Various Artists

Classic Field Recordings: Landmark Country Sessions from a Lost Era

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First off, the songs collected on this four-CD, 100-track box of early country and old-time sides released in the 1930s and early '40s aren’t exactly field recordings, at least not in the normal sense. The artists compiled here, ranging from string bands like the Tennessee Ramblers and the Pine Ridge Boys to duos like Dewey & Gassie Bessett and polished (for the era) solo singers like Johnny Barfield, were professional musicians to some degree and these recordings were made with an eye to being commercial on the radio, whether or not they actually achieved that aim. That doesn’t make them somehow less authentic, however, since these tracks are only a slight half-step removed from the music played on rural back porches throughout America in the 1930s and 1940s and they prefigure the more stylized and codified motifs of what would eventually come to be known as country music. Among the highlights in this expansive box are Johnny Barfield’s “Ain’t I Right” (a version of the folk tune “Railroad Bill”), Smith’s Carolina Crackerjacks' “There Are No Disappointments in Heaven,” the Tennessee Ramblers' “Don’t Put a Tax on Beautiful Girls,” and a truly haunting version of “Maggie” by Blind Fiddler. There’s a lot of history collected here, and listening to these 100 tracks, one can almost hear modern country music coming just around the bend.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:36
2
3:01
3
2:51
4
3:30
5
2:44
6
2:56
7
2:41
8
2:47
9
2:57
10
3:09
11
3:11
12
3:07
13
2:35
14
2:56
15
2:40
16
2:55
17
2:51
18
2:51
19
2:37
20
2:38
21
3:21
22
3:11
23
2:54
24
2:32
25
2:02
blue highlight denotes track pick