It’s hard to avoid hyperbole when talking about The Anthology of American Folk Music. The 1952 compilation was spearheaded by Portland-born Harry Smith, who spent years collecting recordings originally recorded between 1928 and 1932 in Appalachia and the American South. The Greenwich folk revival — and Bob Dylan’s early work — would not have been the same without it, and it has served as an influence on countless musicians over the past six decades, from Jerry Garcia, the Byrds, and Bruce Springsteen to contemporary acts like Sonic Youth, Wilco, and Beck.
But Harry Smith’s interests expanded far beyond folk music. His love of anthropology came from documenting the songs and rituals of several Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. And his experimental films remain a beguiling and fascinating body of work among avant garde film buffs.