The Leake County Revelers

Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2

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While the first installment is filled with fine fiddling and friendly group vocals, volume two of the Leake County Revelers' complete recorded works as reissued by Document really holds their best moments on record. Twenty one sides cut for Columbia between 1929 and 1930 in Atlanta, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi form a pleasant blend of waltzes in three-four time, medium tempo blues, and uplifting dance tunes like "Saturday Night Breakdown," "Texas Fair," "Mississippi Breakdown," "Lazy Kate," and the "Dry Town Blues," an upbeat reflection on the aftermath of the passage of the Volstead Act. The combination of Jones' guitar, Will Gilmer's fiddle, Jim Wolverton's banjo, and R.O. Mosley's banjo mandolin gave the Revelers a truly distinctive sound, especially as even at high velocities they weren't as frowsy and reckless as Georgia-based Fiddlin' John Carson or Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers. More than any other string band in the southeastern United States during this period, Mississippi's Leake County Revelers were relatively well-mannered enough to suggest a direct comparison with the East Texas Serenaders, especially on account of their knack for playing old-fashioned waltzes. Of the several examples included here "When It's Springtime in the Rockies" would soon become closely identified with Carson Robison and Gene Autry, whereas "Beautiful Bells" is recognizable as having been derived from "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean." First published in 1899, "Picture No Artist Can Paint" was discovered in an old songbook by lead singer Dallas Jones.

"At a Georgia Camp Meeting" is a superb string band adaptation of a cakewalk introduced in 1897 by Kerry Mills, and "Uncle Ned" is an old Stephen Foster air dating back to 1848. Composed by Paul Biese and ukulele king Wendell Hall, the "Thirty First Street Blues" was popularized in the mid-'20s by vocalists Josie Miles and Clara Smith, as well as jazz bands under the leadership of Fletcher Henderson, Oliver Naylor, and Tommy DeRose. When Bob Wills revived it 20 years later, he was probably tipping his hat to the Leake County Revelers, but was almost certainly aware of earlier jazz and blues versions as well. The Revelers' take is sung by Gilmer and lead singer Jones, who hauls off and engages in a bit of yodeling. Still and all, many may feel that the most attractive record this group ever waxed was "Good Fellow," a peculiarly comforting, old-timey number with endearing congenial group vocals and a gentle bit of whistling. As fine as the rest of their work is, "Good Fellow" seems to embody the very essence of the Leake County Revelers. The performances preserved in this excellent collection would be their last, as the group ceased to exist after Mosley passed away in the early ‘30s. Wolverton spent the rest of his days on a farm, Jones performed on radio station WJDX with the Cleve Bass band and ended up working at the Heidelberg Hotel in Jackson, whereas Gilmer bequeathed both fiddle and repertoire to younger relatives, who recorded during the ‘60s and ‘70s and, subsequently, contributed to the flowering of long-established musical traditions in and around Leake County, Mississippi.

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