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HARRY SMITH'S ANTHOLOGY OF AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC VOLUME FOUR (2CD)

Revenant (RVNCD211)

Memphis Jug Band, Bradley Kincaid, Carter Family, Blue Sky Boys, Bukka White, Uncle Dave Macon, Roosevelt Graves, Minnie Wallace, Hackberry Ramblers and more...

This far removed in time, it is becoming difficult to fully appreciate the seismic impact that Harry Smith's original anthologies had on the folk music revival of around 60 years ago when they first appeared. Not only did they present anew many otherwise believed lost artists and recordings, they also inspired a whole new generation to preserve, treasure and advance American folk music in all its manifestations, incorporating old-time country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, gospel and so much more.

For the CD generation, the music presented in these anthologies has been captured and re-presented by Smithsonian Folkways in a sumptuous and deluxe 6CD box set (SFWCD40090). It wasn't until 2000 that another selection of Harry Smith's archive collection of material was finally issued across two CDs featuring  28 more tracks. This also came with a 96 page soft-cover book incorporating essays on Harry Smith by Ed Sanders and John Cohen and other essays on the music featured from Dick Spottswood, John Fahey and Greil Marcus plus super rare photos and a song by song discography.

Well, the good news is that this subsequent release (entitled Volume 4 as Volume 1 - 3 formed the basis of the Smithsonian Folkways box set) is now in stock and, remarkably, at a knock-down price  - these used to retail at between £30 - £40 when more widely available a few years back!. The not so good news is that the stock we do now have is part of a final re-press of this title that, once sold, will be deleted. How long these will be available before being sold out is a bit of an unknown, all we can advise is that if you want a copy, get your order in pronto!

The music is of course incredible, and being Revenant, sounding fresher than ever. There is a satisfying mix of familiar names and titles alongside plenty of obscure and otherwise hard to find stuff, all from the 1920s and 1930s. Its always good to hear Robert Johnson, Memphis Jug band and Memphis Minnie again of course but I am just loving some of the titles that I barely know of - including the Heavenly Gospel Singers Mean Old World (that some 20 or so years later had   morphed into a Chicago blues standard), Stand By Me by Sister Clara Hudmon and West Virginia Gals by Al Hopkins And His Buckle Busters.

Let's be fair though, the whole package is sheer class. If you don't already have this, you shouldn't need any persuading to get it now. If you don't, you can't blame me if you regret it after it has sold out.

Review Date: Febraury 2014

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