While these 24 performances might be most strongly linked to early blues styles, in fact what most strongly links them together is that all of them prominently feature fiddles. It's a reflection of a time when musical borders were not as solidified as they would soon become, and when blues mixed with ragtime, jazz, vaudeville, pop, string bands, and rural folk. The resulting sound is perhaps best characterized, at least from a 21st century perspective, as music that is both old-timey and good-timey. Some of the artists will be pretty well-known to blues fans, including Joe Williams (whose "Worried Man Blues" is perhaps the most down-home bluesy tune here), Peg Leg Howell, the Memphis Jug Band, Peetie Wheatstraw, Frank Stokes, Bo Chatman, and the Mississippi Sheiks, but about half of them will send most people scurrying to their discographies for evidence of the artists' existence. Although the tracks were perhaps selected more from the Memphis blues/jug band crossover idiom than any other, the willingness to draw from several regions and genre mixtures makes this anthology more diverse and hence more interesting than most collections of early blues/folk. "Dance Hall Shuffle" by Clifford Hayes' Louisville Stompers is more early hot jazz, for instance, than either blues or folk; Banjo Ikey Robinson & His Bull Fiddle Band have a minstrel-like early jazz feel; the Tennessee Chocolate Drops' "Knox County Stomp" has a pre-bluegrass lilt; and "I Got a Gal" by James Cole's String Band sweeps unnervingly from major to minor modes. More than by shared musical traits, the CD is tied together by a palpable sense of joy and good spirits on the part of the performers, in both the vivacious playing and (on the non-instrumentals) the jaunty, irascible vocals.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger