Various Artists

Red River Blues 1934-1943

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Something else that came along in 2001 besides the Patriot Act was the Rounder label's Deep River of Song series, in which the original '30s and '40s field recordings carried out by Alan Lomax and John A. Lomax are once again collected, complete with lavish packaging and detailed liner notes. Some of the material that previously appeared on Red River Blues 1934-1943 and a similar set entitled Red River Runs: 1934-41 Field Recordings wound up included on the Rounder volume entitled Deep River of Song: Georgia. In light of that, blues collectors may seriously wonder whether these older sets published by labels such as Flyright and Travelin' Man are worth the trouble. Many may never have to ask the question, as these labels were distributed much less widely than Rounder product and may not even show up even after a marathon exploration of the used record pile. There is life after Lomax, however. In point of fact, there are more than a few blues fans who became disgusted by this family's habit of taking credit as the authors and de facto publishers of songs that they recorded, but had absolutely nothing to do with creating. Sorry, suggesting to a bluesman that he make up a song about "Goin' to Richmond" is not an instant promotion to authorship of the song. Even without a Lomax loathing, listeners may find this compilation highly worthwhile. It is superbly assembled and flows through its cast of characters with little distraction. It is also quite consistent in quality despite the difference between performers such as Robert Davis, who seems to have only made one recording in his life, and Gabriel Brown, who moved from field recordings to a prolific and popular urban recording career. The aforementioned Davis track, "Poor Joe Breakdown," is a marvel. This romping instrumental is a popular choice of country blues radio programmers, and listeners who have been wondering who it is and where it came from, will be delighted to find it here. There are also generous selections from the limited recording catalog of players such as Blind Joe Taggart, Sonny Chestain, and Willie Williams, all of whom deserve as much attention as they can get.

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