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Smithsonian Folkways Acquires Iconic DC Blues Label, Right On Rhythm

Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Smithsonian Folkways has announced the acquisition of Right on Rhythm, the dynamic Washington, DC–based record label that documented the District’s vibrant blues scene, as well as released music from Roy Carrier, one of SW Louisiana’s most respected Zydeco musicians. The label was home to the legendary DC bluesman Nap Turner, whose show on local radio station WPFW was a hub for the scene, as well as for other local luminaries including Robert Lighthouse and Mark Wenner.

Learn more, stream, and buy albums from the Right on Rhythm catalog: https://folkways.si.edu/right-on-rhythm

Founded in 1996 by Wayne Kahn, who regularly recorded and documented the live blues scene in DC, Right on Rhythm released many live recordings from local clubs as well as studio albums before shutting down operations in 2012. The name Right on Rhythm comes from Kahn’s love of Zydeco dance: a forgiving partner dance where, according to Kahn, it really didn’t matter what you did, as long as you hit the beat.

Kahn says, “It is incredibly exciting to know that the music of Roy Carrier, Nap Turner, and many other DC-area musicians will forever be available for people to find. That this labor of love could land in a place like Smithsonian Folkways I could never have imagined.”

The music released by Right on Rhythm showcases a large, well-loved DC music scene that has not always been well known. The label’s first release, the compilation The Blues You Would Just Hate to Lose Vol I, was highlighted by the first released recordings of Nap Turner, Robert Lighthouse, and Big Jesse Yawn.

Right on Rhythm artist Roy Carrier was inducted into the inaugural Zydeco Hall of Fame in 2011 in Lafayette, LA. Smithsonian Folkways is proud to present Carrier’s complete discography from 1995 onwards, which includes six critically acclaimed albums. The Zydeco songs by Roy and his family; jazz and blues from Nap Turner, the “Godfather of the DC blues scene”; and bandleader Robert Lighthouse offer a window into Right on Rhythm’s diverse collection of releases.

“We’re delighted to bring Right on Rhythm into the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings family of labels,” says Folkways’ Associate Director John Smith. “The collection is a small but significant window into the exceptional and diverse roots music scene that we cherish so much here in Washington, DC. The mid-Atlantic electric blues and SW Louisiana recordings featured on the label are a fitting complement to our archive, and we’re excited to make it available to a wider audience.”

Smithsonian Folkways’ mission to collect and preserve traditional music from around the world has led to the acquisition of many iconic labels since the original Folkways Records catalog was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987. Right on Rhythm joins Western Jubilee Recording Company, also acquired this year and featuring a large collection of cowboy music and poetry; Arhoolie Records, acquired in 2016 and featuring classics in blues, Zydeco, and beyond; Paredon, the pioneering protest music label co-founded by Barbara Dane, in 1991; Folk-Legacy Records, featuring a plethora of material from the ʼ60s folk revival, in 2019; the UNESCO Collection of Traditional Music, in 2014; and more as a part of the Smithsonian Folkways label group. The material on Right on Rhythm will remain in print in perpetuity, like all music in the Smithsonian Folkways catalog. In 2019 Rolling Stone reported on the label’s efforts to preserve traditional music from around the world, offering a glimpse into the way this music is archived.

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