Jeff Warner comes from a family of hunters -- song hunters -- and he has followed in his parents' tradition.
Anne and Frank Warner began their search for traditional folk songs in the late 1930s, after being introduced to old-time music while traveling in North Carolina. "My father was fascinated by the songs that had survived," says Warner. "As a small child and a young adult, I went with my parents. And I have maintained contact with the children of those people."
Today he makes his living performing in concerts, often featuring songs his parents collected. Those songs, among them the classic "Tom Dooley," have been published in "Traditional American Folksongs," a book Warner researched. "I feel quite lucky to have inherited this amazing repertoire," he says. "I was inspired by that book."
He still makes occasional rural trips in search of new songs. "Usually I meet a person at a folk festival. I make friends, and then I go visit them." He learns their songs and teaches them new ones.
"Fewer of the older songs are now sung by rural people. The media has made its incursions . . . In the Northeast, the oldest songs are not found too much anymore. To find the old songs, you have to go to pretty isolated places."
Warner and his partner Jeff Davis will perform songs from the Warner collection Friday evening at the Washington Ethical Society, 7750 16th St. NW.