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Greatest Hits 1927-1934

The Carter Family

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Album Review

It is interesting that this selection of the Carter Family's early Victor recordings has been titled Greatest Hits, since the trio (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter) didn't really hit their peak popularity until after they left Victor for Decca in 1935 (at which time they promptly re-recorded everything here) and began their radio contract with XERF in Del Rio, TX, an arrangement that essentially brought their music into homes all across America. Still, this is where the legacy of the Carter Family really begins, with Maybelle's distinctive and innovative guitar style (which set the template for modern bluegrass guitar) and A.P.'s diligent collecting of Appalachian folk songs for the group to record, an act that almost single-handedly rescued songs like "Keep on the Sunnyside," "Wabash Cannonball," "Worried Man Blues," "Wildwood Flower," and the venerable "John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man" from almost certain oblivion, and by the same stroke, gave both country and bluegrass a sort of readymade song database from which to work. A strong case could be made that A.P. Carter is the Noah figure of American folk music — he seemed to collect at least one of everything that was ever sung in the mountains of Appalachia, then streamlined the melodies and lyrics for easy public recognition. There's much, much more to the Carter Family, naturally, than what is represented here, but as a sort of "greatest hits" introduction to one of the most valuable bodies of work in American music history, this little collection of the group's Victor years does well enough.

Biography

Formed: 1926 in Virginia

Genre: Country

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s

The most influential group in country music history, the Carter Family switched the emphasis from hillbilly instrumentals to vocals, made scores of their songs part of the standard country music canon, and made a style of guitar playing, "Carter picking," the dominant technique for decades. Along with Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family were among the first country music stars. Comprised of a gaunt, shy gospel quartet member named Alvin P. Carter and two reserved country girls — his wife, Sara,...
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