American Primitive Volume 2

Nov 30, 2005 at 12:00 am

The record biz enjoyed a golden age before World War II — everything was so damned new that producers were willing to try anything once, and sometimes captured brilliance.

There are too few laudatory words in the English language to lay on this collection of stunning and overlooked American music. The performers here were usually musical outsiders with curious names like Pigmeat Terry, Nugrape Twins or the Salty Dog Four. They were never really considered artists — most likely lifetime workers lured into a studio for a take or two, paid a pittance and then sent on their way, never to be heard from again. These songs give us enough to imagine their fanciful histories and personal stories, when what actual information available is barely enough to fill a CD booklet.

The music they spit is a pre-interstate freeway tale of American roots that reaches far and wide, from country-twanged shouts, fire-and-brimstone blues laments, gospel praise, bluegrass boogie and anything in between that’s dusty, strong and pure. These songs are a rare connection to a long-forgotten time, one criminally under-documented. (Also recommended: Revenant’s 1997 collection, American Primitive, Volume 1: Raw Pre-War Gospel, 1926-36.)

Unless you have a wind-up Victrola and a couple grand to blow on 78s, American Primitive will be the most necessary music you’ll hear in ages.

Ben Blackwell writes about music for Metro Times . Send comments to [email protected].