By James Calemine
This Grammy-winning collection contains music that’s never be heard until the relase of the Art of Field Recording Volume 1. Dust To Digital releases obscure recordings transferred from 78s to digital such as previous releases Goodbye, Babylon, Fonotone Records and many others.
This fifty years of tradition of American music was documented and illustrated by Art and Margo Rosenbaum. These four CDs feature 110 songs, and a 96-page page book that contains essays, annotations and over 100 illustrations. The four CDs are separated into categories such as Survey, Religious, and Blues as well as Instrumental And Dance. Most of the musicians from this formidable collection are from Georgia.
In the book’s introduction Art Rosenbaum provided insight into this collection: “This collection is wide-ranging and spans over a half century of field recording, but I must emphasize that it is far from definitive or comprehensive, and is shaped by the singers and musicians I encountered, by my interests, mode of inquiry, and taste. This work is dwarfed by the life of Alan Lomax, yet it shares with his a leaning toward rural rather than urban traditional music, and an interest in older styles…”
This is tough music…songs of tragedy, murder, hardship and sharp humor. A book could be written about each of these discs, but personal favorites on Disc 1 are Sister Fleeta Mitchell and Rev. Willie Mae Eberhart singing “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”, Neal Pattman’s”Mama Whoopin’ The Blues”, Mabel Cawthon’s “Tom Watson’s Tune” and Dr. David Rosenbaum’s comic ballad called “One Saturday Night When I Come Home”.
Disc 2 (Religious) contains haunting, soulful compositions such as Leona Ruth’s “Over Yonder Where Jesus Is”, The McIntosh County Shouters’ “Jubilee”, Lucille Holloway’s “Wade The Water To My Knees”, The Christian Harmony Singers’ “Lenox”, Jean Eversole’s “Scarlet Purple Robe” and Smokey Joe Miller’s “Where The Soul of Man Never Dies”. This CD is the next best thing to going to church.
Disc 3 (Blues) gets to the nitty gritty. Meat hook songs sung in a loom of obscurity, poverty and purity that resonates from this disc. Cecil Barfield’s “Georgia Bottleneck Blues” stands as evidence to his talent since he does not like his photo to be taken or releasing records under his own name. Gordon Tanner’s “Carroll County Blues” ranks as some of the most deft picking in the North Georgia environs. George Childer’s “Nobody’s Business” keeps with old traditions of banjo jams and front porch picking. Jake Staggers’ banjo and vocal on “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad” proves this traditional song echoed in the halls of musical influence for all types of musicians.
The Instrumental And Dance CD–Disc 4–is a great soundtrack of life. This music crosses all time barriers. Every song on this collection stands as a classic example of American field recording. Highlights of this CD include banjo pickin’ Dallas Henderson’s “Lost Indian”, Coy Martin’s “Fox Chase”, Albert Hash and Art Rosenbaum’s “Train 45”, George Childers’ “Turkey In the Straw” and Earl Murphy and Billy Ashley’s “Cowboy Waltz”.
Read my definitive interview with Dust-To-Digital’s president, Lance Ledbetter, in my Snake Nation book Insured Beyond The Grave. As with every Dust To Digital release, Art of Field Recording Volume1 stands as an undeniable testament to the roots of American music.