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Dust-To-Digital (DTD-36)

Ashley’s Melody Men, Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers, Fiddling Bob Larkin, George Edgin’s Corn Dodgers, Dr Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers, Arkansas Barefoot Boys, Wonder State Harmonists, A.E. Ward & His Plow Boys and more…

Every new release by Dust-To-Digital is a noteworthy event and this is no exception, a 26 track celebration of a golden age for old-time music between the late-1920s-early 1930s. During this time, according to Tony Russell, renowned country music scholar and author of the excellent notes in the 32 page booklet, the music was being transformed from a hillbilly music craze to song based country music that dominated by the late 1930s.

This transformation is held to be reflective of wider galvanic change occurring in much of American society at this time, as suggested in a stunning new book of photos that this CD serves as a soundtrack album to; “Making Pictures: Three for a Dime” by Maxine Payne. This book presents a cache of photographs taken by the Massengil family in their mobile photo-booth trailer throughout rural Arkansas in the 1930s and 1940s.

While the book will undoubtedly offer a fascinating slice of life at the time, its interest to Red Lickers is liable to be a little peripheral. Not so the CD of course, which is ‘meat and drink’ to those of us who can’t get enough of the magical music from this period. And, as always with Dust-To-Digital, we get the double whammy of fantastic rare songs and artists plus a hard to beat sound quality.

The artists included here concentrate on the area of northern Arkansas that thronged at the time with a vigorous collection of string bands. Labels such as Okeh, Vocalion, Victor and Columbia were all operational locally, signing up bands and organising recording sessions in nearby studios, at least until the effects of the Depression left making and selling records, for a time at least, a less than commercially viable proposition.

Some of the best sounds on this CD come from bands that have given us its title. The fantastically-named Dr Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers provide Just Give Me The Leavings, a charming song of homespun philosophising driven forward by a lovely banjo and fiddle combination. George Edgin’s Corn Dodgers present us with the three little gems, the best of which is probably The Arkansas Hotel, featuring unusual but excellent lyrics.

Elsewhere, the variety and quality is staggering. The Wonder State Harmonists offer up a fabulous version of Turnip Greens (better known to me by Bo Carter) and a highly entertaining and unusual My Castle On The Nile. The Morrison Twin Brothers String Band’s Ozark Waltz oozes significant charm and Bonnie Dodd & Murray Lucas’s rather splendid Ozark Mountain Rose has a distinct and very enjoyable Hawaiian influence.

Suffice to say, it is all rather splendid and Dust-To-Digital are again to be congratulated for releasing another collection that will undoubtedly become recognised as a classic,


Review Date: October 2014

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