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Some recent research put us off course and into the Ohio Canal system!
During the early 20th Century, cultural anthropologists - men like John A. Lomax - hauled cumbersome recording equipment into rural America to capture the true sounds of the people. One such American was Pearl R. Nye - a retired canal boat captain with "a large repertoire of folk songs" to sing.
Check out the wonderful collection of papers and audio from the Library of Congress. Below is the bio of Nye and a couple of the recordings.