Another disc in the fine Virginia Traditions series assembled by the Blue Ridge Institute for Appalachian Studies at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia, Southwest Virginia Blues brings together 1920s commercial 78s with field recordings done in the 1930s and '40s, plus more recent field material from the '70s and '80s, to create an interesting portrait of blues and early country from the region. Most of the blues presented here is in the so-called Piedmont style, but some of the selections show a more generic approach, while pieces by the Carter Family and Bobby Buford catch country right at the cusp of what was then called hillbilly, and still retain much of their Appalachian flavor. Among the highlights are Dock Boggs' odd banjo piece, "False-Hearted Lover's Blues," recorded in the summer of 1929, and featuring acoustic guitar from Emry Arthur, James Henry Diggs' gentle and emotionally nuanced guitar version of "Poor Boy Long Way From Home," and Josh Thomas' sloppy, halting (and ultimately charming) banjo take on "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues," previously a Delta staple. The variety on display here, both in terms of a timeline and the types of music presented, make Southwest Virginia Blues an interesting listen, and while it will appeal most to scholars and music historians, the gentle, flowing sequence makes it more than just an archival release.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett