Watch: Megafaun, Justin Vernon, Sharon Van Etten do ‘Sounds of the South’

Back in September 2010, Duke Performances unleashed a revamped ‘Sounds of the South’: a collaboration between Megafaun, Fight the Big Bull, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Sharon Van Etten to produce a historical and absolutely phenomenal series of performances across town at the Hayti Heritage Center. We’re still awaiting the album recording from those special nights, but these videos–the first published recordings of any kind from the project–will serve as mighty fine substitutes in the meantime.

Watch: Sharon Van Etten and Justin Vernon team up for “Trials, Troubles, Tribulations.”

Watch: Justin Vernon on lead vocals for show-closer “Write Me a Few Lines.”

On a personal note, as a Duke student I couldn’t have been more proud that my school was responsible for its funding and production. But for all of those in attendance, it was the musical experience of a lifetime. As it turns out, that sentiment is mutual. In a recent Pitchfork interview, Vernon, after noting work with Kanye West and Gayngs, said

I have to say that the Sounds of the South weirdly became the most rewarding musical thing I’ve really ever done because I was playing with those boys [Megafaun, his former DeYarmond Edison bandmates] again– which is really important to me– and the whole American-music aspect of it.

A description from Sara Padgett-Heathcott of Hometapes:

“Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s 1961 release of southern field recordings, Sounds of the South, is an eight-disc extravaganza of delta blues, gospel and southern folk music entrenched in a rich cultural history. Now, almost 50 years after its initial release on Atlantic Records, Sounds of the South has found new life in the hands of Durham trio Megafaun. Joined by the stunning Richmond jazz collective Fight the Big Bull, as well as friends and world-renown talents Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Sharon Van Etten on featured vocals, Megafaun built a team and fostered a collaborative and loving reinterpretation of the sound, structure, lyrics, and spirit of Lomax’s classic recordings. The result, originally performed as part of a Duke-commissioned three-night performance at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham last Fall, is a resurrection to behold.”

To be sure, it was one of those moments that made being a part of the Triangle so special. We’ll be keeping an eye out in case one of these types of performances rolls around next year (which is quite probable), so stay tuned!