Various Artists

My Babe: Document Shortcuts, Vol. 3

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Document Records has released some 900 titles over the years, giving the label the world's largest in print catalog of vintage American roots music, and its archival reach encompasses rare 78s and field recordings from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s in all avenues of music, including blues, jazz, country, and gospel, as well as several hybrids that defy classification. As a historical source, no label, not even Smithsonian Folkways, has done a more thorough job of tracing the early roots and branches of American vernacular music and making it available in affordable editions. Which is why the label's new Shortcuts sampler series is such a great idea, since it allows listeners a budget-minded peak into Document's vast backlist. My Babe is the third in this series, and it yields several neglected gems, including Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's proto-rock & roll rave-up "Where Did You Stay Last Night?," recorded in 1951, and the Norfolk Jazz Quartet's assured and unaccompanied "Stand By the Bedside of a Neighbor," recorded in North Carolina in 1938. The eerie, primal sound of One String Sam playing what used to be called a diddley bow on "My Baby Ooo," recorded in Detroit in 1956, is another highlight, as is the equally bizarre "Blaze Face Cow" by Jazzbo Tommy & His Lowlanders, recorded in Arkansas in 1937. Jazzbo Tommy, in this case, was Tommy Settlers, and his kazoo playing simply defies both gravity and reason. It may be true, as some say, that it has all been said, sung, and shouted a thousand times over, but the kinds of 78s that Document assembles in its collections prove that, no matter what, you haven't heard it all.

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