Native Song

Staff Pick: Missouri Folk Songs sung by Loman D. Cansler (Folkways Records: FH5324, 1959)


Part regional history, and part family heirloom, Missouri Folk Songs is a rare collection of our state’s native songs, performed by Dallas County, Missouri-native Loman D. Cansler (1924-1992)[1].

Cansler collected over 1,000 Missouri and Midwestern songs in his lifetime by interviewing and recording family members and locals. Out of his research, Cansler selected and performed fourteen songs for Missouri Folk Songs, his first album with Folkways Records (now Smithsonian Folkways, after the label was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1987).

Loman D. Cansler

Loman D. Cansler

The songs themselves are a mix of English folk and Cansler’s direct nods to country music ballads (à la Hank Williams) and the mountain musicians of the American South. The songs also have a middle-of-the-mapness, however, that makes them Missouri’s own, even if they may not have originated in the state. Cansler himself admits that “while it is doubtful if any song of this album originated in Missouri, nevertheless the human feelings portrayed in the songs have made them as much at home in Missouri as in England, Kentucky, North Carolina, or elsewhere.”[2]One of the best parts of this album are Cansler’s program notes, which meticulously and colorfully outline his research methods, collection process, and the history behind each individual song.

After this recording, Cansler went on to establish himself as an expert in Midwestern folk. After establishing himself with this first record, Cansler went on to record another collection of folksongs with Folkways in 1973, Folksongs of the Midwest. He performed at folk festivals such as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1968, and at the Missouri Folklife Festival in 1971, and at the Kansas City Music Hall in1972. He also worked as a teacher and counselor at North Kansas City High School, and published articles about folk music in journals such as Western Folklore, Southern Folklore, and Ozark Guide. His extensive personal collection of manuscripts, audio recordings, and transcripts of folk songs can be found in the State Historical Society of Missouri’s manuscript collection in Columbia, Missouri.


Program notes on “Joe Bowers,” written by Loman D. Cansler for Missouri Folk Songs.

According to Cansler, “Joe Bowers” is a Missouri folk song that dates back to the Gold Rush era. It details the story of a man from Missouri, and the woman who broke his heart because he travelled West. [audio:|titles=Joe Bowers]

[1] Missouri Folk Songs program notes.

[2] Missouri Folk Songs program notes.

Barbara Varanka, Graduate Assistant, Marr Sound Archives

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