James Campbell & his Nashville Street Band (Arhoolie
They - really! - dont make em like this, anymore...
Now, loose as a goose has always been a particular
favourite of mine (amongst rural metaphors) but, before
I heard this particular combo, Id yet to - genuinely
- understand the exact nature of that damn goose we was
all referring to...
[because, and - make no mistake - this is one seriously
You want string band/you want jass band/you want whateverthehell
suits - but, loose? Then, my friends, theres really
only one band for you...and that, my friends, was run
by the great Blind James Campbell. Composed of what were
(clearly) a bunch of old reprobates - the oldest of which
admitted to nearly eighty years of age - their repertoire
unabashedly mixed ancient folksongs & ancient popsongs...not
to mention blues, hillbilly, jazz, proto-R&B &
spirituals in the way that all such old-time bands did...stylistic
purity being (thankfully) unknown...
And, even more importantly, they brought a genuinely-raucous
spirit to their work, which is all-too-evidently
missing from their younger, and much, much better-behaved
heirs. Just have a quick listen to Have I Stayed
Away Too Long - the first (yet, hardly the best)
cut on this stupendous collection. Hear that fiddle, that
sounds like the beast was still attached to the strings...or
the opening salvo from Blind James hisself - a sly groan
that announces, better than any words, the sheer indominable
spirit that will characterize this joyous set - and, you
will (truly) understand exactly why this is one of my
all-time favourite albums...
To be sure, earlier bands - particularly Southern jugbands
- also epitomize this spirit...but, unfortunately, most
listeners have difficulty dealing w/the old sound of scratchy
78s...making them a difficult pick fer party music. In
contrast, this set was recorded in 1962/3 by the great
Chris Strachwitz... and, so, the rollicking (and, of course)
rolling is flagrantly evident to all...
Look, every time I play this beast to outsiders
- those whove never heard the truly-unbuttoned vernacular
musics of the old South - they (invariably) love this
stuff...bum notes, raw timbres & all... Because, when
alls said & done, this speaks to the veritable
roots of the music of today - and, in a way that is purely
inclusive and joyous... Make no mistake, no matter what
youve heard before, this is, by far, the best way
into to the roots of what has made American music great.
And, youd be a fool to miss it...
John Henry Calvinist