Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music 1923-1936

Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music 1923-1936


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The story behind this box set is just interesting as the music on the rare 78s that were remastered to produce this beautiful three-LP set. In March of 2010, Nathan Salsburg, a record collector who had always dreamed of unearthing a crate full of rare records from the early days of the American record business, had his dreams come true. A friend that worked in the


The story behind this box set is just interesting as the music on the rare 78s that were remastered to produce this beautiful three-LP set. In March of 2010, Nathan Salsburg, a record collector who had always dreamed of unearthing a crate full of rare records from the early days of the American record business, had his dreams come true. A friend that worked in the Louisville city dump called him up and told him that a hoarder named Don Wahle had just died. Wahle left behind a massive collection of LPs from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Salsburg rescued part of the collection from the dump and discovered that along with the LPs, Wahle has also hoarded every 78-rpm disc that came his way. Salsburg made his was to Wahle's house, which was slated to be torn down in the next few weeks, and found a closet filled with hundreds of 78s. He loaded them into his pickup truck, cleaned them up, sorted them, and started to program this box set. He'd been working on the Work Hard, Play Hard concept before he found Wahle's collection, going through the music collected by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, but there were so many songs to choose from that the project lost inertia. Reinvigorated, and inspired by the many rare selections in Wahle's collection, Salsburg finally put together the Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard anthology, and dedicated it to Wahle, a man who seemingly had no friends or acquaintances except for other record collectors. The songs on the Work Hard LP were written by men who knew what it was like to toil away at soul-crushing, low-paying jobs. Songs about bad jobs have become a staple in country music, but it's hard to take them seriously when they're written and sung by well-paid professional musicians. The pioneers of country music may have been professionals too, but they'd lived the life they sang about and presented the facts in an unvarnished manner. Fiddlin' John Carson's "The Farmer Is the Man Who Feeds Them All" is a stark portrait of an economic reality that's still with us today. Carson's voice and minimal fiddle lay out the story of a working man who borrows what he needs to make a living only to end every year in debt. David McCarn tells the same woeful tale on "Poor Man, Rich Man." His presentation is more lively with ragtime guitar and harmonica accents, but the lyric is full of grim details about the monotony of hard work. Oscar Ford's "The Farmer's Dream" is more sprightly, and humorous, a fantasy about finding a rich woman who'll allow our hard-working fellow to live "like a millionaire." When the money runs out he'll hock all the gifts his girlfriend gave him and go back to riding the rails. Gid Tanner, an early country music star, opens Play Hard with "Work Don't Bother Me," a tune George Jones later adapted for "Ragged But Right." Work doesn't bother him, because, he claims, he doesn't have to work. Despite the fact that musicians sometimes work even harder than folks with a day job, the image of the ne'er-do-well musician who can live on his music and his wits is a popular one and the subject of most of the Play Hard songs. Charlie Wilson and his trio celebrate a night of inebriation with "The Beer Party" a mix of sprightly instrumental work, and a lively rendition of "Alabama Jubilee," with some great mandolin work by Roy Hobbs. "The Preacher Got Drunk and Laid His Bible Down" is a galloping proto-bluegrass tune by the Tennessee Ramblers that celebrates the power of strong drink while poking gentle fun at the hypocrisy of churchgoers. The unknown musicians of the Aiken County String Band turn in "Charleston Rag," a smoking instrumental that includes quotes from "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" and "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here." The most bizarre track is Whit Gaydon's "Tennessee Coon Hunt," a combination of Gaydon's minimal fiddling and his imitations of hounds and coons running through the woods. Pray Hard takes a more serious look at hard work and the hard lives of workers. It includes gospel and religious-themed songs from some of the collection's most obscure records performed by unknown artists. "I'm on My Way" was adapted by the civil rights movement in the '60s, and it's sung and played here by the unknown Kentucky Holiness Singers, who provide beautiful syncopated mandolin work and uplifting sanctified vocals. The Red Brush Singers sing "Beyond the Starry Plane," a simple song of faith that imagines the family reunions that will take place in heaven with bare-bones banjo and fiddle accompaniment. Gid Tanner delivers a solo version of "You've Got to Stop Drinking Shine," but it's not quite an antidote to "Work Don't Bother Me." His lively banjo and cheerful vocal suggest he's less than serious about sobriety. "Easter Day" was written by Dorsey Dixon, who also wrote "Didn't Hear Nobody Pray," a tune Roy Acuff borrowed for "Wreck on the Highway." Dorsey and his brother Howard deliver this uptempo song of faith in a powerful call-and-response style. "I'm S-A-V-E-D" by another unknown band, the Georgia Yellow Hammers, is a wry look at people who only live the word on Sunday, and spells out various words in the lyric, making you wonder how serious they were about their message of salvation. Elder G.P. Harris only made four recordings, two of them at his own expense, including the tune included here, "My Christian Friends in Bonds of Love." Harris supports his vocal with minimal fiddling, and while his wailing fervor is undeniable, it's hard to decipher individual words.

Product Details

Release Date:
Tompkins Square


Disc 1

  1. John Henry the Steel Drivin' Man
  2. Poor Man, Rich Man (Cotton Mill Colic #2)
  3. I've Got the Chain Store Blues
  4. The Farmer is the Man Who Feeds Them All
  5. The Farmer's Dream
  6. When the Roses Bloom Again For the Bootlegger
  7. Jerry, Go Ile That Car
  8. Flat Wheel Train Blues, Pt. 1
  9. Flat Wheel Train Blues, Pt. 2
  10. Driving Saw Logs On the Plover
  11. All Bound Down In Texas
  12. Poor Boy Long Ways From Home
  13. Diamond Joe

Disc 2

  1. Work Don't Bother Me
  2. Soldier's Joy
  3. Fourth of July At the Country Fair
  4. McDonald's Farm
  5. Barnyard Frolic
  6. Home Brew Rag
  7. Corn-Shucking Party In Georgia
  8. The Beer Party
  9. Charleston Rag
  10. Tennessee Coon Hunt
  11. Too Tight Rag
  12. Cheat 'Em
  13. Hide Away
  14. The Preacher Got Drunk and Laid Down His Bible

Disc 3

  1. You've Got To Stop Drinking Shine
  2. Climbing the Golden Stairs
  3. Oh Declare His Glory
  4. Easter Day
  5. I'm S-A-V-E-D
  6. Way To Glory Land
  7. You Must Be a Lover of the Lord
  8. The Gambler's Dying Words
  9. I'm On My Way
  10. Leave It There
  11. Where We'll Never Grow Old
  12. If the Light Has Gone Out of Your Soul
  13. When the Moon Drips Away Into the Blood
  14. Beyond the Starry Plane
  15. My Christian Friends In Bonds of Love

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Fields Ward   Guitar,Vocals
Asa Martin   Guitar,Vocals
Riley Puckett   Guitar
Ernest V. Stoneman   Harmonica,Vocals
Tom Darby   Guitar,Vocals
David Nicholson   Banjo
Jimmie Tarlton   Steel Guitar,Vocals
Austin Allen   Vocals,Tenor Banjo
Roland Johnson   Fiddle
Fate Norris   Banjo,Vocals
Howard Dixon   Steel Guitar,Vocals
Uncle Eck Dunford   Fiddle,Vocals
Bert Layne   Fiddle
Steve Ledford   Fiddle,Vocals
Lowe Stokes   Fiddle
Ben Evans   Guitar
Bill Power   Banjo
Bud Landress   Banjo,Fiddle,Vocals
Bill Henson   Guitar,Vocal Harmony
Ernest Phipps   Vocals
Fiddlin' Bill Sievers   Fiddle
Willie Sievers   Guitar
Lee Allen   Guitar,Kazoo
Melvin Bethel   Mandolin
Bill Brown   Guitar
James Brown   Fiddle
Walter Cobb   Tenor Banjo
Virgil Garrett   Fiddle
Roy Hobbs   Mandolin,Vocals
Ancil McVay   Mandolin
C. Ernest Moody   Vocals,Banjo-ukelele
L.K. Sentell   Vocals
Leon Cofer   Banjo,Vocals
Paul Cofer   Fiddle,Vocals
Melvin Dupree   Guitar,Vocals
Nora Byrley   Vocals
Minnie Phipps   Vocals
Audie Rodgers   Guitar
Wellman   Guitar,Vocals
Dorsey Dixon   Guitar,Vocals
Oscar Ford   Fiddle,Vocals
Eula Johnson   Banjo
Gene Garrett   String Bass
Andy Patterson   Vocals
Earl McCoy   Steel Guitar,Vocals
Jess Ballew   Guitar,Baritone (Vocal)
Jeff Chastain   Vocals
James H. Dodgen   Vocals
Ione Grigg   Guitar
George Rainey   Fiddle,Vocals
Emma Corley   Vocals
Dewey Grace   Guitar
Clyde Evans   Guitar,Vocals
Clavie Taylor   Vocals
Bill Gatins   Jug
Avery G. Baker   Vocals
Ausie B. Grigg   Bass
Alvin McDonald   Vocals
Albert Rainey   Guitar,Vocals
Willie Rainey   Banjo,Vocals
Walter Kite   Guitar
Robert Crowder Grigg   Fiddle,Vocals
Ralph McDonald   Baritone (Vocal)
Phil Reeve   Guitar,Vocals
Oscar Grogan   Vocals
Mary Pace Kimbrough Dodgen   Vocals
Mack Sievers   Banjo,Vocals
Lorna Doone Corley   Vocals
Lorene Grigg   Mandolin
Lee Campbell   Harmonica,Tenor (Vocal)
Katherine Corley   Vocals

Technical Credits

John Sullivan   Liner Notes
Christopher [1] C. King   Images
Susan Archie   Art Direction
Nathan Salsburg   Producer,Liner Notes,Annotation
Sarah Bryan   Images
Don Wahle   Images

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