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Rural String Bands of Virginia (County CD-3502)


When it comes to Southern musics from the USA, well...Virginia comes first. And, that doesn’t mean “primitive”...it means primate: first amongst equals though that actually may be. Because, there’s something about almost every southern stringband style I love here. But, as well, there’s 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, that’s one of the most unique piano-driven band sounds you’ll 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 I’m 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