AMERICAN FOLK POETRY: An Anthology by Duncan Emrich
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About the only criticism you could make of this enormous and enormously rich book of American folksongs -- for almost everything here was made to be sung rather than read or recited -- is that it is neglectful of our black heritage. Anyone familiar with Anglo-American folklore is bound to recognize many, many of these love songs, work songs, shanties, laments, lullabies and tall tales as English, Scots or Irish in origin; but the changes they undergo in America -- becoming usually more colloquial, earthy and carefree -- produce delightful variants. Some of course are absolutely indigenous like the little known ballads commemorating John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guiteau and Leon Czolgosz -- the assassins of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley; or the plaintive broadsides rendering the Brooklyn Theater Fire of 1876 and the Santa Barbara Earthquake of 1925. Emrich, who has dug up some very obscure material indeed, also includes a group of songs about the privations and persecution of the Mormons along with the more familiar material from Western settlers and miners complaining about menacing Indians, con men and Starving to Death on a Government Claim. Salty and delicate, exuberant and mournful, this is a wonderful bag of Americana.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1974
Publisher: Little, Brown