Various Artists

Rural Blues, Vol. 1

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Document's Rural Blues, Vol. 1 is a delightful collection of the complete recorded works of Willie Lane, Black Diamond, Goldrush, Monroe Moe Jackson, Johnny Beck, John Lee, Julius King, D.A. Hunt, and One String Sam, none of them exactly household names, drawn from rare and obscure 78s recorded between 1934 and 1956. That no one sticks around for more than a few tunes gives this collection a refreshing feel of variety and vitality, and Willie Lane and John Lee in particular prove to be real finds, both of them strong guitar players and able vocalists. Lee's take on the oft-covered "Baby Please Don't Go" is a gem, featuring the entirely unexpected accompaniment of a cane flute or whistle that gives the song a bright, surreal tone. The two selections from white country blues singer Monroe Moe Jackson, "Move It on Over" and "Go 'Way from My Door," are also revelations, as Jackson's jagged, gravel-packed voice hits places that would make Tom Waits jealous. It is interesting to note that the most recent recordings presented here, "My Baby Ooo" and "I Need a Hundred Dollars" by One String Sam, tracked in 1956, are the ones that sound the most ancient, with Sam's one string diddley bow giving both pieces an eerie, spooky resonance. This is a wonderful archival collection, and the rarity of the tracks it presents only makes it more valuable.