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MY BONNIE LIES OVER THE OCEAN - BRITISH SONGS IN THE USA (3CD)

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Nehi (NEH3X1)

Uncle Dave Macon, Riley Puckett, Charlie Poole, Grayson & Whitter, Ernest V Stoneman, Frank Hutchison, Carolina Tar Heels, Coon Creek Girls, Bradley Kincaid, Carter Family, Leadbelly, Buell Kazee, Cliff Carlisle, Asa Martin, Wade Mainer, Big Bill Broonzy, Gid Tanner and many more…

Featuring tracks by some of the biggest names in old– timey, blues, cajun, bluegrass, gospel, and country music of the 1920s and 1930s, you could be forgiven for thinking that this collection is the quintessential sound of America of the period, No doubt this would be true to a certain extent but, aside from opening up a whole plethora of amazing music, this set also reminds us that the various cultural developments of America (and, as like as not, anywhere else for that matter) substantially arose out of the various immigrant communities that helped shape the country.

In particular, the concept of this set is to present selected recordings of relatively well-known American artists in accordance with the extent to which the songs themselves can be traced back to their roots in the UK (and Ireland). Indeed, such is the commitment of this project that there is a track-by-track breakdown of the linkage of each of the 75 tracks included here within a mightily impressive 36 page booklet that accompanies the CDs. Written by renowned folk music scholar, Steve Roud, this is a significant and endlessly rewarding enhancement to the music itself.

Not that there is anything about this collection that makes it a dry and dusty academic exercise. You don’t need to  understand or terribly care about the roots of the songs to enjoy this set. Taken on its own merits as simply a collection of wonderful music, this still pays off handsomely. The quality, variety and sound of these recordings is staggeringly high and there are sufficient rarities and lesser-known artists included to provide great value to even the most well-travelled enthusiast in these musical areas.

For my part, new favourites include Kelly Harrell’s Oh Molly Dear Go Ask Your Mother, a gorgeous vocal supported by a simple but evocative violin. And I find the acapella version of Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes by the Morris Brown Quartet to be deeply affecting each and every time I hear it. But, if it is a smile you want to raise rather than a tear, Blind Blake’s ragged but charming Champagne Charlie Is My Name is always well worth another listen.

Indeed, of the 75 tracks on offer, I am finding that only Gid Tanner’s version of Old McDonald Had A Farm is being given the ‘bum’s rush’ here by recourse to the skip button. But, hey, that still means that I have found plenty to enjoy in 74 of the 75 tracks included. And what other collection can you say that about?

A truly sparkling collection of vintage American roots music - whether or not you want to know of and appreciate the original source of the songs that have delivered it.

 

 

 

Review Date: June 2015

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