Darby & TarltonBy all accounts, Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton were an acrimonious duo, thrown together more by opportunity than any pressing desire to play music together, but in spite of the tension between them (or maybe because of it), the body of work they recorded together for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1933 is as singular and distinctive as any in early country or blues. Both were fine guitar players, with Darby generally handling the lead vocals and Tarlton the harmonies, but the difference maker was Tarlton's striking slide guitar style. Tarlton played with the guitar in his lap Hawaiian style, and reportedly fretted it with a wrist pin from a car. His slide lines give everything the duo recorded an eerie, exotic presence that, coupled with their impeccable vocals, makes them utterly unique. Darby & Tarlton played rags and waltzes and other popular dance forms of the day, but their bread and butter was always the blues, and when you hear people say that country music started as the white man's version of the blues, what this duo played underscores that notion. Although Darby & Tarlton are musical footnotes these days, "Birmingham Jail" b/w "Columbus Stockade Blues" was a two-sided hit for the duo 80 years ago, selling some 200,000 copies on 78, an impressive sales figure for the time. Ironically, the last song the duo recorded together was "Let's Be Friends Again," when it was doubtful the two ever had any great affection for each other. The music belies the connection between them, though, and if they had little personal affinity for each other, they certainly shared the blues.