This release brings together the complete 18 recordings of Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters alongside six tracks by Frank Jenkins' Pilot Mountaineers (Jenkins, in many regards the secret star of the collection, served as banjoist and fiddler on the Broadcaster sides before forming the latter, short-lived band). This obscure set of recordings, while appealing only to a small base of devoted old-timey music aficionados, beautifully captures the ragged and rusty-edged inner impulses of Southern fiddle and banjo music. There is a considerable amount of variety on the collection, both in the musical styles and in the personnel represented by the Broadcasters: members of the group perform in duets, trios, and as soloists, only utilizing the full quartet on one side ("Lonesome Road Blues"). The group's collective repertoire consists of instrumental dance pieces, sentimental songs, a couple of sacred tunes, and even a harmonica solo; most of the performers are proficient on more than one instrument, so that the instrumentation itself continually shifts and is swapped in what seems to have been a particularly democratic recording session. The sound quality, like some of the performances themselves, is a little scratchy, but usually decent enough given the rarity and age of many of the records. The Pilot Mountaineer sides -- four of which feature vocals by popular performer Ernest Stoneman -- represent a smoother, softer, and more typical string band style, lending a nice balance to the sometimes-frenetic performances by Woltz and company. Together, the 24 tracks on this disc document some of the earliest recorded music to come out of the fertile, now-celebrated musical communities around Galax, VA, and Mt. Airy, NC (Woltz, incidentally, was mayor of Galax). And for old-timey genealogists, the CD holds a couple of extra attractions: Jenkins' son, Oscar, who appears with the Pilot Mountaineers, went on to become a popular fiddler in the '60s and '70s, while fiddler Ben Jarrell of the Broadcaster recordings was the father of the old-timey revival's legendary fiddler Tommy Jarrell.
AllMusic Review by Burgin Mathews