Any of the new musicians with a guitar that consider themselves folk artists might not have ever listened to music from real old folks. I have nothing against the newer, acoustically pretty sound that is called folk today, but I figured I’d bring things into better view to see where folk music comes from- everywhere and everywhen. I am no purist but I like the dawn of recorded sound and the culture that it documented. It’s a school for the recreational song lover; it’s a leisure education of musical entertainment.
Back when folk was revived in the 50s and 60s, there existed a man named Harry Smith who compiled a set of 78s for an album on Folkways Records. Almost anybody who was anybody had heard the songs or at least a few. The compilation became sort of a bible of folks songs that would spread the folk scene. I have not heard the whole collection, but I am aware of a good handful of the tunage.
In fact, seven ancient tracks are available on the Internet Archive for your mp3 needs. Wikipedia has the recordings on the bottom of the entry of the anthology.
Continue your collection with Lead Belly, Mississippi John Hurt, Henry Thomas, and the list continues.