Various Artists

Country: Nashville-Dallas-Hollywood 1927/1942

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Old-time country compilations don't get any better than this dazzling 36-song double CD, made up of artists who are unrepresented (or barely represented) on CD, and genuine rarities by some who are well represented. The opening track, "Railroad Blues" by Sam McGee, heralds a brace of blues-based country songs by G.B. Grayson ("Omie Wise"), the Carolina Tarheels ("Peg and Awl"), Buster Carter and Preston Young ("Lazy Farmer Boy"), where black and white rural music meet and interweave inextricably -- Dick Justice's "Brownskin Blues" and Jimmie Tarlton's "Slow Wicked Blues" (with some gorgeous yodeling) are as good fine examples of blues as anything you'll hear on the Yazoo or Document labels, and there's not a Gene Autry blues number even present! Old-style blues and old-time banjo styles also link together in Buell Kazee's "Butcher Boy." The Williamson Brothers perform one of the earliest commercial recordings of "John Henry," entitled "Gonna Die With This Hammer in My Hand," and the Monroe Brothers and the Delmore Brothers are also present on this collection. It's also possible to hear records such as "The House Carpenter" by Clarence Ashley, which could easily have given Bob Dylan the direction to his early folk style (and I'm not willing to bet that he didn't know some of this stuff). Jimmie Rodgers is here ("Blue Yodel No. 8"), as is the Carter Family ("John Hardy," "Wildwood Flower"), but so is Tex Ritter in his ultra-rare 1935 recording of "Rye Whiskey, Rye Whiskey," the closest thing he had to a commercial success in that decade. The second disc does go further into performers who are remembered today, such as Milton Brown and His Brownies ("Hesitation Blues"), Patsy Montana ("I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart"), Shelly Lee Alley and His Alley Cats ("Women, Women, Women"), Bob Wills ("Liza, Pull Down The Shades," "What's the Matter With the Mill"), and even one who's still around in 1997, Roy Rogers, on "Cowboy Night Herd Song." The sound is excellent, though the notes are a bit sketchy, given the sheer amount of material included here. (French import)

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