Reviewed by Tony Cummings
So you've seen O Brother Where Art Thou? movie, become entranced by the film's haunting musical soundtrack and want to explore the early roots of American folk, country and gospel? So where do you start? What about here. As you can read elsewhere in this mag, the Carters were, along with Jimmie Rodgers, the very foundation stone on which country and western built its empire. The haunting, wistful recordings made by A P Carter, his wife Sara and Sara's cousin Maybelle from the mountain hamlet of Maces Springs, Virginia, were, as it says on the box of this five-CD set, destined to "change popular music." The tracks here range from their first made by the legendary Victor Talking Machine Company talent scout Ralph Peer in 1927 through to 25 recordings the trio made in Camden, New Jersey in May and December 1934, songs of home, family and love, murder ballads and scaffold songs, songs of disaster and mourning, cowboy ditties and African American blues but peppered throughout their vast repertoire, songs of faith in a God who could comfort the soul of the poor and downtrodden. This set is full of classics, traditional songs every rural Southerner would know, "John Hardy", "The Cyclone Of Rye Cove" or "The Worrid Man Blues" (which during the early '50s skiffle era was one of the first songs I learnt). But it's their gospel songs, like "God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign", "No Telephone In Heaven" and the stone classic "On The Rock Where Moses Stood" that those wistful haunting melodies and jaunty rhythms make some of the greatest folk art of theirs or any other era. Blues mail order specialist Red Lick have copies of this essential box set at such a stunning bargain price so that unless you've got the complete Bear Family mega box set 'In The Shadow Of Clinch Mountain', we expect adventurous Cross Rhythms readers will soon have their cheques winging their way to Porthmadog.
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