The New Lost City Ramblers

Songs from the Depression

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    8
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The third album by this group definitely gets an "A" for effort, as simply gathering up so many worthwhile songs about the American depression was worth doing, no matter how listeners might feel about individual tracks. The choice of material doubles up on numbers by Blind Alfred Reed and Bill Dixon, includes fascinating historical material by Fiddling John Carson and Slim Smith, and wisely includes the genre of instrumental music, which sometimes makes the most succinct comment of all, such as the tough fiddle solo "Boys, My Money's All Gone." Many of the medium-tempo numbers are played with the finesse of a fine classical chamber quartet, the fiddle and banjo playing sharp and radiant. The Tom Paley-era Ramblers have a bit more of a college campus-type folky sound, but in some cases this suits these types of songs, making this one of the better early albums by this band. Mike Seeger is busy on an assortment of instruments, livening up one track with harmonica, another with mandolin. As usual, his fiddle and banjo playing is topnotch. There is also nice use made of Hawaiian and steel guitars. While some albums by this group seem like the ensemble is taking on a bit too much territory, here the clear focus of the subject matter creates a more relaxed atmosphere, despite the despair of the lyrics. But OK, it is not a record to put on when one wants to serenade away a bad mood. The original booklet includes lyrics and much interesting information about the original artists and the depression era in general.

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