Two White Horses in a Line - Joe Evans/Arthur McClain/Evans & McClain
Jamestown Exhibition - Bayless Rose
Dupree Blues - Willie Walker
France Blues - Papa Harvey Hull
Dying Mother and Her Child - Reverend J.M. Gates
John Hardy - Buell Kazee
Wayward Girl Blues - Lottie Kimbrough
Newport Blues - Cincinnati Jug Band
Tom Sherman's Barroom - Dick Devall
Stack O' Lee Blues - Mississippi John Hurt
Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues - Blind Teddy Darby
I'll Go With Her Blues - Robert Wilkins
Christian Soldier - The Denson Quartet
BEFORE THE BLUES: THE EARLY AMERICAN BLACK MUSIC SCENE, VOLUME 1 chronicles the evolution of blues from early religious music to its more modern form during the 1920s and 1930s.
Compilation producers: Richard Nevins, Don Kent.
Includes liner notes by Don Kent and Richard Nevins.
Personnel: Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Wilkins (vocals, guitar); Walter Beasley (vocals, bottleneck guitar); Reverend Rubin Lacy, Sam Brooks, Lottie Kimbrough, Sam Collins (vocals); Andrew Baxter (guitar, fiddle); Henry Thomas , Little Hat Jones, Papa Harvey Hull, Sylvester Weaver, Walter Coleman, Willie Walker, Bayless Rose, Blind Teddy Darby (guitar); B.F. Shelton, Marion Underwood, Buell Kazee (banjo); Charlie McCoy (mandolin); James Booker (fiddle).
Audio Remasterer: Richard Nevins.
Liner Note Authors: Don Kent; Richard Nevins.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Cincinnati Jug Band; The Denson Quartet; Dick Devall; Joe Evans; Mississippi Mud Steppers; Arthur McClain; Taylor's Kentucky Boys; Weaver & Beasley; Bo Carter.
Although the blues is the most renowned form of early 20th century African-American music (other than jazz), it didn't dominate rural Black music to the extent that many listeners often assume. Black and White folk musics mingled extensively before the advent of recorded technology, and Black musicians often performed gospel, religious hymns, folk ballads, and fiddle tunes as well as what we now recognize as the blues. This compilation does a good job of illustrating the diverse ancestry of African-American music with 23 rare sides from the 1920s and 1930s, when records and mass media had yet to fully introduce elements that would standardize musical genres and approaches to some degree. Some of these performers would indeed become classified as blues artists (Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Wilkins, Henry Thomas). But most of these tracks are not explicitly rooted in blues forms, examples being B.F. Shelton's banjo ballad interpretation of "Pretty Polly," Taylor's Kentucky Boys' fiddle breakdown version of "Forked Deer," or the Seventh Day Adventist Choir's "On Jordan's Stormy Banks We Stand." Remastered from old 78s, this may be of more educational than entertainment value to most modern listeners, but it's well done, with extensive liner notes explaining the various forms of Black music preserved on the disc. ~ Richie Unterberger
Spin (6/96, p.117) - "...an eerie blend of Appalchian balladry, fiddle breakdowns, ragtime beats, and revival moans. When roots is what you crave, dig deep."
Mojo (Publisher) (6/96, p.124) - "...almost 70 tracks of songs and music from the era when the emerging blues had not yet obliterated the rags, reels and ballads that preceded it... moving and illuminating music....The sound engineering is terrific..."
New York Times (Publisher) (4/14/96, Sec.2, p.30) - "...BEFORE THE BLUES offers a tour of folk ballads, ragtime melodies, church hymns and breakdown dances that is as listenable as it is enlightening..."