Various Artists

Old-Time Music From Southwest Virginia

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While many believe that country music started in the summer of 1927 when Ralph Peer recorded the Carter Family, a number of old-time musicians -- including Dock Boggs -- had already had their music committed to wax. Old-Time Music From Southwest Virginia collects instrumentals and songs released between 1924 through 1931, offering a historical snapshot of the fledging genre as it appeared in the Appalachians of Virginia. The oldest material originates from Fiddlin' Powers & Family, representing, as Charles Wolfe points out, the earliest recordings of a professional string band. A little-known guitarist named Emry Arthur sings several of the most intriguing songs on the album, including "She Lied to Me," "Reuben Oh Reuben," and "Careless Love." The guitar work on "Reuben Oh Reuben" has a mysterious, off-center quality of the kind that players like John Fahey would later develop. The most familiar artist on this anthology is banjoist/vocalist Dock Boggs, who delivers "Down South Blues," "Country Blues," "Pretty Polly," "Old Rub Alcohol Blues," and "Danville Girl." While Boggs' selections may be available on other collections, they provide a familiar voice between more obscure musicians. The sound quality varies from cut to cut, which is to be expected on recordings originating from worn 78s. Taking this into consideration, County has done a fine job transferring this material to compact disc. The album, at 76 minutes, is also quite a bargain. For anyone curious about early country music, Old-Time Music From Southwest Virginia offers a rich collection of traditional material before commercial considerations put a straightjacket on studio performances.

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