Various Artists

Art of Field Recording Sampler CD

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Prior to the planned release of a five-CD box set in 2007, this 24-track sampler CD was issued in late 2006, featuring field recordings made during the previous 50 years by Art Rosenbaum. Traveling in the Eastern part of the country (though most often in Georgia), Rosenbaum recorded folk musicians in numerous styles, from blues and old-timey music to fiddlers, blues, sacred harp singing, bluegrass, and performers who sang in languages other than English. The accompaniment is similarly varied, ranging from banjo, guitar, piano, autoharp, and mouth bow to none at all on a cappella pieces. It's hard to judge a sampler in isolation from the much larger box set it's previewing, though presumably this will serve the purpose of either arousing some folk enthusiasts' interest in buying the box set, or fulfilling the needs of less rabid collectors who will be content with just this one disc. Whether you stop with this or go on to the five-CD collection, it's a well-recorded collection of performers in informal circumstances -- sometimes there's chat and ambient noise, as well as music -- though the songs are usually not as striking, or polished, as the ones by musicians recording performances for the commercial market in the same genres (even back in the '20s or '30s). And none of these performers would be familiar as recording artists even to most folk fans, with the exception of Buell Kazee, here represented by a 1975 recording made the year before his death. Some of the tracks are primarily of documentary value, but there are some affecting recordings here with more of an individual personality, highlights including Cecil Barfield's strangely buzzing vocal style on "Georgia Blues"; a 1960 recording of Shirley Griffith's "Big Road Blues," a match for the better country-blues recordings of the folk revival with arresting ascending guitar lines; and the spooky spiritual of "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" (by Sister Fleeta Mitchell and Rev. Willie Mae Eberhard), the most recent recording (from 2006) on the disc.

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