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HUMN 4345: History of American Folk Music

Discography of American Historical Recordings

Folk Music Record Labels

Record company catalogs are a great way to familiarize yourself with a particular musical genre. Here is a select list of companies that reissue historical folk music recordings, as well as some that release work by contemporary artists:

  • Alligator Records: The preeminent label for contemporary blues, cajun, zydeco, and roots music.
  • Arhoolie Records: Now owned by Smithsonian Folkways, Arhoolie is famed for its recording of Blues, Cajun, and Tex-Mex musicians in their home communities.
  • Archeophone Records: Reissues historical cylinder and early 78 rpm recordings on CD.
  • Bear Family: German label known for its exhaustive CD country music box sets, high recording quality, extensive liner notes, and meticulous discographical information.
  • Blue Note Records: The greatest jazz label in existence, it has recorded virtually all of the biggest names since 1939.
  • Dust to Digital: Reissues traditional American and world folk music from the 78 rpm era, often in CD/book sets.
  • Fat Possum Records: Began by issuing recordings by some of the last rural bluesmen, such as R.L. Burnside, Cedell Davis, Junior Kimbrough, and T Model Ford. 
  • Field Recorders' Collective: Non-profit group that issues little-known old-time musicians on CD.
  • JSP Records: This budget UK reissue label offers well-mastered CD recordings in country, blues, old-time, and jazz, but with few liner notes.
  • Old Hat Records: Releases about one CD or box set per year of rare 78 rpm old-time music.
  • Rounder Records: Jazz, folk, country, bluegrass, and gospel, with an emphasis on contemporary artists.
  • Smithsonian Folkways: The greatest conservator of the nation's - and the world's - musical heritage. Immense.
  • Topic Records: Focuses on British folk and traditional music. Its huge back catalog is available on CD or for download.
  • Yazoo Records: Vintage blues, jazz, Americana, and traditional music on CD.