In June of 1938, amateur musicologists Anne and Frank Warner left New York City and traveled through the Appalachian Mountains, the first in a series of trips down the Eastern Seaboard in which they collected more than a thousand of the most important and authentic traditional American songs ever recorded. There are spirituals, work songs, chants, ballads, and children's songs. Few of the singers were professionals - most had learned these songs from parents, friends and neighbors.
This second volume of field recordings made by the Warners from 1940 to 1966 is a companion to "Her Bright Smile Haunts
Me Still," released simultaneously by Appleseed in 2000. Amazingly, the Warner collection had never before been issued commercially and, with the exception of the Warners and a few friends and music scholars, had previously gone unheard. Musician Tim Eriksen, whose repertoire emphasizes traditional songs, heard the recordings on a bootleg in 1989 and urged the Warners to let Appleseed release these discs.
Many of the Warner-collected songs were introduced to the
outside world in lectures, books, performances and albums by Frank Warner himself. Warner toured the country with the songs he and Anne had collected, which was how now-familiar
songs like "Whiskey in the Jar," "Days of '49," and "Tom Dooley" reached the public. Warner sang "Tom Dooley" to Alan
Lomax, who included it in his "Folk Song U.S.A." book, which is where The Kingston Trio learned it; their version sold 3 million copies in 1958 and helped ignite the modern folk revival.
While "Her Bright Smile" presents an overview of the Warner collection's breadth, "Nothing Seems Better to Me" focuses on
Frank Proffitt, a part-time musician, and the songs of his beloved Beech Mountain and North Carolina. It was from Proffitt that the Warners learned "Tom Dooley." The Warners eventually brought Proffitt to the Chicago Folk Festival, which led to subsequent tours and recordings. His son, Frank Jr., can also be heard on several songs here, as can a rollcall of obscure North Carolinians, including Lee Monroe Presnell, Buna Vista Hicks and others.
The music heard on the two Warner discs forms the backbone of America's traditional music, folk songs sung by real folks, recorded in their own homes. To quote writer Chris Nickson, "This IS America."