Skip to main content

Duke Performances Commissions Megafaun to Curate, Perform, and Record songs from Alan Lomax’s Sounds of the South with help from Fight the Big Bull, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, & Sharon Van Etten

By August 25, 2010No Comments


August 23, 2010, Durham, NC – On-the-rise, Raleigh-based Megafaun and jazz big band Fight the Big Bull join with special guests Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Sharon Van Etten to record a live album of songs based on Alan Lomax’s seminal Sounds of the South collection. This three-night, Duke Performances-commissioned event will take place Friday, Saturday, Sunday, September 17 to 19, at Durham’s historic Hayti Heritage Center.

The Sounds of the South project brings together some of the most highly lauded performers from current neo-folk and jazz circles. Led by Bradley Cook, Joseph Westerlund, and Phillip Cook, Megafaun is at the center of an orbit that embraces, exalts, and connects the worlds of indie rock, folk, avant garde, and Americana. “Megafaun don’t just catalogue American musical languages, they breed them,” wrote Pitchfork in response to their widely-acclaimed 2009 album Gather, Form & Fly.

Following a landmark year of worldwide touring and the creation of a new mini-album, Heretofore (out September 14), Megafaun return home to explore new sonic terrain and to unite the past and the present, as only they can, via the Sounds of the South and a group of friends and collaborators: Fight the Big Bull, whose summer 2010 release with David Karsten Daniels NPR calls “Exuberant, messy, and glorious;” Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Megafaun’s former bandmate and the mind behind 2008’s immensely popular For Emma, Forever Ago; and Sharon Van Etten, who toured with Megafaun this Spring, was the opening act of 2010’s Pitchfork Music Festival, and whose second album, Epic, will be released this October.

Alan Lomax’s Atlantic Records-commissioned Sounds of the South collection archived some of the most compelling voices from the rural south of the early 20th century. With the help of Atlantic Records’ funds, Lomax was able to re-record some performers he’d worked with previously using much improved equipment. This collection-originally printed on 8 LPs-has remained vital to American music, mostly recently and popularly revisited in the soundtrack to the 2000 film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? According to Bradley Cook of Megafaun, “we wanted to get inside some of the regional and influential voices of the Southeast…everyone was most inspired by the pieces from Sounds of the South.” After months of preparation, Megafaun and their team have resurrected and reinterpreted the sound, structure, and lyrics of these classic recordings — while preserving the songs’ timeless spirits.

Like The Hallelujah Train project of 2009 produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Blade, the three nights of the Sounds of the South performances at the acoustically exceptional Hayti Heritage Center will be recorded for release as an album sometime in 2011. The Center, a deconsecrated African Methodist Episcopal Church, has been the site of standout recordings by musicians including Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.

Sounds of the South Participants:


North Carolina’s Joe Westerlund and brothers Brad and Phil Cook (singers, songwriters, composers, arrangers and improvisers all) find rarified intersections between bedrock folk and howling drone, between primal blues and cascading feedback, and between canyon rock and warped field recordings. Their 2009 album, Gather, Form & Fly, was praised by Rolling Stone for its “acoustic grace,” four-starred by the likes of SPIN and MOJO, and and declared “intriguing and heartfelt” in Pitchfork’s 8.1 acclamation. Their new record, Heretofore, is out this September on Hometapes.

“Megafaun’s roots are familiar, the bloom is uniquely theirs.” Four stars.

Fight the Big Bull

Fight the Big Bull’s 2008 debut, Dying Will Be Easy, earned the band feature spots on WNYC and NPR’s Fresh Air, and listed the record among the year’s best. 2010 saw two releases from the band: All is Gladness in the Kingdom and I Mean to Live Here Still, the band’s collaboration with singer/songwriter David Karsten Dainels. The group’s upcoming work with Megafaun is part of their larger habit of collaborating; in addition to their work with Megafaun and Daniels, Fight the Big Bull also collaborated with trumpeter and composer Steven Bernstein.

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver

Justin Vernon is best known for his primary band, Bon Iver, and his critically acclaimed album For Emma, Forever Ago. Brad Cook, Phil Cook and Joe Westerlund of Megafaun are his earliest musical collaborators, having played together in the bands Mount Vernon and DeYarmond Edison throughout high school and college. Today they still perform on stage together in the soft-rock collective, GAYNGS. Justin lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Sharon Van Etten

For Sharon Van Etten’s work on her first album, 2009’s Because I Was in Love, she was praised for her “unerring sense for crafting memorable, seductive melodies” ( Brooklyn-based, Van Etten has toured nationally and turned in a stand-out performance on The Antlers’ 2009, highly-praised Hospice album.

“[Sharon Van Etten’s] voice is direct, unvarnished, the sound of truth.”
-Chicago Tribune

WHO: Megafaun & Fight the Big Bull with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver & Sharon Van Etten
WHAT: Sounds of the South
WHEN: Friday & Saturday, September 17 & 18, 8 pm | Sunday, September 19, 5 pm
WHERE: Hayti Heritage Center
HOW MUCH: $26 · Duke & NCCU Students $5

Street Date: Sept. 14, 2010

1. Heretofore
2. Carolina Days
3. Eagle
4. Volunteers
5. Comprovisation for Connor Pass
6. Bonnie’s Song



Band Page:

Label Page:

Press Materials: