Country Music Pioneer

Country Music Pioneer

by Riley Puckett


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Country Music Pioneer

In 2011, the JSP label released Country Music Pioneer, a four-CD box set dedicated to singer and guitarist Riley Puckett. It is by far the most expansive collection ever devoted to this artist, who is usually heard and remembered as a solid member of Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers. During the years 1924-1941, Puckett made it onto more than 300 recordings, and 100 of these have been haphazardly poured into Country Music Pioneer like wet cement into a tin bucket. Unusually for this label, the selections are not arranged chronologically, so that a handful of very early tracks (including "Cumberland Gap" and "Sourwood Mountain," which date back to the spring of 1924) were tossed into the middle of the fourth disc. Given the nature of the material, a sensible chronological presentation probably would have worked better. The focus is largely upon Puckett's considerable talent as a vocalist. A lot of the time he chose to sing slow or medium tempo pop tunes and waltzes, which in this collection generally outnumber the upbeat selections. Sentimentality was an important element in Puckett's preferred way of doing things, and it was an essential component in early 20th century popular music. Those with insufficient patience may miss the point entirely and grow restless, even though to be sure, plenty of lively and entertaining "toe-tapper" cuts are scattered throughout the mix. In addition to Puckett's excellent guitar work you'll want to listen for accordion, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and whistling, which was one of Puckett's specialties. Let's sort out some of the highlights. "The Darkey's Wail" and "Fuzzy Rag" are guitar solos. It's a crying shame that nobody convinced Puckett to record a couple of dozen sides by himself in this way, because he was a superb guitarist, so really these are among the most valuable recordings in the entire collection. "Kimball House" and "Hop High Ladies" are instrumental duets with mandolin master Ted Hawkins, who is audible on several other tasty tracks. If you had to pick out a limited number of choice cuts, you'd also want to be sure and select "How Come You Do Me Like You Do?" "Riley's Hen House Door," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "Old Joe Clark," and "I Want to Wander in the Cumberland Mountains." Attractive passages of carefree whistling occur in "Little Brown Jug" and the catchy "On the Other Side of Jordan," which like many an old-time recording made in the Deep South, contains a casually uttered racial epithet. "Curly Headed Baby" was almost certainly the inspiration for Doc Watson's pleasant modern version which may be found on Watson's album Memories, which was released in 1975. Puckett's influence on Watson has yet to be properly acknowledged. When working separately from the Skillet Lickers, Puckett was primarily a ballad singer who handled blues and pop tunes with ease. Examples of his approach to Tin Pan Alley pop include "Whistle Your Blues Away," "Get Out and Get Under the Moon," and "What's the Reason (I'm Not Pleasin' You)," which is essentially a Fats Waller cover. Although Gid Tanner is mentioned on the album cover, he and members of the Skillet Lickers only pop up here and there on this collection. Tanner's fiddling is most audible on disc four, and his easily identifiable falsetto singing erupts during "Buckin' Mule." The other fiddler heard in this set is cardinal Skillet Licker Clayton McMichen. Despite a comparatively calm and collected exterior, Puckett periodically sang songs with lyrics that seem entirely appropriate for a man who hung out with hard drinking hillbillies like Tanner and the Lickers. If "Bill Johnson" (with its boastful line "I'm the bully of the town") hints at this persona, "Ragged But Right" is all about gambling and habitual drunkenness, while "Nobody's Business" is laced with cheerful yet nonchalantly delivered references to morphine-and-cocaine-induced insanity, wife killing, and child slaying.

Product Details

Release Date: 02/22/2011
Label: Jsp Records
UPC: 0788065713829
catalogNumber: 77138
Rank: 131846


Disc 1

  1. Paddy Won't You Drink Some Cider
  2. Riley's Hen House Door
  3. New 'Givin' Everything Away'
  4. Santa Fe Folks Fiesta
  5. Long Tongue Women
  6. I'll Never Get Drunk Anymore
  7. The Drunkard's Dream
  8. In A Little Gypsy Tea Room
  9. Ragged But Right
  10. Can't Put That Monkey On My Back
  11. Down In Arkansas
  12. There's More Pretty Girls Than One, Pt. 1
  13. There's More Pretty Girls Than One, Pt. 2
  14. George Collins
  15. Cindy
  16. Moonlight, Shadows And You
  17. Wednesday Night Waltz
  18. Dark Town Strutters Ball
  19. When I'm Back In Tennessee
  20. Boots And Saddle
  21. Curly Headed Baby
  22. Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again
  23. Waitin' For The Evening Mail
  24. It's A Sin To Tell A Lie
  25. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

Disc 2

  1. How Come You Do Me Like You Do?
  2. Frankie And Johnny
  3. Won't You Come Over To My House
  4. Little Brown Jug
  5. When You're Gone I Won't Forget
  6. When I'm Gone You'll Soon Forget
  7. Bill Johnson
  8. Bury Me 'Neath The Willow Tree
  9. Back To My Home In Smokey Mountain
  10. Let My Peaches Be
  11. My Old Mule
  12. You'd Be Surprised
  13. Short Life Of Trouble
  14. Nine Hundred Miles From Home
  15. Though You're Not Satisfied With Me
  16. I'm Going To Georgia
  17. Burglar Man
  18. Just As The Sun Went Down
  19. Let Me Call You Sweetheart
  20. Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
  21. Careless Love
  22. Ole Faithful
  23. I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again
  24. Red River Valley
  25. My Carolina Home

Disc 3

  1. Puckett Blues
  2. Gulf Coast Blues
  3. South Of The Border
  4. Red Sails In The Sunset
  5. When I Grow Too Old To Dream
  6. The Darkey's Wail
  7. Fuzzy Rag
  8. Where The Sky Little Violets Grow
  9. I Want To Wander In The Cumberland Mountains
  10. Get Out And Get Under The Moon
  11. The Blind Child's Prayer, Pt. 1
  12. The Blind Child's Prayer, Pt. 2
  13. Moonlight On The Colorado
  14. Playmates
  15. Story Of The Preacher And The Bear
  16. When I'm Gone You'll Soon Forget Me
  17. I Told Them All About You
  18. Just Break The News To Mother
  19. Ramblin' Boy
  20. Bring Back My Blue Eyed Boy
  21. Jack And Joe
  22. You'll Never Miss Your Mother 'Till She's Gone
  23. Silver Threads Among The Gold
  24. Down By The Old Mill Stream
  25. Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane

Disc 4

  1. Kimball House
  2. Hop High Ladies
  3. Old Molly Hare
  4. Giddap Napoleon
  5. Buckin' Mule
  6. When I Had But Fifty Cents
  7. Jesse James
  8. Old Joe Clark
  9. The Old Spinning Wheel
  10. When I Grow Too Old To Dream
  11. On The Other Side Of Jordan
  12. The Cat Came Back
  13. My Buddy
  14. I'm Drifting Back To Dreamland
  15. What's The Reason (I'm Not Pleasin' You)
  16. Somewhere In Old Wyoming
  17. Cumberland Gap
  18. Sourwood Mountain
  19. I'm Gettin Ready To Go
  20. Whistle And Blow Your Blues Away
  21. Renfro Valley Home
  22. K.C. Railroad (Going Down The Road Feeling Bad)
  23. Margie
  24. Nobody's Business
  25. Railroad Boomer

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