like this without live music, and so the SFC has also invited the acclaimed North Carolina fiddler Rayna Gellert (whose credits include tenures with Toubab Krewe and Uncle Earl) to perform. A last-minute addition is a 5 p.m. pre-event screening of the short film Ballads, Blues, and Bluegrass, which features a half-hour of footage from a late-night gathering at Lomax's apartment in Greenwich Village in 1961 with Doc Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, the New Lost City Ramblers and more.
The proper program begins after the film at 5:30 p.m.; everything takes place in the Wilson Special Collections Library at 201 South Road on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill. For further details, visit UNC's website.