Traditional ballads and fiddle tunes will be heard at the Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries June 15 to celebrate the recently released “Mary Lomax Ballad Book – America’s Great 21st Century Ballad Singer” by Art Rosenbaum.
With ballads and songs they learned from their father who sang for his family, traditional ballad singers Mary Lomax and Bonnie Loggins will perform a set of songs at 3 p.m. in the auditorium. Also performing will be Bonnie’s son, Casey, and nonagenarian fiddler Roy Tench, who grew up as a neighbor to the sisters.
Lemuel Payne had a large repertoire of traditional songs that had been passed down orally through generations; he sang unaccompanied for his family in the evenings on his farm in the Mud Creek section of Habersham County. His songs, including centuries-old British ballads, murder ballads, comic ditties, mountain lyrics, and pioneer-days hymns, have been remembered and performed by his daughters, Lomax and Loggins, who did not begin performing the songs in public until they were in their 80s.
Published by Loomis House Press and CAMSCO Music, the book documents 59 songs, ballads, and fiddle tunes, and includes two CDs with performances. The book chronicles the life of Mary Lomax and the songs she and Loggins learned while growing up in the north Georgia mountains. One commentator called it “the last great ballad collection.” The CDs feature performances by the sisters along with Casey Loggins, Pashie Towery, and Tench.
After the performance there will be a reception and an opportunity to purchase “The Mary Lomax Ballad Book” and have it signed by Rosenbaum and the performers. The program is open free to the public.
Rosenbaum is a familiar presence in the Special Collections Libraries. The retired art professor is a painter, muralist, and illustrator, as well as a collector and performer of traditional American folk music. He researched and created a mural depicting post-1900 Georgia political history for the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies gallery.
His folk music field work in the South and Midwest has resulted in over 14 documentary recordings, several of which are on Smithsonian-Folkways; he wrote and illustrated two books, Folk Visions and Voices: Traditional Music and Song in North Georgia (1983), and Shout Because You’re Free: The African American Ring Shout Tradition on the Coast of Georgia (1998), both published by the University of Georgia Press.
In 2008, Rosenbaum received the Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for “Art Of Field Recording Volume I: Fifty Years Of Traditional American Music Documented By Art Rosenbaum.”
He has donated his field recordings to the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection.