Various Artists

Folksongs: Old Time Country Music 1926-1944

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The French label Frémeaux & Associés certainly has taken it upon themselves to issue unique collections of early recorded music, and Folksongs: Old Time Country Music 1926-1944 is no exception. While the American labels Yazoo and Smithsonian/Folkways approach similar music -- sometimes the very same recordings -- it's the clever concepts that yield the bizarre inclusion of unexpected tracks which always keeps Frémeaux & Associés' compilations from being redundant. The clincher for Folksongs: Old Time Country Music 1926-1944 is the inclusion of the sophisticated performance of "Greensleeves" by the Twentieth Century Minstrel (how vague can a moniker get?). This performance stands out because of the very trained voice of the vocalist sits side by side with backwoods performances by the likes of Clarence Ashley and Bascom Lamar Lunsford. After reading the liner notes, the reason becomes somewhat clear why this was included: the label wished to compile some of the earliest recordings of some of the most famous American folk classics and apparently mistook "Greensleeves" as a classic American folktale. Still, Frémeaux & Associés have put together another wonderful collection of early recordings which treads both sides of fame from the most celebrated (Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Dock Boggs) to the completely forgotten (Ernest V. Stoneman, Noach & Spark, Will Bennett), making this an excellent two-disc set for collectors and historians alike.

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