Various Artists

Southern Journey, Vol. 2: Ballads and Breakdown

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Lomax's first stop for his Southern Journey series was the Blue Ridge Mountains of southeastern Virginia, where he recorded the 26 tracks (six previously unreleased) that comprise this collection. The music of this region relied heavily upon guitars, fiddles, and banjos, with a repertoire influenced by the British, Irish, and Scottish ancestry of the Americans who settled the region. Understandably, to contemporary listeners it sounds like the roots of bluegrass; several of the artists (Texas Gladden, Wade Ward, and Hobart Smith) had already made recordings for Lomax in the 1930s and '40s. This may have somewhat less appeal than other volumes of the set, simply because of its specialized focus -- if you don't have a taste for bluegrass-like sounds, you may find the sharp fiddles and occasionally shrill vocals to be too unhoned. If you do like bluegrass or old-time folk, it upholds the consistently fine standards of the Southern Journey series, combining education and entertaining, with diverse approaches (as in Gladden's a cappella songs) within the traditional framework.

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