Various Artists

Rare Bluegrass From Nashville: The 1960s

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This 67-minute, 28-track CD doesn't span all that wide a sampling of Nashville bluegrass from the 1960s, even of the rare variety. In fact, all of the tracks were done for the small Spar or Sur-Speed labels, and other than the opening ten tracks by Carl Story (taken from the 1966 album The Bluegrass Sound of Carl Story), none of them were done by artists of much renown. Still, the material on this collection is undeniably rare, and of fairly good quality overall, though the remastering leaves something to be desired on four tracks in particular (more of which in a moment). It falls somewhere between the purer, most folklore-oriented bluegrass recordings of the era and the more commercial ones, not boasting as slick a sound as most Nashville productions from the time, but not a strictly traditional one, either. Other than the no-frills sides by Story (which are among the more traditional fare here), it's a mixed bag of approaches, though not disagreeably so. Maybe you don't need the New Generation's faithful rendition of "Dueling Banjos," but Mark Peek's "Everywhere I Look" is decent, good-time harmony bluegrass; Earl McCollum's "If God Had Wanted Us on the Moon" is an unusual mildly anti-space exploration novelty, and Jim Low's "Broke Again" has the kind of dour, spoken, talking-bluesish vocals that were in occasional vogue during the folk revival. The six songs taken from an obscure EP by the Wade Family form the anthology's high point, with homespun harmony vocals (including both male and female leads) on heartfelt spirituals that should appeal to anyone who likes the Carter Family. The sound quality of the transfers from the original recordings isn't sparkling, but is tolerable with the exception of the four tracks from a rare EP by the Pinewood Ramblers. Even for those used to putting up with taken-from-the-vinyl imperfections, the fidelity on those cuts is beyond the pale of what's acceptable, sounding as if it's been taken from a tape that's gotten mangled in a malfunctioning cassette machine. The lack of specific dates for many of the tracks is another strike against this compilation, though it has its strengths for those seeking fairly strong bluegrass that's fallen through the cracks of what's known even to major bluegrass collectors.

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