Sam McGee

1926-1934

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Although he enjoyed a career as country music's first hot guitarist, Sam McGee's name is all but unknown to modern fans. Even his long partnership with Uncle Dave Macon produced very little that survives in the CD era, and as a solo performer he is even more obscure. It's unfortunate, then, that country guitar obsessives should be led compulsively to these early solo recordings, which to say the least are underwhelming. Why? Well, quite simply, McGee couldn't sing, and on most of his early records, he does. There are some transcendent moments during the instrumental "Buck Dancer's Choice" and "Knoxville Blues," but for the most part, McGee's cracked, stick-thin tenor is difficult to listen to, even by these antiquated standards. But since the truly obsessed will probably explore these recordings anyway, it's fair to say that there are other good songs here, most notably a version of the Delmore Brothers' "Brown's Ferry Blues," "Salt Lake City Blues," and McGee's signature song, "Railroad Blues," heard in its earliest incarnation. The curious, however, are advised to initially seek out Arhoolie's Grand Dad of the Country Guitar Pickers because of its mostly instrumental program and sound quality, as 1926-1934 is probably going to be enjoyed primarily under the auspices of historical interest.

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