Since issuing its first LP in 1965, County Records has remained one of the most important record labels recording and disseminating traditional music of the rural South.
Founded by Dave Freeman, a northerner with a love for the old tunes, County has reissued early (1920s and ’30s) recordings by Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, Grayson and Whitter, and others from the early decades of recorded country music.
Importantly, Freeman and friends visited and recorded old-time musicians in their homes, at fiddlers conventions, and festivals. County Records drew from field recordings made by Freeman, Charlie Faurot, Rich Nevins, and other collectors for this excellent 4-CD box set “retrospective.”
It’s not surprising that many tracks are from western North Carolina and southwest Virginia. The region has produced a hall of fame roster of legends featured here. Among them are Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, Joe and Janette Carter (children of the Carter Family’s Sara Carter), Esker Hutchins, Wade Ward, Gaither Carlton (Doc Watson’s father-in-law), and the Camp Creek Boys.
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Other regions and styles can be heard from Kentucky’s Clyde Davenport and Lily May Ledford and the Coon Creek Girls, West Virginia’s Clark Kessinger and Melvin Wine, and Tennessee’s Will Keys.
Many of the 113 tunes here comprise a canon of old-time music: “Sally Ann,” “Shady Grove,” “Train on the Island,” “Arkansas Traveler,” “Chinquapin Hunting,” “Shout Lulu,” “Devil’s Dream” and more.
A 28-page booklet, liberally illustrated with photographs and thoughtfully written, provides engaging commentary on the recordings and the artists who were born and raised in the traditions they learned and loved and shared so well.
Order from www.countysales.com
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt
Legends of Old-Time Music: Fifty Years of County Records