Various Artists

Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 6: Early American Rural Music

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Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 6: Early American Rural Music Review

by Steve Leggett

Each volume in Yazoo Records' Times Ain't Like They Used to Be series (this one is the sixth installment) collects 1920s and '30s commercial 78s, and taken together they project a vital and energetic early-20th century rural America of jug and string bands, country blues players, fiddlers, banjoists, sacred singers, and musical roustabouts of every conceivable rustic style imaginable. This process makes each volume remarkably similar even as the particular artists and songs included on each may be tremendously different. Vol. 6 includes such rare gems as Isaiah Nettles' (listed here under his moniker "the Mississippi Moaner") quirky "It's Cold in China Blues," Skip James' haunting "Cherry Ball Blues," an energetic "Davy" by the Weems String Band, and the second part of Charley Patton's two-part 78-rpm recording of "Prayer of Death." Since everything is drawn from exceedingly rare 78s, many of which were played to death by their original owners, there is a fair amount of ambient needle noise on several of these tracks, but that only adds to the overall feel of history actually coming alive that is inherent to these kinds of compilations. Well selected, varied, and artfully sequenced, Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 6 is another welcome addition to a hopefully never-ending series.

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