Art Rosenbaum’s “Black and White”




Henry Grady Terrell, Chancey Brothers, Mose Parker, Silver Light Gospel Singers, Gordon Tanner & Smokey Joe Miller, Yank Rachel & Shirley Griffith, Lawrence & Vaughn Eller, Golden River Grass, Jake Staggers, Brady Doc & Lucy Barnes, Ben Entreken & Uncle John Patterson, Cecil Barfield, Lawrence McIver & The McIntosh County Shouters, Mary Lomax, Balfa Brothers & Nathan Abshire, The Eller Brothers & Ross Brown, Guitar Pete Franklin, Albert Hash, Eddie Bowles, George Childers, Scrapper Blackwell, Fletta & Reverend Nathaniel Mitchell, Tony Bryant, Juanita & Oscar Shorty Shehan.

Art Rosenbaum is a musician, muralist and writer who searches out and records musicians hidden away in the mountains, hollers, swamps and backwaters of the rural South of America. For over fifty years he’s been capturing on tape some sensational cajun, gospel, country, blues, mountain ballads and rural bluegrass.

I love this kind of CD. Right from the start, it’s a joyous experience to listen to these folks doing what they enjoy best. The tracks are taken from Art Rosenbaum’s two boxed sets The Art Of Field Recording Vols 1 and 2 on Dust To Digital so you could regard it as a sampler from those releases or, like me, you can accept it for what it is – an inspired collection of the best traditional music America has to offer.

The Chancey Brothers are an old-time country band from Georgia who present Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground at a stately pace and some whooping encouragement for the banjo picker. Gordon Tanner (Gid’s son) and Smokey Joe Miller duet in the classic guitar/fiddle style of the Skillet Lickers on their loping Anglo-American Devilish Mary while Golden River Grass really let loose on the old warhorse Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad with tons of reckless banjo, manic fiddle and that marvellous squeaking harmonica. The Balfa Brothers play their classic Cajun song When I Passed By Your Door with fabulous twin fiddle ramblings held down by the strong rhythm guitar and the heartfelt racket of Nathan Abshire’s accordion.

I love the Eller Brothers and Ross Brown’s rambunctious Don’t Go Riding Down That Old Texas Trail, a rollicking live shot from a string band who just don’t know when to let up while their version of Flatt & Scruggs Down The Road features just Vaughn Eller’s mouth bow and Lawrence’s rustic vocals.

The blues content is fabulous, Guitar Pete’s Blues by Guitar Pete Franklin is a tough slice of acoustic blues with smoky vocals and guitar playing in the style of Scrapper Blackwell who turns up four tracks later on a crisply executed Where The Monon Crosses The Yellow Dog which shows that he was still a masterful musician in the 1960s when this was recorded. The obscure Eddie Bowles’ languid vocals and offhand guitar playing combine to form a beautifully seductive laid back original tune Eddie Bowles Blues while Curley Weaver’s grandson Tony Bryant lays down a solid, slow and elegant Broke Down Engine which, despite the historical link, sounds nothing like Willie McTell’s version! The best blues on the album is provided by the divine slide guitar whine and nervous croaking vocals on Cecil Barfield’s aristocratic performance of Georgia Bottleneck Blues. Another pre-war blues legend, the mandolin player Yank Rachel teams up with the Mississippi blues guitarist Shirley Griffith to shake the rafters with their superb instrumental Mandolin Stomp which incidentally, segues slyly into the Eller Brothers mouth-bow number like they were made for each other.

A lot of thought has gone into this anthology, every track is brilliant and it’s programmed to perfection with all categories of music being neatly mixed together with some excellent engineering. Dixie Frog has designed a nice logical package for the whole concept with a forty page booklet of Art Rosenbaum’s artwork, Margo Rosenbaum’s location photography and Art’s own fascinating notes printed in English and French.

This is one of those anthologies that leaves you with a big smile on your face and the urge to play the whole damn thing over and over again so that’s just what I’m gonna do right now!




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