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Smithsonian Folkways Recordings Acquires Folk-Legacy Records

Washington, District of Columbia, United States
English

Through the tremendous generosity of friends and support of the Paton family, the mission to preserve and share folk music carries on as Folk-Legacy Records is acquired by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Folk-Legacy of Sharon, CT, was founded in 1961 by Sandy Paton, Caroline Paton, and Lee Haggerty as a family-run record label dedicated to documenting the rich, authentic sounds of traditional music and promoting emerging artists in the field. To celebrate the impact of the label and its addition to the Folkways family, Smithsonian Folkways is releasing A Living Tradition: Selections from Folk-Legacy Records, which collects iconic songs by old-time banjo player Frank Proffitt, singer-songwriter Gordon Bok, folk revivalist Hedy West, and more. The compilation is available now on Bandcamp and from Smithsonian Folkways.

"It isn't that the songs are good because they're traditional; they are traditional because they are good. They were preserved by generations of traditional singers because they reflected real feelings," remarked Sandy Paton in a 1991 Sing Out! interview.

The music heard on the 140+ albums produced by Folk-Legacy ranges widely in folk traditions, from ballads and sea shanties of the British Isles to gospel and hymns of Appalachia and the Ozarks; from dance tunes of New Brunswick, Brittany, and New England to Southwestern American folktales, story-songs, and children’s music. As musicians themselves, the founders of Folk-Legacy Records sought to record “people’s music”: songs and stories that have been passed down from generation to generation within a community. People used this music as a means of connection, entertainment, an honest expression of personal values, and a source of solace and resilience through social and political struggles. Through their work recording and promoting these powerful songs, the Patons and Haggerty were major players in the flourishing 60s folk revival.

Included with albums of the Folk-Legacy label are liner notes and booklets full of historical context, anecdotes from the artist, charming stories about the recording process, and notes on the tradition’s origin. Folk-Legacy materials have been used by universities to teach courses related to folk music and history. Selected albums, liner notes, booklets, cover art, and photos can be viewed on the Folkways Recordings website and the label’s Bandcamp today. More of the Folk-Legacy catalog will be available for purchase and streaming in the coming months.

Quietly woven into the history of the folk revival is the work of Folk-Legacy Records. Their humble approach to a modest, honest, and ancient form of expression has stayed true throughout its 57 years of operation. Now, aiding the transition of the collection is Juliana Paton, granddaughter of Caroline and Sandy Paton. Folk-Legacy Records is the latest addition the family of labels under Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, joining Stinson Records (acquired 2019), Arhoolie Records (acquired 2016), UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music (acquired 2014), Cook Records (acquired 1990), and the original Folkways collection (acquired 1987).

About Smithsonian Folkways:

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the "National Museum of Sound," makes available close to 60,000 tracks in physical and digital format as the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian, with a reach of 80 million people per year. A division of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the non-profit label is dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among people through the documentation, preservation, production and dissemination of sound. Its mission is the legacy of Moses Asch, who founded Folkways Records in 1948 to document "people's music" from around the world.

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