Nashville's clear channel AM radio station WSM first signed on in 1925 and began airing a weekly Saturday night country show featuring live performances called the WSM Barn Dance, which morphed into the Grand Ole Opry, the longest-running radio program in the history of the medium. Often, musicians who were visiting the Opry would stop by WSM for short, intimate, and mostly acoustic live on-air sets. This collection is the first time any of those archival performances have been officially released, and since this is listed as Vol. 1, obviously more of them will be coming out in the future. The album is bookended by excerpts from Ralph Emery's National Radio Hall of Fame induction. Emery was WSM's overnight on-air host from the late '50s through the early '70s, and his connection to WSM, the Opry, and Nashville's country scene made him an influential figure in the birth of modern country. The album itself has an intimate feel, highlighted by Del McCoury's "Hello Lonely," the Time Jumpers' bluegrass version of Buck Owens' "Together Again," and the Grascals, who deliver a bluegrass take on the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville." Rodney Crowell's solo acoustic version of his wonderful song "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" is appropriately ragged and haunting, while J.D. Souther gives "New Kid in Town," a song he co-wrote, the kind of elegant fragility that is mostly lacking in the Eagles' hit version of it. It all adds up to a fun and varied set, and hopefully there will be many more volumes like this one coming from the WSM vaults.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett