Jo Stafford Sings American Folk Songs

Conducted by Paul Weston

WITHIN THE PAST FEW YEARS, an ever increasing emphasis has been given to the folk music of America. Not only are the performances more numerous, but there is also a growing recognition that this music—which America has sung and danced to for generations—is an integral part of our native culture of which we may well be proud.

Folk music comes to us in many forms—work songs, spirituals, jigs, reels, sea chanties and cowboy songs. But of all of these, none are more beautiful and poignant than the ballads most often heard in the Smoky Mountain country of Kentucky and Tennessee. These melodies, while simple in form, require an interpretation calling for a rather distinct type of talent.

Probably more than any singer in the country today, Jo Stafford possesses the unique capabilities necessary for a proper presentation of these songs. In the first place, Miss Stafford is a singer and not just a song stylist. And secondly, because of family ties reaching back to Tennessee, these songs have always been a part of her musical life.

The preparation of these songs is not just the work of a few weeks. Over a year ago, Miss Stafford first sang “He’s Gone Away” on her own radio show. The response was instantaneous and this song was requested more often than any other performed by her that season. This suggested the idea of an album of folk music, and the work necessary to its preparation was begun, with Jo Stafford and Paul WEston choosing six songs from the hundreds available and comparing the many versions of each one which differ both musically and lyrically from one locale to another. (For example, there are over a hundred different interpretations of “Barbara Allen” alone, with no two exactly the same!)

Purists may object strenuously to the presentations of these songs with any accompaniment other than the traditional guitar, but after hearing the records, the listener will agree what the simplicity and loveliness can be preserved and even enhanced by the tasteful use of strings and woodwinds. In the arranging of these songs, Paul Weston has been most careful to preserve the modal form characteristic of each individual melody, and in the orchestration has used only the instruments to be found in a modern symphony orchestra, believing that these interpretations should be styled in such a manner that they might be acceptable in any concert of American music.

Copyright 1948 — Capitol Records — Made in U.S.A.

2 Comments

  1. charlie murphy
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Can you tell me what the box set is currently worth?

  2. Posted July 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    This is a terrific album. Stafford’s approach to jazzy standards can be a bit detached, although that works well when the mood is melancholic. But this early folk album is superb. Peggy Lee also did an album of Sea Shanties that bordered on this territory. That’s another early harbinger of the later folk movement.

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