From Elizabeth Cotten to Blind Willie McTell, Jolie Holland Curates Folkways People’s Picks Playlist

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Singer-songwriter Jolie Holland, whose music runs the gamut from free-form jazz to ragtime blues, has curated Smithsonian Folkways’ final People’s Picks of the year. 

Image courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways

Of her picks, Holland says:

What a joy to look through the Folkways catalogue! I picked a lot of music that’s really influenced me, music from my own regional and cultural backgrounds, and some songs from people who mentored my friends. The great Frantz Casseus was Marc Ribot’s first guitar teacher. Canray Fontenot was my friend Delilah Lee Lewis’s adopted stepfather and violin teacher.  And Michael Hurley is a dear friend of mine.

I chose this Woody Guthrie song, a painful heavyweight of a song, because it’s emblematic of how music teaches us history. Music is our history. My grandpa in East Texas used to play a song similar to this one Elizabeth Cotten plays. This Blind Willie McTell song is one of my favorites from him. So dreamy and sparse. Willie Johnson’s “God Don’t Never Change” is a powerful voice from our past. He makes reference to the last horrible respiratory pandemic, the 1918 influenza. I chose some beautiful Afro-Caribbean sacred drum music, too. It’s always so delicious to remember these transporting polyrhythms.

In 2019, ABS spoke with Holland about the release of Escondida on vinyl for the first time in honor of its 15-year anniversary, as well as its fundraising campaign.

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