The New Lost City Ramblers

The New Lost City Ramblers, Vol. 3

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Although the collected recording legacy of this group more than establishes its ability to rise above the status of mere revivalists or archivists, some collections of New Lost City Ramblers material come off worse than others. Most fans of the group would agree that substituting Tracy Schwarz for Tom Paley brought in a harder instrumental edge and lightened the folky vibe considerably. Paley is still present on this early-'60s effort, however, but he shouldn't take the blame completely for any apparent dullness in the material and the delivery. The group was obviously in some sort of combat with its own aims and how it was being perceived, a fact made clear by the incredible contradiction between the opening of bandmember John Cohen's liner notes, in which he says "we are getting to sound more like the New Lost City Ramblers than anything else," and the photograph chosen for the front cover, a picture not of the Ramblers but of a group of four hillbilly musicians carrying on. If the idea is to establish one's own identity, why put a picture of a different group on an album? Design and imagery might have been the province of the record label, but in either case it indicates a desire to fool consumers into thinking this is the genuine article, and not a trio of college-educated middle-class men. As usual for the Ramblers, all the tunes chosen are credited with the original performers and recording information, so that anyone with a real prejudice against the revival scene can sniff out the original goods. There are fine moments here, such as "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" and "Baltimore Fire," but the tracks tend to lack the spirit of the group's later performances, while some of the efforts are just not convincing, such as Paley's dobro playing on "Weaveroom Blues." Other numbers such as "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms" have become such warhorses since this album was originally released that the Ramblers' versions just seem inconsequential.

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