Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited – Various artists | CD/DVD review

(Shout Factory/Shock) 5 stars

The sheer wealth of material alone on this splendid boxed set is worth a five-star rating.

Two CDs, two DVDs and a 40-page booklet are all dedicated to the work of Harry Smith, whose original seminal folk `Anthology’, released on Folkways in 1952, helped transform the American musical landscape.

Smith, musicologist and experimental film-maker, transferred and condensed his archival collection of 78rpm discs into three double LPs – 84 songs in all – that would influence generation of musicians, including Bob Dylan.

Before his death in 1991, Smith received a special Grammy award and remarked: “My dreams came true. I saw America changed through music.”

In 1997 his `Anthology’ was reissued as a six-CD set, spurring producer Hal Willner to organise a series of lengthy tribute concerts in London, New York and Los Angeles from ’99-2001.

They are encapsulated on CDs and DVD, plus a DVD documentary about Smith and his legacy.

The eclectic artist roster – from tradition folk/country to jazz and hard rock – may test some listeners, but this is a must for serious roots music fans.

- Mike Daly

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