The New Lost City Ramblers were not only musicians, they were historians. They searched the country for lost singers, and helped revive their music. Their most recent collection of music, Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go? is not only a celebration of a legendary folk group, but it is also an exploration of the history of America.
The songs come from as early as the 1900’s and tell tales of the depression, segregation, suffrage, the titanic and a slew of other social issues and historic events. The beautiful part of this collection is that it does not only demonstrate The New Lost City Ramblers ability to bring old folk songs to life, but it also puts the microphone, or field recorder up to the lips of storied folk singers like Elizabeth Cotten, and up to the soulful bounce of Reverend Gary Davis’ guitar stings.
There are three discs in the collection. The first two are previously released albums that divide the bands recording history along the lines of the induction of Tracy Schwarz, and the loss of Tom Paley.
The first disk is entitled The Early Years, and spans from the bands inception in 1958 by Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, to 1962. This first album helped shed light on the dimming interest in folk music. The Ramblers toured colleges, and folk festivals and introduced a generation to the old traditional music that until The New Lost City Ramblers, stayed in old homes, far from public ears.
The second disk, Outstanding in Their Field, Vol. II, dives further into the American pasts. The Ramblers, now equipped with the masterful fiddle playing of Tracy Schwarz were capable of exploring folk music from all regions, and from all time periods. The disk showcases songs recorded from 1963 to 1973, and covers African folk songs, Mississippi fiddle tunes, cajun music, and more.
It is not until the third disk that we get previously unreleased tracks from The New Lost City Ramblers, but also from some of their field recordings. This is where the album gets really interesting. The New Lost City Ramblers were historians, as much as there were musicians. They were invited into the homes of folk singers to record songs that may have otherwise been lost. They captured songs like “Walkin’ Boss,” and “Mother’s Advice.” Songs that are covered in hiss, background noise, and history.
Where Do You Come From? Where Do You Go? is an amazing collection of music, but it is also so much more than that. It is an audio history lesson, a step backwards in time. It is an archive of American stories, lessons, and music. The New Lost City Ramblers have helped ensure that traditional American music will always live on.