His Folkways Years (1963-1968)
After Boggs, the Appalachian singer/banjoist who had released a dozen sides in the late '20s, was rediscovered by Mike Seeger in 1963, he did some recording for Folkways Records. This double-CD, 50-song set contains the material from three Boggs LPs for Folkways: Legendary Singer & Banjo Player (1963), Vol. 2 (1965), and Vol. 3 (1970). The unearthly qualities of his '20s recordings that caused critics such as Greil Marcus to get wet were not in such exotic force on these later efforts; Boggs had only recently started playing music again after a gap of about 30 years. He's in fairly good form on this extensive compilation, dominated by old folk and blues tunes (some traditional, some learned from mundane sources such as commercial records and a Banker's Life Insurance ad). His singing and banjo playing are the definition of "stark," an overused adjective when applied to traditional Appalachian music. He's much easier to take than even starker proponents such as Roscoe Holcomb, however, with vocals that are effectively plaintive and rough-hewn without sounding unduly pinched, although they sometimes crack and strain. His best tunes are the ones with a spooky undercurrent, like "Danville Girl," which shares the same melody as the famous standard "St. James Infirmary," and "Oh Death." The reissue has excellent, lengthy historical liner notes from Barry O'Connell and fascinating recollections of Boggs' rediscovery by Mike Seeger.