Various Artists

American Yodeling, 1911-1946

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AllMusic Review by

Once again the music maniacs at Trikont have issued a collection as strange, spooky, and wonderful as only old weird American music can be. This time up it's yodeling from the 20th century. The Trikont wizards have assembled 26 tracks of all forms of American hillbilly yodeling, and given this collection, even Harry Smith would have been proud. Some of the artists assembled here are well known to fans of yodeling, others will be familiar to blues and country fans, but it's the selections themselves that set this apart from virtually any other yodeling collection available -- including those from the Smithsonian. The true psycho yodeling of a man in love who also likes to hunt with arrows, gun, and spear is the subject of "Yodeling Mountaineer" by J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers with the most psychobilly, bone-chilling yodel I've ever heard. The Callahan Brothers come next, with a country-gospel number, "Gonna Quit My Rowdy Ways," in which the yodel doesn't stand out from the tune, but is actually its body, follow this. The DeZurik Sisters with "The Arizona Yodeler," and yodeling, stuttering, and sputtering are combined in a refrain that is hair-raising. Others included here are well known such as the Carter Family's "My Clinch Mountain Home," the Sons of the Pioneers' "The Devil's Great Grandson," Bill Monroe's "Mule Skinner Blues," Bob Wills' "Blue Yodel No. 1," the Delmore Brothers' "Lonesome Yodel Blues," Jimmy Rodgers' "Standin on the Corner Yodelin Blues (Blue Yodel No. 9)," Patsy Montana's "I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," and Roy Rogers' "Cowboy Night Herd Song." But the greatest surprises here are from the two blues acts included strategically: Tampa Red's "Worried Devil Blues" and the Mississippi Sheiks' "Yodeling Fiddlin' Blues." Tampa Red's blues from 1934 is as deep in the Southern country tradition as they get. His trademark guitar style underscores a rough, weary vocal until the refrain, when the yodel comes wailing in to accent the emotion in the song. Think Ma Rainey and Son House with Jimmy Rodgers and you get the idea. With the Sheiks, from a 1930 session, it's a whole different bag. The blues swing out of Lonnie Chatman's fiddle as Walter Vinson in his funky baritone accompanies him on guitars and yodels his ass off. He may have heard from the cowboys, but there is no jump and jerk in his vocal technique, he glides effortlessly from his baritone to a gorgeous falsetto that is perhaps the finest vocal performance on the album. And this is followed by Jimmy Rodgers' tune, "Blue Yodel No. 9," from 1934, with musical accompaniment by Lil and Louis Armstrong on piano and trumpet, of course. The wayward blues of Jimmy Rodgers is well known but this performance with the Armstrong's takes one of his most familiar tunes and puts it in a totally different context. There is an ominous side to the collection, though it's clear what the intent of the producers was, and that is the inclusion of Riley Pucket's racist "Sauerkraut" and the yodeling of blackface entertainer Emmet Miller. These were included not for the sake of representation, but to reveal the range and popularity of the yodel -- and it's essentially racist roots in America. The inclusion of the aforementioned blues artists, Lottie Kimbrough, Winston Holmes, and the Rodgers rarity offer a startlingly different view of the yodel, one that is sweeter in song and blacker and bluer than anything else here. Nonetheless, if you want a historical overview of yodeling, this is the one to have. It's an awesome recording, meticulously assembled, mastered, and produced with great notes in German and English.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:52
2
3:13
3
2:26
4 3:18
5 3:01
6 3:03
7 3:25
8
2:41
9
3:24
10
2:45
11 3:12
12
3:01
13
2:40
14
2:58
15 2:52
16 3:07
17 3:09
18 2:44
19
3:02
20 3:13
21 2:45
22
3:08
23
3:09
24 2:24
25 2:26
26
2:52
blue highlight denotes track pick