BABY HOW CAN IT BE? SONGS OF LOVE, LUST AND CONTEMPT FROM THE 1920s AND 1930s (3CD)
Dust To Digital (DTD16 (3CD Set))
Bo Carter, Mississippi Maulers, Norridge Mayhams & His Barbecue Boys, Dock Walsh, Joe Falcon, Davey Miller, Oscar Ford, Taylor's Kentucky Boys, Dick Reinhardt, Eddie South, Kid Smith & Family, George Shortbuckle Roark, Eddie Peabody, Frank Quinn, Burnett & Rutherford, Fess Williams, Frank Stokes, Asa Martin, Robert Hill, State Street Boys, Doc Cook & His Fourteen Doctors Of Syncopation, Broadway Bell-Hops, Lowe Stokes & His North Georgians, Mississippi Matilda, Crowder Brothers, Chippie Hill, Alphonse Trent and His Orchestra, Hartman's Heart Breakers, Harry Roy & His Bat Club Boys and many more.
There are some record labels that are loved and trusted by collectors because they always deliver the most exciting material with scrupulous attention to detail and quality. I'm talking about labels like Yazoo, Folkways, County, Revenant and Arhoolie, which all aim to deliver the musical past of America in the best possible way and when you look at the back-catalogue of Dust To Digital, there's no doubt that they belong with these labels.
Over the past few years, they have issued a dozen stunning award winning releases ranging from the blockbuster gospel box set Goodbye Babylon and the stunningly rare sacred harp recordings I Belong To This Band to the history of the double bass in early jazz How Low Can You Go. Then there's my favourite: Fonotone Records - the 130 track bumper-bundle of mountain music recorded by legendary record collector Joe Bussard for his own label in the 1960s. Every release is the kind of gem that gets collectors drooling for more.
Baby How Can It Be explores the things that go on between ladies and gentlemen in 66 diverse tracks with rural blues and mountain songs jostling alongside urban jazz pieces, hokey Hawaiian items, big band boogie woogie, jugband music, some madcap Irish tiddledelumptydum and groovy quartet harmonies.
In the ‘Love' department, banjo plunker Eddie Peabody's Tiptoe Thru The Tulips sets the scene perfectly for Lonnie Coleman's pecking piece of hokum Wild About My Loving before Burnett and Rutherford slide in with an easy slice of mountain fiddle More Pretty Girls Than One. Bo Carter rolls in with a beautiful Baby How Can It Be? crooning out the charmingly coy lyrics as the delicate guitar lines and floating fiddle notes encircle each other. The Mississippi Maulers (featuring Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti) positively jump and shout about the wonderful vision that is My Angeline and Charlie Burse of the Memphis Jug Band has found the love of his life but she's given him the Insane Crazy Blues - a tune positively throbbing with guitars, fiddles, washboards, kazoos, a washtub bass and Charlie's delirious scat singing. Things have gone sadly wrong for poor Lottie Kimbrough though on her Lost Lover Blues. The birds are singing, Winston Holmes is yodelling melodically and plucking golden guitar notes but Lottie is at a low ebb just like Henry Thomas who is suffering just as much with his soulful guitar picking and dusty world weary vocals on the superb Don't You Leave Me Here.
The ‘Lusty' items are fairly straight forward slices of horniness like Ukelele Ike's advice If You Can't Land ‘Er On The Old Veranda, Fess Williams rampant orchestra blast I'm Feeling Devilish and Clyde Evans half-cocked fumble-fest How I Got My Gal. There's the odd double entendre number like Frankie Half Pint Jaxon's sleazy It's Heated, Harry Roy's hilarious (My Girl's) Pussy and Hartman's Heart Breakers Let Me Play With It where the singer Betty Lou comes across as a teenage siren straight from the farmyard revelling in her wide-eyed lustiness as she wades into a set of lyrics that leave no doubt about their meaning - yoyo or not...
The ‘Contemptuous' aspect of the set deals with what happens when relationships fall apart so you have Laura Smith on one side of the mountain deciding I'm Gonna Kill Myself and over in the valley Hazel Scherf admits defeat in Married Girl Blues because that drunk she married ain't never coming home. Asa Martin just about gives up trying to understand women on She Ain't Built That Way, Robert Hill turns peevish on the harmonica workout You Gonna Look Like A Monkey When You Get Old and Fiddlin' John Carson thinks It's A Shame To Whip Your Woman On A Sunday (when you got Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc).
My favourite music writer Nick Tosches says in his sardonic sleeve notes that these recordings are "alive with more cooing, kissing, cupidity, cussing and killing than lifetimes of longing, heavenly and demonic, could ever aspire to. Here too is wisdom of the highest order. Hear and heed well Robert Hill's You Gonna Look Like A Monkey When You Get Old. It is with this kind guidance that I leave you - to this music, to your tears, your laughter, your dreams, and your gun".
Baby How Can It Be is yet another wonderful release, packed to the gills with terrific tunes from the golden era of American Roots Music and if it doesn't figure in the next Grammy awards - I'll eat my hat.
Review Date: January 2011