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JOHN JACOB NILES

THE BOONE-TOLLIVER RECORDINGS

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LM Dupli-cation (LMD001)

Reading the detailed notes that accompany this CD before settling down for a listen, I just knew that it would be quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. This did not however fully prepare me for the jolt I experienced when the big moment arrived and it took a little while for these jaded 21st century ears to adjust to the songs and sound. It is fair to say that John Jacob Niles did not just take the folk traditions back a few years, decades or eras, but whole epochs and many of these songs would not have seemed out of time or place in medieval times!

These songs were recorded in his Appalachian Mountains home and issued on his own label on a couple of EPs in the 1950s. This do-it-yourself ethic was not just unusual at the time it was considered positively perverse, and exacerbated by John's insistence that he should not just record and release his own music but that he should make his own instruments on which to play it as well. The dulcimer he uses is unusual but strikingly effective in accompanying both his songs and his singularly haunting falsetto voice, which is magnificently suited to the material  - from ballads and traditional material such as Little Mattie Groves, Barbary Ellen, The Cuckoo and Gypsie Laddie, alongside captivating originals such as Go 'Way From My Window.

John Jacob Niles has a legendary reputation in traditional folk music circles, references to him appear in the work of writer Henry Miller as well as Bob Dylan and The Clancy Brothers. To hear these recordings now on their first ever re-release is an absolute delight,

 

Review Date: April 2012

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