The Delmore Brothers

The Delmore Brothers, Vol. 2: The Later Years 1933-1952

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The Delmore Brothers were one of the first great hillbilly acts, recording dozens of sides with thrilling Appalachian harmonies and subtle but impressive instrumental work that were to be a clear, crucial influence on such performers as the Stanley Brothers, the Maddox Brothers & Rose, and the Louvin Brothers (in fact, one of the Louvins' finest albums was a 1960 tribute to the Delmore Brothers). At the same time, in the later years of their career, Alton Delmore and Rabon Delmore became among the first and strongest practitioners of hillbilly boogie, making some potent up-tempo swing and country-flavored blues on their recordings for King Records in the late '40s and early '50s. Both sides of the Delmore Brothers' sound are captured on this four-disc set from the British JSP Records label, which cherry picks from two decades' worth of material but puts its strongest focus on the King Records era, which often found the brothers joined by harmonica man Wayne Raney and a variety of guest pickers (including Homer & Jethro on some 1946 sides, and Merle Travis on other sessions cut the same year). While the jump from pure country sides to blues-influenced material may have been a bit dramatic in the eyes of many listeners, Alton and Rabon's harmonies are strong and honest from the first cut to the last, and their tight guitar picking actually improved with the passage of time: "Mobile Boogie" features killer solos from both brothers along with a duet break that's mighty fine, and demonstrates that they needed no prompting from others to make with the boogie. The best moments on this set make clear that the dividing line between country music and the blues was never as wide as most folks like to believe, and whether they were dreaming of the hills or whooping it up at the roadhouse, the Delmore Brothers delivered passionate, essential music that's stood the test of time. Many of these selections were sourced from well-worn shellac discs, but the remastering makes the most of the material's fidelity, and the liner notes by Pat Harrison offer a solid biography of the duo as well as details on when and where the material was recorded, and who accompanied the Delmores. With a list price of less than thirty dollars, Delmore Brothers, Vol. 2: Later Years 1933-1952 is a fine value as well as great music.

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