Harry Smith, 1965. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.
"The life and work of musicologist Harry Smith will be saluted on the four-disc boxed set "The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited," due Oct. 24 via Shout! Factory. The two-CD/two-DVD collection is drawn from concerts staged by Hal Willner in London, Brooklyn and Los Angeles and also features a new documentary on Smith's enduring influence.
Highlights of the CDs include performances by Beck, Wilco, Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Beth Orton, Lou Reed, Nick Cave and David Johansen. Another look at the tribute concerts is offered on one of the DVDs, which rounds up 26 selections from such artists as Elvis Costello, Philip Glass, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Folksmen, the fictional band portrayed by "Spinal Tap" principals Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest.
Released in 1952 as a six-LP set, Smith's "Anthology of American Folk Music" introduced listeners to iconic artists such as Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, the Carter Family and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Smith was also a filmmaker and a painter; three of his short films are included here as a DVD bonus feature."
--Jonathan Cohen, billboard.com, July 2006
"The 14-person band was heading toward cuteness when Garth Hudson, late of the Band, began to play. He was everywhere at once. As soon as you thought you caught a tune -- "Home Sweet Home," "Shenandoah" -- it vanished. He was an avant-garde pianist in a 1915 grind house, forgotten girlie flicks and "In a castle dark" epics turning profound under his fingers. And then, like a sermon, came a low, thick, unbending voice from the back of the stage, insisting on the Great Depression as God's will, punishment for sins unknown, even uncommitted, and insisting on the only solution, which was suicide. "I'm going where there's no Depression," as the Carter Family sang in 1936, on their way to heaven. "There'll be no hunger, no orphan children crying for bread/No weeping widows, toil or struggle." The singer was Maud Hudson, and when, with absolute dignity, she reached the lines "No shrouds, no coffins/And no death," you realized the song was calling for nothing so small as the end of a life, but for the end of the natural order: the end of the world. The end of the singer, and the end of you."
--from Greil Marcus' review of the Harry Smith tribute concert in LA, "Real Life Rock Top 10", May 2001