Radio dealt a serious blow to the recording industry in the early '20s, bringing music into everyone's home for free. Radio came to Nashville in 1923, but it wasn't until 1925 when WSL started the Grand Old Opry. Early performers lived in the surrounding area and usually played the program free of charge. Nashville Early String Bands, Vol. 1 captures the energy and wildness of those early days. A variety of known and lesser-known artists appear here, from Uncle Dave Macon to the Arthur Smith Trio. Dr. Humphrey Bates sings the hilariously outrageous "My Wife Died Saturday Night" that carries the refrain, "My wife died Saturday night, Sunday she was buried, Monday was my courting day, and Tuesday I got married." Sam McGee praises his favorite automobile in the bouncy "Chevrolet Car" (he tried unsuccessfully to interest Chevrolet in the song's advertisement value) and the Binkley Brothers' Dixie Clodhoppers sing the excellent "I'll Rise When the Rooster Crows" and "Give Me Back My Fifteen Cent." The Arthur Smith Trio's out of the ordinary "Stood on the Bridge at Midnight" finds the narrator at the bridge with the moon in the sky and the water rushing down below him. While the reason for his sorrow is never clear, the imagery catches his mood perfectly. The detailed liner notes provide good information about the performers and provide a sense of the early Opry's history. While certain cuts on this collection are scratchy, the overall quality is very good. These recordings offer a fine look at country music's roots, complete with fiddles and banjos, untrained singers, and traditional songs.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.