A Guide to the Dirty South, The Mary Lomax Ballad Book, Sarah Butler’s Art Writing

Alix Taylor, Burnaway, June 24, 2013

The Mary Lomax Ballad Book: America’s Great 21st Century Traditional Singer—Collected and Annotated by Art Rosenbaum

Art Rosenbaum’s interest in Mary Lomax and her sister Bonnie Loggins sprang not from music, but through a shared connection to the visual arts. In the early 2000s, Cleveland, Georgia folk art dealer Barbara C. Brogdon introduced Rosenbaum to the self-taught artist Bonnie Loggins. Rosenbaum was immediately captivated; not only by Bonnie’s visual artistry, but also intrigued by the traditional folk songs Bonnie had inherited from her father. Bonnie dispensed these tunes and ballads, as well as her own inventive songs and poems, often and with great pleasure. It was during a visit with Bonnie in 2006 that Rosenbaum met the painter and muralist’s sister, Mary, who had taken on the responsibility of documenting her father’s folk songs and ballads. Unlike Bonnie, whose illiteracy restricted her repertoire to childhood memory, Mary referred to typewritten texts to perform her father’s ballads. The sister’s interest in their father’s songs and tunes has resulted in one of the most comprehensive collections of music from the Southern Appalachians, which Art Rosenbaum has chronicled with care.

The Mary Lomax Ballad Book: America’s Great 21st Century Traditional Singer—collected and annotated by Art Rosenbaum—reads as a collection of transcribed ballads and fiddle tunes. The hardcover, designed by Susan Archie of World of anArchie, includes two CDs with 59 songs, plus another 20 transcriptions without accompanying audio. The book is divided into discs A and B, with a brief introduction and explanation of the songs included. Together, the collection paints a rich portrait of an oral tradition passed down to Mary and her sister Bonnie through their late father, and the continuation of that tradition in their own music. The folk form comes to life on the lips of Mary Lomax, for example in “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” (highlighting a great sense of humor) and all-instrumental songs like “Rocky Road to My Daughter’s House” [fiddle by Roy Tench] give the feeling of a human presence long forgotten in the mountains of North Georgia.

Audio: Click the player above to preview “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” with Mary Lomax.

Art Rosenbaum’s The Mary Lomax Ballad Book: America’s Great 21st Century Traditional Singer: with Bonnie Loggins, Casey Loggins, Pashie Towery, and Roy Tench (Fiddle); 2 CDs with Performances; 59 Songs, Ballads, and Fiddle Tunes; and 20 Texts Without Tunes; Collected And Annotated With Text and Annotations By Art Rosenbaum; with archival family photographs and photographs by Margo Newmark Rosenbaum; Foreword by Alice Gerrard; Edited by Ed Cray; Published by CAMSCO Music (dick greenhaus); 210 + xviii pp; copyright 2013 by Art Rosenbaum. $37.50 Hard Cover only. You can order from dick@camscomusic.com or by phone at 800/548-FOLK .

-Alix Taylor

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