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ERNEST V STONEMAN

THE UNSUNG FATHER OF COUNTRY MUSIC 1925-1934 (2 CD SET)

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5 STRING (5SPH001 )

Ernest V Stoneman introduced himself to record man Ralph Peer in 1924 and recorded a bunch of old-time tunes on the autoharp and harmonica-on-a-rack including "The Titanic" which eventually sold well into six figures. He went on to record for a slew of labels and eventually became Peer's right hand man scouting out musicians for the famous Bristol sessions.

Right up to the 1940s, Stoneman continued to delight record buyers, radio listeners and concert goers with his irresistible brand of music. In 1952 Harry Smith paid homage when he included a couple of Stoneman tracks on his famous Anthology Of American Folk Music LPs and during the 1950s Ernest recorded several important country albums with his family before settling down to relative retirement in the 1960s. In May 2008, Ernest was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

On this very welcome release, forty beautifully remastered tracks cover the whole of his long career from his solo 1925 hit "The Titanic" and classic old time fiddle tunes like "Flop Eared Mule" to string band diamonds in the rough like "The Spanish Merchant's Daughter" and the last of his 1930s recordings "Nine Pound Hammer" which is a guitar and banjo workout with his son Eddie.

Compilers Chris King and Hank Sapoznik have picked the cream of the songs performed by Ernest's various outfits: the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers, The Dixie Mountaineers, the Stoneman Family, the Ernest V Stoneman Trio, Frank Jenkins' Pilot Mountaineers, Sweet Brothers and the duets with his sister-in-law Irma Frost. The songs run from the raucously swinging "West Virgina Highway" and the satirical folk hymn "The Religious Critic" to the pure mountain rhythm of "Old Joe Clark" and the goofy backwoods skit "Mountaineer's Courtship".

Unlike many old-timers Ernest Stoneman never ventured into blues music. He played pure white mountain music filling his repertoire with songs about highway wrecks, nine pound hammers, orphan girls, ramblin' reckless hobos, old time corn shuckin', Buffalo Bill, John Hardy, Old Joe Clark, Talmadge Osborne, the New River Train, the Possum Trot School Exhibition and high jinks up on Sourwood Mountain.

It's all waiting for you on this two CD set beautifully presented in a thick card case wrapped around a 50 page booklet full of informative (and Grammy nominated) sleeve notes, full track details, dates, line-ups, an introduction by daughter Patsy Stoneman and a stack of rare and gorgeous photos (especially that classic on page 18...) This is one of those great releases you'll treasure for years. I know I will.

 

Review Date: January 2009

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