The Folk Music Index/Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings






Publication: Music Library Association. Notes
Author: Saylor, Nicole
Date published: September 1, 2010

The Folk Music Index. Jane Keefer. http://www.ibiblio.org/folkindex (Accessed 20 March 2010). [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection.]

Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings. Charley Pennell. http:// www.ibiblio.org/hillwilliam/BGdiscography (Accessed 20 March 2010). [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection.]

The Folk Music Index and the Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings are two robust, open-access Web sources for information about traditional music recordings, performers, and record publishers in a field with too-few established digital resources. Unlike other folk and bluegrass Web sites begun by collectors and dealers intent on selling records, these two sites-established by librarians who have demonstrated a sustained commitment to the development of both resources-focus on information discovery. The online version of each resource was launched in 1996. Both databases are currently hosted by ibiblio (http://www .ibiblio.org), an extensive "collection of collections" of open-access information on topics ranging from music and literature to politics and cultural studies. ibiblio is a collaboration between the library science and journalism schools at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

More than thirty years ago, string-band musician and now-retired librarian Jane Keefer started the Folk Music Index as a card catalog of written and recorded music to use with her music pupils. The database has since grown to contain citations for more than 4,300 recordings, 400 books, and six magazines. Roughly 60,000 titles are searchable, along with the names of 25,000 performers. The latest additions to the database were made in 2008 and included all titles indexed in the two collections of O'Neill's Music of Ireland, Ryan's Mammoth Collection of Fiddle Tunes, and Vance Randolph's four-volume Folk Songs of the Ozarks.

The Folk Music Index's coverage is strongest in the area of American folk music, especially old-time string-band recordings. However, there are plenty of British and Irish titles, as well. The collection is limited to items in Keefer's personal collection of commercial and non-commercial recordings. Users with an interest in learning about regional music are in luck, as Keefer is particularly interested in scarcelydocumented regional recordings. Keefer does not loan out the collection; rather, she refers users to libraries and to Open Worldcat.

The Index is powered by DOS-based Alpha4 database software. Free-text search is available, but there is no search box visible until one navigates from the home page to a browse page. The Index allows for keyword searching and browsing by title or performer. Links to active publishers are also provided. One of the most valuable and functional features of the site, however, is the cross-referencing of alternative titles, related tunes, similar melodies, and parodies. About twenty percent of the titles are related in this way. With so many variant titles and tunes in folk music, this kind of cross-searching is invaluable, and folklorists looking for song motifs or tune families will find this index quite useful. Once updated on an annual basis, the site's last addition was in 2008. Keefer is quite transparent and thorough in her online project documentation and search instructions. She is also upfront on the site about the financial constraints of building the collection and about her interest in finding an archival home for her recordings and index.

Ballad scholars can relate performances to traditional tunes through the presence of Child, Laws, O'Neill, and Sharp bibliographic identification numbers. Keefer even includes more obscure identification numbers, such as those prescribed in Donal O'Sullivan's Music of O'Carolan and R. P. Christenson's two-volume Old-Time Fiddler's Repertory. (For more information on song and tune identification systems included in the Folk Music Index, see http://www.ibiblio .org/keefer/.) The Folk Music Index does not provide a way to pull together all titles within a specific collection; however, other databases such as the Steve Roud Folk Song and Ballad Index (http://library.efdss.org/ cgi-bin/textpage.cgi?file=aboutRoud) are useful in this regard.

The Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings is the work of Charley Pennell, a cataloger at North Carolina State Uni - versity. This resource indexes recordings and discographies provided from across the bluegrass community, including noted bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosen berg's collection of 45s, 78s, LPs, materials from personal archives and transcripts, and John L. Boothroyd's massive print discography of bluegrass LPs. Along with information garnered from record label Web sites, the Discography also indexes resources reviewed in periodicals such as Bluegrass Unlimited, the County Sales Newsletter, and the Old Time Herald.

Users can browse bluegrass recordings by format, song title, or label. Singles can be browsed by release year, label, title, or performer. Search options are available for album title, artist, song title, or label. Release dates and record numbers are also provided. From a list of results, users can pull up a full citation that usually includes album jacket cover art and track listings. The advanced search option allows searching by record number and other fields, while search returns can be sorted by any field (band, title, release year, format, etc.).

The earliest recordings in the collection are from the early 1940s and document the inception of bluegrass. Coverage of the entire history of the tradition is wellrepresented, as are sub-genres such as traditional, New Grass, gospel, and neotraditional. Treatment of bluegrass legends (Bill Monroe, 370 records) and standards ("Nine Pound Hammer," 217 records) is solid. Relative newcomers such as Steep Canyon Rangers and Cherryholmes can also be found.

The latest published usage statistics- from 2007-show the site averaged more than 4,000 hits per day, but with references to the discography throughout the Web the usage is likely far higher at present. Pennell continues to index additional resources and engage with the bluegrass community on the Web, most recently with a Facebook fan page for the discography.

Author affiliation:

Nicole Saylor

University of Iowa

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