Various Artists

Times Ain't Like They Used to Be, Vol. 8: Early American Rural Music

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Each volume in Yazoo Records' Times Ain't Like They Used to Be series (this one is the eighth installment) collects 1920s and '30s commercial 78s that, taken together, project a vital and energetic rural, early 20th century 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. Volume 8 is a little heavier on the blues side of things and includes such rare gems as Dock Boggs' banjo blues set piece "Sugar Baby," Skip James' haunting rendering of "4 O'Clock Blues" (made especially precious by sounding like it was recorded in a hail storm), Frank Hutchison's sleek and timeless "The Train That Carried My Girl from Town," and Francis Jenkins' ancient sounding fiddle ballad, "Roving Cowboy," which sounds a bit like an inland sea shanty. 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 most 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. 8 is a welcome addition to a hopefully never-ending series.

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