When Victor Records field engineer Ralph Sylvestor Peer arrived in Bristol, TN, in the summer of 1927, he had a mission to record every rural Southern musician he could find. By the time he left Bristol, Peer had recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts and had set the cornerstones for the future of country music, a genre that had yet to be recognized or defined. The Peer Sessions, or Bristol Sessions (both terms are used with reverence in the country community), yielded the first recordings from both the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, as well as historic recordings by names less familiar, but no less important. The Carters are represented on this selection of Bristol recordings by two tracks, "Single Girl, Married Girl" and "The Storms Are on the Ocean," while Jimmie Rodgers also has two, "The Soldier's Sweetheart" and "Sleep, Baby, Sleep." Ernest Stoneman (of the revered Stoneman Family) sings "Sweeping Through the Gates" and "Dying Girl's Farewell." Blind Alfred Reed delivers a strange musical sermon on "You Must Unload." J.P. Nestor's wild, kinetic fiddle romp "Train on the Island" is simply one of the best string band performances ever recorded and is included here, as is B.F. Shelton's modal banjo version of the murder ballad "Pretty Polly," arguably one of the most cold-blooded tunes in the Appalachian folk arsenal. More comprehensive collections of the Bristol material have been available, but as a single disc (and price) this one is perfect for anyone with a more casual interest in these crucial and historic recordings.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett