For their latest release, Old Hat Records have once more tapped into the
collection of Joe Bussard, only this time its exclusively. The liner notes
reveal why Bussard has been described as the "King of Record Collectors":
he owns over 25,000 78rpm records. They pretty much cover the full spectrum
of American music from the 1920's and 30's, but Old Hat somehow managed to
pick a fairly representative sample of 24 discs which they have remastered
for those of us who are unlikely to get the chance to visit Bussard's
The collection includes several blues artists, most of whom are relatively
well known among lovers of pre-war blues. These include Charley Jordan,
with one of his many versions of "Keep It Clean," for example, and the duo
of Blind Blake and Charlie Spand on the excellent "Hastings Street." There
is also a track each from Big Bill (Broonzy), "How You Want It Done?" and
Blind Gary (Davis), "You Got To Go Down". Gitfiddle Jim may be less
familiar, but is, in fact, James Kokomo Arnold turning in some stellar
slide guitar on the instrumental "Paddlin' Blues."
Fiddlers have been well represented on previous Old Hat compilations, and
there are plenty more examples here. These range in style from the opener,
the Stripling Brothers ("The Lost Child"), through the old time country of
the Weems String Band's only recording ("Greenback Dollar"), on to cajun
with Soileau and Robin's fine reading of "Easy Rider Blues."
Even if fiddling is not your thing, there is still plenty here to keep you
interested. Just about every type of pre-war musical style gets a look
in--jazz, old-timey, string band, jug band, gospel... the list goes
on--without ever needing to tap into the classic songs that continually
reappear on pre-war compilations. In fact, you will be unlikely to ever
hear some of these records anywhere else, since some of them are from test
pressings, and "Original Stack O'Lee Blues" by Long Cleve Reed and Little
Harvey Hull - Down Home Boys is the only known copy in existence.
Old Hat Records have struck gold once more with "Down In The Basement."
Anyone looking for a taster of the American music scene in the 1920's and
30's could do a lot worse than start here. It is all tastefully packaged
too, with a 72-page booklet, which provides a short piece on each of the
tracks, and long pieces about the main man and how he acquired some of the
records. The sound quality is also very good too, so rather than trying to
track down the 78's, and something to play them on, take the cheap option
and just pick up a copy of "Down In The Basement." If you like pre-war
American music you will not be disappointed.
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