What is the North American Traditions (NAT) Collection?

The fascinating history of the NAT Collection is described in detail in the Background Notes to the NAT Research Archive. The short answer is that between 1967 and 2008 — a span of over 40 years — a small yet ambitious set of friends (the NAT group) recorded many hundreds of hours of traditional music, encompassing significant parts of Appalachia, the Canadian Maritimes, the Ozarks and the American West. Equally noteworthy is the number of musicians and the variety of styles that are documented in the NAT Collection.

How much of the Survey is previously unissued?

At least 65% of the tracks in the NAT Survey of Traditional Music are previously unissued! Of the remaining 35%, a substantial number were issued in the UK on the Musical Traditions label, but most were issued on LPs or CDs by Rounder Records. In 1972, Rounder Records issued the first commercial LPs and CDs that drew upon the NAT Collection. As can be seen in the Published Projects folder in the NAT Research Archive, over 60 single-artist albums were issued commercially, along with about 20 compilations. Even so,

Who’s in the NAT Group?

Mark Wilson is the organizer of the NAT Group. Other central members are the late Lou Curtiss, John Harrod, Morgan MacQuarrie, Gordon McCann, and the late Gus Meade. Many other individuals have made key contributions to specific projects.

The NAT Research Archive is freely available. Why would I want to buy a copy of the Survey?

The Research Archive includes hundreds of hours of rare field recordings, photographs, and other materials. While it is very systematically organized, it is uncurated, and it can be overwhelming. In contrast, the Survey of Traditional Music is a thoughtfully selected subset of the Research Archive. Each volume illustrates a specific theme, and the tracks have been chosen with this in mind. Each track has been carefully edited, and the sound has been optimized, including noise reduction and frequency EQ. Finally, each volume is accompanied by notes that include copious historical illustrations and valuable commentaries provided by the performers themselves and various experts. Typically 150 pages in length (including rare photos and other graphical images) each set of notes traces the intriguing but complicated weave of historical and societal interactions that underlie this music, in which the aesthetic character of a tune or song often shifts as it migrates from one social setting to another.

How can I buy a copy of the Survey?

The Preview volume is sold separately, either as a physical CD or as a download. Click here to go to the Preview page, for specific ordering information. The 15-volume survey will be sold in 3 sets of 5 volumes each. Links will be provided as each set is released. The first 5-volume set should be available in early 2022, and the other two sets will be released later in the year. All 15 volumes will be available either as physical CDs or as downloads.