DeFord Bailey

The Legendary DeFord Bailey: Country Music's First Black Star

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This album's title is true. Throughout the '20s and '30s, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry regularly featured DeFord Bailey on its stage. His solo harmonica performances of traditional folk tunes were wildly popular, even if they were more akin to country blues music than to country music proper. Made between 1974 and 1976, when Bailey himself was in his late seventies, these recordings capture the legend with his harmonica abilities mostly in tact. His trademark tune, "Pan American," is included, as are renditions of the blues and gospel standards "John Henry" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Most of the album's tunes are harmonica solos, but Bailey also frails a pair of old-time banjo tunes and fingerpicks four blues numbers on an acoustic guitar. Bailey plays with great joy and skill throughout, offering casual and serious listeners alike something to enjoy.

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