Folktales, tall tales, personal narratives—stories told by word of mouth take many forms. Whether you aspire to tell tales, or to explore tales told by others, The Story Center can provide you with the educational opportunities and resources you need.
The narrative folksong, called a ballad, is one type of story that is often overlooked. As the Library of Congress suggests, ballads "tell all kinds of stories, including histories, legends, fairy tales, animal fables, jokes, and tales of outlaws and star-crossed lovers."
While MCPL’s branches have been closed for the past few weeks, I've been exploring various ballad traditions included among the many online resources offered by MCPL. Here are some of my favorites:
- On the three volumes of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, Ewan MacColl sings “Child Ballads,” named for scholar Francis James Child who compiled the ballads in the late 19th century.
- Classic African-American Ballads features a variety of narrative songs, including John Jackson singing “Louis Collins,” a ballad written by Mississippi John Hurt in 1929.
- On Hittin’ The Trail, Buck Ramsey, recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, sings about the pains and pleasures of life as a cowboy.
- And on Corridos & Tragedias de la Frontera: First Recordings of Historic Mexican-American Ballads (1928-37), various artists sing stories in Spanish about life along the border of Mexico and the United States.
Many of these streaming music resources were originally published by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. All of them are available for free to Library cardholders. So, while MCPL locations remain closed, consider taking some time to listen to the many ways people have sung stories.
The Story Center