THE BRISTOL SESSIONS (4CD)
Ernest Stoneman, Alfred G Karnes, Blind Alfred Reed, Henry Whitter, Tenneva Ramblers, Shelor Family, Ernest Phipps, Tennessee Mountaineers, Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers, Clarence Greene, Bull Mountain Moonshiners, Mr & Mrs J. W. Baker and many more.
These seminal recordings, orchestrated by Ralph Peer on behalf of the Victor Recording Company in Bristol, Tennessee in 1927, have long been referred to as ‘Country Music's Big Bang'. This is because these speculative sessions captured hitherto unknown (or at least unrecorded) artists and paved the way for a few of them to find significant wider appeal. Their success, to all intents and purposes, created a template from which country music as it became known was built.
The big names that benefitted most from these sessions (most notably Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family) have been covered in some detail on earlier JSP box set releases. This 94 track collection therefore sets out to make accessible all the other great artists who featured in these sessions but for who, for a variety of reasons, did not go onto greater or long-lasting success.
Not that all of the names included here are obscure. Ernest Stoneman and Blind Alfred Reed became significant figures and successful artists in their day but most of the examples within these marvellous grooves of highly talented and impressive artists unfathomably returned to relative obscurity.
And its not just the quality of the artists and their music that impresses. Pat Harrison should be congratulated for a re-mastering job that has delivered excellent sound quality and imaginative programming of a highly diverse range of music as recorded at these sessions. This took in not just country (in the embryonic form it later became known as) but also sublime examples of white gospel, blues, folk and splendid oddities that defy easy categorisation.
This really is a piece of recorded history and great music to boot. The only other place you can realistically get all of this stunning material is on the magnificently presented Bear Family LP sized box set (BCD16094EK) - a superb package but, at £107.50, not for everyone in these austere times.
Review Date: June 2012