This is the tenth volume in Bluebird Records' superb When the Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll series. Drawing on the extensive Bluebird and Victor back catalog of vintage 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s 78s, this installment, subtitled East Virginia Blues, traces the roots of honky tonk through the Appalachians, where modal European song forms collided head on with the Africanized rhythms of the blues, creating the springboard for contemporary country and rock & roll. What keeps this collection from simply being an archival project is the careful and deliberate sequencing, which turns variety into a virtue and keeps the pace of things fresh and interesting. Highlights include an early version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" by the Monroe Brothers, Wade Mainer's "Down in the Willow," and the original version of the vicious murder ballad "Tom Dooley" by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter. The first two megahits of country are here, "The Prisoner's Song" and "The Wreck of the Old '97," by Vernon Dalhart, both of which turn on massive doses of deliberate melancholy. Dick Burnett's "Constant Sorrow" is here in an early version by the Hall Brothers, recorded a full decade before Ralph Stanley took a shot at it. The historical and musical roots that fed into the creation of modern folk, blues, country, and rock are all present, and like the other titles in this series, East Virginia Blues does an admirable job of showing that the contemporary music listened to nowadays didn't show up fully formed out of thin air.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett