Crystal Falls — The Crystal Theater will celebrate the forgotten folk songs of Michigan and the Great Lakes region with concerts starting at 7 p.m. Friday.
Six string players calling themselves Michigan-IO reimagine and re-arrange these fine tunes in a sound and style that stays true to the original and is pleasing to modern audiences.
In the 19th century, while the timber and mining trade flourished in Michigan, so did its folk traditions. That’s largely thanks to the workers themselves. After a harsh winter of logging and perilous voyages on cargo ships laden with iron ore, exhausted workers turned their pain and adventure into music.
These songs have been sung throughout the Great Lakes region for decades, but despite their popularity, they were rarely written down. If not for the work of a young song collector named Alan Lomax, they might have been lost forever.
In 1938, the Library of Congress sent Lomax to Michigan and Wisconsin for the sole purpose of recording Michigan and Wisconsin folklore. After three months of traveling, interviewing and recording his sessions, Lomax returned home with hundreds of records his field recordings, photographs, and even a few black-and-white videos of his clips. Together, they constitute the largest single collection of early Michigan folk music and storytelling traditions.
The Michigan-IO ensemble consists of guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, harmonium and fiddle over which full vocal harmonies flow. There are hundreds of songs to work from this collection, dozens of which have been recorded and released on his two separate LPs. “Michigan-IO” and “Once again, to the logging trip.”
Michigan IO exists to give these great songs a voice and celebrate folk music traditions across the Great Lakes.
Advance tickets for Michigan IO are available online at thecrystaltheatre.org, by calling 906-875-3208, or on Stage Left Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon.
Tickets can also be purchased at the entrance.