Various Artists

Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 7: Early American Rural Music

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Each volume in Yazoo Records' Times Ain't Like They Used to Be series (this one is the seventh installment) collects 1920s and '30s commercial 78s, and taken together they project a vital and energetic rural, early 20th century America of jug and string bands, country blues players, fiddlers, banjoists, sacred singers, and musical roustabouts of every conceivable rustic style imaginable. This process makes each volume remarkably similar even as the particular artists and songs included on each may be tremendously different. Volume 7 includes such rare gems as Jimmie Tarlton's impressive "Dixie Mail," Skip James' haunting "Hard Luck Child," an unhinged fiddle and banjo duet by Ben Jarrell and Francis Jenkins on "Jack of Diamonds" and the first part of Son House's classic two-part 78 rpm recording of "Dry Spell Blues." Since everything is drawn from exceedingly rare 78s, many of which were played to death by their original owners, there is a fair amount of ambient needle noise on most of these tracks, but that only adds to the overall feel of history actually coming alive that is inherent to these kinds of compilations. Well selected, varied, and artfully sequenced, Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 7 is a welcome addition to a hopefully never-ending series.

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