Roots and Branches

Roots and Branches

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Roots and Branches 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
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This is a fascinating survey of nearly six decades of Capitol¿s roots recordings (including holdings from labels like Imperial and World Pacific), ranging from original mid-40s sides by Leadbelly, Merle Travis, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee and the Soul Stirrers, through 1960s folk-revival tracks from The Blue Sky Boys, Mac Wiseman, and The Kentucky Colonels, ¿70s roots-revival recordings from The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a mid-80s blues recitation from Chris Smither, and numerous fascinating stops in between. ¶ Though several of the tracks represent only an artist¿s brief association with Capitol (e.g., Pete Seeger¿s take of "Freight Train" is drawn from his one and only Capitol album), the producers have put together a really solid album -- matching well known tracks (e.g., The Louvin Brothers¿ signature hit, "I Don¿t Believe You¿ve Met My Baby") with marvelous obscurities (e.g., Rose Maddox, backed by Reno & Smiley, singing Bill Monroe¿s "The Old Crossroads is Waitin¿" from her out-of-print 1962 LP, "Rose Maddox Sings Bluegrass"). ¶ By combining original source material from the 40s and 50s with revival-inspired recordings from the 60s, 70s, and 80s the collection shows how roots music often reinvests in itself. Many of the later recordings find earlier artists gaining a reprise of attention. E.g., The Blue Sky Boys, a major influence on the Louvin Brothers in the late-30s, are heard here in a fine 1965 recording of the blues song "Corina, Corina." Similarly, Son House¿s 1970 live take of his own "John the Revelator," shows how completely he could still mesmerize an audience in acapella performance near the end of his performing career. ¶ The folk revivals spun off numerous new talents, as well, including the pre-Byrds work of Clarence White¿s Kentucky Colonels, whose version of "Listen to the Mockingbird" sounds incredibly contemporary, given the thirty-nine years since its initial appearance on their "Appalachian Swing!" album. Chris Smithers pays tribute to Mississippi John Hurt with a medley of "My Creole Belle" and "Payday," capturing Hurt¿s gentle fingerpicking style in a more contemporary context. ¶ Classic material includes Jim & Jesse¿s self-penned "Are You Lost in Sin," from their very first Capitol session in 1952, a pre-Sam Cooke version of The Soul Stirrers laying down the template for four-part acapella gospel on "Well, Well, Well," and Merle Travis¿ mid-40s radio transcription of "Little David Play on Your Harp" showing off his unmistakable guitar playing. Doc Watson¿s brilliant flatpicking is showcased on the Carter Family¿s theme song, "Keep on the Sunny Side," and a 1954 Roy Acuff recording of "Wabash Cannonball" brings his legendary staging to the studio with a train whistle. ¶ Rather than picking a narrow theme or single genre, the producers have collected a variety of roots music, grown from common soil, but revealing unique flowers. It¿s a superbly listenable volume of mountain country, folk blues, acapella gospel, spiritual blues, and revivalist folk. Colin Escott¿s notes provide a brief introduction to each song, which, unfortunately, are not accompanied by complete discographical information. This is a fine invitation to Capitol¿s catalog, but a more detailed map would have helped listeners expand upon what¿s here.