Various Artists

Flowers in the Wildwood: Women in Early Country Music, 1923-1939

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Anyone who sees the subtitle "Women in Early Country Music" and immediately thinks of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn will benefit greatly from the education offered by this generous collection, which consists of recordings by artists both well-known (Coon Creek Girls, Carter Family, Patsy Montana) and obscure (Wisdom Sisters, Louisiana Lou, Wanda & Ruth Neal). As one might expect, it's a mixed bag: the Dezurik Sisters' trick yodeling is simultaneously kitchily charming and genuinely fascinating (check out the amazing "I Left Her Standing There"); the gospel numbers by the Wisdom Sisters and the Southland's Ladies Quartet are hair-raisingly lovely; Aunt Molly Jackson's "Kentucky Miner's Wife" is just plain awful -- awkwardly introduced, badly played, and badly sung. On one or two tracks, the sound quality is so poor that it would have been better to simply leave the song off the program. But overall, this album provides an enjoyable and instructive window into a criminally underrepresented chapter in the history of country music. The Coon Creek Girls rendition of "Little Birdie" and the Girls of the Golden West's classic "Round-up Time in Texas" are almost worth the price of the CD on their own.

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