Moses Asch had a unique method of recording artists back in the '40s and '50s. Someone like Woody Guthrie, for instance, would just drop by Folkways when he had an idea and record. Asch might pay him five dollars for the session, and in this way he accumulated a vault full of material. Perhaps this explains the incredible fact that the New Lost City Ramblers recorded 12 albums between 1958-1962. The Early Years (1958-1962) collects 26 songs, over 70 minutes of music, from these dozen discs, creating an excellent document of the band's years with Tom Paley. Paley, John Cohen, and Mike Seeger formed the New Lost City Ramblers in 1958 with the idea of playing old-time music recorded between the late '20s and 1940. While it has often been stated that the trio intended to copy -- phrase for phrase, lick for lick -- the old 78s, Jon Pankake points out in the liner notes that this wasn't the case. Instead, the New Lost City Ramblers wanted to insert the same vim and vigor into "The Battleship of Maine" and "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" as the original players. What stands out now, some 40 years after these recordings, is the band's versatility. Whether cutting loose on an instrumental like "Colored Aristocracy" or singing tight harmony on "Brown's Ferry Blues," the three comrades form a tight unit. While the arrangements never outgrow the number of persons in the band, each player's ability to play multiple instruments lends diversity to the material. The Early Years (1958-1962) offers a very good introduction to an innovative and influential band.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.