Press Release


Includes archival recordings, essays on the musical history of the Prairie State, and performances by “All-Ireland” fiddle champion Liz Carroll, Grammy Award-winner Alison Krauss, local troubadours Sones de México, and alt-country star Jon Langford, among many others

CHICAGO The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is pleased to announce the release of the first two volumes of its “Folksongs of Illinois” CD series. This comprehensive CD series documents — for the first time — the folk, multi-ethnic, and vernacular music traditions of Illinois from 1800 to 1950.

Culled from archives and field recordings in collections around the state, old commercial 78s and LPs, and new studio recordings from contemporary artists, this series reflects the fact that blues, gospel, country, jazz, polka, reels, spirituals, traditional ballads, tamburitza kolos, ethnic comedy skits, corridos, and bluegrass have all enjoyed a home in Illinois. Cover art for these series was created by cartoonist, filmmaker, fine artist, and illustrator Heather McAdams.

Listeners can hear more traditional American folksongs as interpreted by Art Thieme, Orval Hale, Carl Sandburg, and The Special Consensus. There is also 1920s country blues from Southern Illinois’ Henry Spaulding, the older-style gospel of Deacon James Biggs and the St. John Missionary Baptist Choir, and the mingling of blues, folk, and other elements from Chicago’s Staples Singers. Contemporary Chicago performers Janet Bean, Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan, and Clark “Bucky” Halker present ballads from the past that tell the story of important historical events. Songs recorded in the 1920-40 period that recall French, Polish, Irish, German, and Mexican-American musical traditions are also featured.

As part of this project, a curriculum on Illinois musical heritage will be produced and distributed to Illinois schools and libraries. A public concert celebrating the release of “Folksongs of Illinois” volumes I and II is scheduled for early June.

For more than 30 years, the Illinois Humanities Council has supported the exploration of the history and culture of the Prairie State through its grants and direct programming. The Council has produced this CD serieson Illinois’ musical heritage, in particular, becauseit saw a rare opportunity to look at our diverse cultural heritage through the lens of Illinois musicians and songwriters.

The “Folksongs of Illinois” project is made possible in part by the We the People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The CDs in the series are being distributed by the University of Illinois Press. For orders, call 1.800.621.2736; for sales inquires, call 217.244.4703.

Folksongs of Illinois, Volume 1 ISBN 0-252-03242-X. $12.99; Folksongs of Illinois, Volume 2: ISBN 0-252-03249-7. $12.99.

Folksongs of Illinois is part of the Illinois Music Heritage project. For more information about this project or the Illinois Humanities Council, please call 312.422.5580, email, or visit

The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.


# # #