New York Times - November 21, 2007
NEVER MIND THE I-POD: THE BOXED SET LIVES
by Jon Pareles and Ben Ratliff
World of anArchie has a great showing in the Times' annual review.
PEOPLE TAKE WARNING!
Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938
For those of a certain cast of mind, the song of the Titanic is not "My Heart Will Go On," by Celine Dion, from 1997; it is "Titanic Blues," by the reedy-voiced medicine-show singer Richard (Rabbit) Brown, from 1927. "You know they stood out on that sinking deck/And they was all in great despair," Brown sang. "You know accidents may happen most any old time/And we know not when or where." All the American music here, by black and white singers, lavishly devotes itself to calamity and logically separates into three discs: "Man v. Machine," "Man v. Nature" and "Man v. Man (and Woman, Too)." It's the poetry of the police blotter, the violent myth, the unthinkable famine, flood, flu or tornado. (Tompkins Square. Four CDs. $46.99.) BEN RATLIFF
THE ART OF FIELD RECORDING, VOL. 1
Every day the past of American music has a better future. Four years ago the Dust to Digital label put out Goodbye, Babylon, which some called the greatest anthology of American gospel music ever assembled. Now the label, based in Atlanta, has produced "The Art of Field Recording, Vol. 1," four extraordinary discs culled from tapes recorded by Art Rosenbaum, a professor of art at the University of Georgia who has pursued musicology as a 50-year sideline.
Obviously it isn't definitive; it's just one man's work. But it's a gold mine, an ark. There are string bands, acoustic blues, ring shouts, "hambone" chants, Sacred Harp and Georgia Sea Island singing, the "lined-out" hymnody of Southern churches, unaccompanied fiddlers and banjoists and jew's-harpists. A great deal of it is spooky and blindingly beautiful, and the set owes its power to Mr. Rosenbaum's judicious ear. Almost all of these performers, often recorded in their homes or churches -- including members of the W. B. Thomas Gospel Chorus -- transcend the clichés of their style. There will be more: Volume 2 arrives next year. (Dust to Digital. Four CDs. $69.98.) BEN RATLIFF
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