String Bands of Virginia (County CD-3502)
When it comes to Southern musics from the USA, well...Virginia
comes first. And, that doesnt mean primitive...it
means primate: first amongst equals though that actually
may be. Because, theres something about almost every
southern stringband style I love here. But, as well, theres
a strong taste of what came first...a ringing thing more
oral by far than anything we sing today....
Rowdy & droning - harsh at the reaches, yet sweet
at the core - this music rocks and rolls as much as it
slips & slides...and, yet, also drops now & then,
again, into the psychotic dogtrot of (aesthetic) mortification.
This is a music of micro-regions...an artistically lasting,
yet all-too-brief sampling of the newly native variety,
before records/radio ironed-out the differences...
And yet, who could want for more? Because the range herein
is sheerly staggering... This could as well be a primer
for the South as a whole - even if, to experienced ears
- it undoubtedly betrays its Virginia origins with ease.
Because the Virginia root - itself divided exorbitantly
well before it strayed abroad - was already rich beyond
compare...and subsequent re-grafts have merely added further
to the strain.
"Train on the Island" - in all its weirdly
modal droning intensity - is a stunning opener, followed
(soon) by the strange...and, dispassionately-removed,
debauchery of "Sugar Hill". And, the Salem Highballers
"Going on to Town" is - in itself - a poisedly
swinging miracle (inturned like a moebius strip)...so
that, now, for this one, at the very least - you truly
need to hear this collection. But that, of course, is
to slight those yet to be mentioned by name... What about
the completely awesome "Suzanna Gal"?
Because, thats one of the most unique piano-driven
band sounds youll ever hear. Like unto a bass banjo,
it is and, an insanely rocking thing at serious volume...gonging
beneath the twang as if the very world depended on it.
However, for all its rowdy roll, this one undoubtedly
stems from nineteenth century parlour music, in essence...thus
confirming that parlours were not always so polite as
their reputation suggests. Anyway...just mark this one
up as (yet) another brilliant band model so far never
followed up on...to join, say, Sleepy John Estes' first
sessions, Da Costa Woltz, and a bunch of others Im
well-tired of listing by now...
Because the 1920s were the rootstock of all that we now
cherish...in all of their infinitely variegated branchings
& cross-bred offshoots. Since no other period delivered
such variety - especially in purportedly white
musics - and, particularly, perhaps, in Virginia...the
veritable home of musical miscegination, USA style.
So, sample - and marvel...
John Henry Calvinist