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Folksongs of Another America
Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937–1946
James P. Leary
*Winner, Best Historical Research in Folk or World Music, Association for Recorded Sound Collections
*Nominee, Grammy Award for Best Album Notes, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences

Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest
Joseph Salmons and James P. Leary, Series Editors

Folksongs of Another America is a groundbreaking work, covering musical and cultural ground woefully overlooked by American music scholars.
—Kip Lornell, author of Exploring American Folk Music

Challenging and considerably broadening popular and scholarly definitions of American folk music, Folksongs of Another America recovers the diverse, multilingual traditions of immigrant, Native American, rural, and working-class performers in America's Upper Midwest during the 1930s and 1940s. The book extensively documents 187 tunes and songs in more than twenty-five languages, with full original lyrics and English translations, biographical notes on the performers and field workers, and many historic photographs. Spanning ballads, hymns, laments, versified taunts, political anthems, street cries, and recitations, these performances were captured during a tranformative era in American history and culture.

The companion musical tracks and documentary film will be freely available for listening, viewing, or download through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin Libraries' Digital Collections Center. 

Available companion materials include:

  • Pigtown Fling: The Sidney Robertson Recordings Recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, Scots Gaelic, and Serbian performers captured by fieldworker Sidney Robertson in Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1937.
  • The River in the Pines: The Wisconsin Lumberjacks Recordings Performances of the acclaimed Wisconsin Lumberjacks band of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, recorded by both Sidney Robertson and Alan Lomax during National Folk Festivals in Chicago and Washington, D.C., in 1937 and 1938.
  • Harps and Accordions: The Alan Lomax Recordings Alan Lomax's 1938 Michigan field recordings of lumberjack, Finnish, French Canadian, German, Irish, Lithuanian, Ojibwe, Polish, and Swedish performers.
  • When the Dance Is Over: Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part 1
  • My Father Was a Dutchman: Helene Stratman-Thomas Recordings, Part 2 Recordings made throughout Wisconsin in 1940, 1941, and 1946, not only of Finns, French Canadians, Germans, Irish, Lithuanians, Ojibwe, Poles, Scots, Serbs, and Swedes, but also African American, Austrian, Belgian, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Ho-Chunk, Icelandic, Italian, Luxemburger, Norwegian, Oneida, Swiss, and Welsh performers.
  • Alan Lomax Goes North This new documentary film combines digitally restored silent color film footage, related field recordings, voice-over readings from Lomax's correspondence and field notes, and onscreen text to create an audiovisual narrative featuring the performers and scenes that captivated Alan Lomax during his 1938 Upper Midwestern foray.

Author. Photo credit, Name

James P. Leary is professor emeritus of folklore and Scandinavian studies, and cofounder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His many books and documentary productions include Wisconsin Folklore, So Ole Says to Lena, Polkabilly, Accordions in the Cutover, Downhome Dairyland (with Richard March), and Pinery Boys (with Franz Rickaby and Gretchen Dykstra).

Supplementary Materials

James P. Leary talk:
(If unable to view video below, click here.)


“A landmark. . . . Attains the highest standards of folklore studies.”
Journal of Folklore Research

“Who knew that the songs of Wisconsin lumberjacks were as . . . singular as the stuff being made in Appalachia or the Mississippi delta? . . . This collection offers many such recordings and more. Compiled by [folklorist] James P. Leary, it features rural music from first-generation immigrants and communities—African American, German, Finnish, Icelandic, Scots Gaelic, Serbian and Swedish and more—exploring their new homes while refusing to abandon their musical roots.”
Los Angeles Times

“A stunning work of curation and scholarship. . . . Whether you're a music-maker or just a listener, reader, and thinker, there's a surprise on every track and every page.”
Huffington Post

“No other American book provides as rich a portrait of a distinct multilingual songscape. . . . A magnificent achievement and tribute to the ethnic diversity that continues to shape American expressive culture.”
American Studies

“The cultural gifts of immigrants are amply demonstrated by the CD box set Folksongs of Another America. . . . This is an exceptional achievement that demonstrates for the first time the full worth and cultural wealth of the Upper Midwest for music listeners.”
Deutschlandradio Kultur

“A mind-boggling swath of material.”
New York Times


“A treasure. . . . Leary’s deep knowledge of the subject matter is demonstrated by thought-provoking facts placing the dance tunes, ballads, lyrics songs, hymns, political anthems, and more in historical context.”
Library Journal

“Truly amazing.”
Musical Traditions


Additional Resources

Audio interview with Jim Leary about Folksongs of Another America on Wisconsin Public Radio, with music clips

Article: "My Journey to Folksongs of Another America," by Jim Leary, on the Wisconsin Academy site

Video of talk by Jim Leary about Folksongs of Another America at the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center

Text interview with Jim Leary on the Upper Midwest Old-Time Blog

Video of Leary’s Wisconsin Academy Fellow talk:
(If unable to view video immediately below, click here.)


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Folksongs of Another America

New in Paperback!
May 2018
LC: 2014016783 ML

464 pp. 7 x 9.25
87 b/w photos, 7 b/w illus.

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-30154-5
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