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VARIOUS ARTISTS
YOU AINíT TALKINí TO ME: CHARLIE POOLE AND THE ROOTS OF COUNTRY MUSIC
COLUMBIA/LEGACY

Before Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, before Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, there was Charlie Poole, a peripatetic banjo-picking showman whose Depression-era songs of wanderlust, womanizing, moonshining, and rough times were drawn as much from his own hard living and short life (he died at age 39 after a prodigious 12-day drinking binge) as from the fledgling country, folk, and blues tales of the time. On this beautifully illustrated and lavishly annotated three-disc set (itís packaged as a faux wooden cigar box with a Crumb illustration of Poole on top) you can hear this ancient, elemental music living up to the setís title, as if piped in ó raw and strange ó not just from another world but from another dimension.

More than 40 of the compilationís 72 tracks were recorded between 1925 and 1930. (The second and third discs offer instructive contrasts between Pooleís covers of popular songs and the earlier source recordings he drew from.) The set thus traces the roots, as well as the seeds, of rural country, bluegrass, and folk, with Pooleís tart, keening voice ó a crucial asset for cutting through the din of a barn dance or country fair ó moving through sweet-tempered waltzes, up-tempo jigs, and hill-country blues designed to keep the merry-makersí feet moving and minds off a dire economy. Early on, Poole lost a drunken wager that he could catch a fastball with his bare hand. He closed his hand too quickly and the ball broke his fingers into a permanent arch; that forced him to develop a three-finger picking approach. Together with clubfoot-hobbled fiddler and fellow hellraiser Posey Wilson Rorer, he became an architect of a sound that resides not merely in the collective imagination of musical archivists but in the foundations of all that is Americana.

By Jonathan Perry


Issue Date: August 5 - 11, 2005
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