Various Artists

Alabama: Black Secular & Religious Music

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This intriguing compilation from Document Records collects the complete recorded works of Alabama singers Wiley Barner (both sides of a 78 issued in 1927 by Gennett Records), Moses Macon (eight tracks recorded for Paramount Records in 1928), Edward Thompson (six tracks for Paramount in 1929), Slim Duckett and Pig Norwood (four tracks recorded for Okeh Records in 1930), Marshall Owens (two tracks issued in 1932 by Paramount in 1932), and Tom Bradford (two tracks recorded for the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song in 1934). Most of what is here holds only historical and archival appeal, although a few things do jump out, including the goofy street vendor song, "Shrimp Man," by Moses Macon (who was also known as Red Hot Ole Mose) and three samples of his wheezing, pneumatic sermons, which feature a man in such kinetic frenzy that you fear he might explode as he struggles to simultaneously breathe and get words out. Marshall Owens manages to get some interesting open-string harmonic overtones out of his guitar on "Try Me One More Time," while Edward Thompson proves himself a sprightly guitar player on "West Virginia Blues." These recordings were transferred from 78s, and the sound quality varies markedly from track to track, reaching a nadir on Thompson's sides, which are so full of scratches, pops, and hailstorm hiss that the actual songs seem to be playing from two doors down during a loud construction project.

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