Various Artists

String Bands (1926-1929)

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String Bands (1926-1929) has a few remarkable tracks: the hilarious, warbling vocals on the Kansas City Blues Strummers' "Broken Bed Blues" and a very rare cello solo on the Old Pal Smoke Shop Four's "Black Cat Blues" will single-handedly justify the purchase for some enthusiasts. The album is most recommended, however, for the light it sheds on the intersecting traditions of black-and-white rural musical styles in the early age of recording. Andrew and Jim Baxter, a fiddle-guitar duo from Georgia, demonstrate equal virtuosity at blues and country dance styles and are, deservedly, the best-known performers on the disc; Nap Hayes and Matthew Prater fuse Scott Joplin's ragtime with more traditional, country styles on their mandolin-guitar duets. Most interestingly, the compilation includes two racially integrated groups, a phenomenon otherwise absent in the 1920s recording industry: fiddler Andrew Baxter joins the otherwise all-white Georgia Yellowhammers on "G Blues," and Jim Booker, another black fiddler, joins Taylor's Kentucky Boys for four standard dance pieces, including "Soldier's Joy" and "Grey Eagle." The four tracks by the Alabama Sheiks which conclude the album -- recorded, despite the title of this collection, in 1931 -- are fair duets by another guitar-fiddle duo obviously influenced by the great Mississippi Sheiks, whose "Sittin' on Top of the World" they imitate reasonably well. Although not highly recommended for casual listeners, this collection will be of great interest to many and provides a welcomed expansion of modern understandings of string band music.

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