Many people know the protest songs of the 1960s and '70s, born of the civil rights movement and the social and political upheaval sparked by the Vietnam War. Today, hip-hop has taken the lead in protesting police brutality and the injustices suffered by the poor — but a new generation of folk artists is also creating music that might not always sound like the protest songs of yore.
Browsing through a weighty new anthology called The Annotated African American Folk Tales is a journey across space and time. In one chapter called "Defiance and Desire," there's a section devoted to flying Africans, where there's a lyric that I was familiar with from a song Paul Robeson recorded many years ago — "All God's Chillun Got Wings."
Folk music is a funny term these days. We refer to folk music as almost anything a singer/songwriter does with an acoustic instrument. When I worked in record stores in the '70s, Simon and Garfunkel were in the folk section, as was Dylan and Joan Baez, James Taylor. But the musicians who inspired those musicians were Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Carter Family, Elizabeth Cotton, Roscoe Holcomb, Alice Gerrard, Hazel Dickens... These are the people who created the world that Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle inhabit.