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Narmour & Smith

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The '20s and '30s Mississippi duo of fiddler W.T. Narmour (b. 1889) and guitarist S.W. Smith (b. Nov. 26, 1895) are responsible for some of the most sublime and influential examples of early rural string band recordings. The bluesy combination of Narmour's sweetly nuanced bowing (indigenous to the pair's native state and a marked contrast to the swift, back-and-forth style of Appalachian fiddlers) and Smith's relentless, driving accompaniment represent a pioneering synthesis of black and white musical forms. Discovered by Okeh Records producer Tommy Rockwell in the late '20s, Narmour and Smith cut 31 sides for the label, including the popular "Carroll County Blues" (named for their home region and supposedly learned from a black field worker), which has since become a standard among Southern players. (The two would also record for Bluebird in the '30s, repeating much of their Okeh repertoire of breakdowns, blues and ragtime tunes.) Praise is also due Narmour and Smith for urging Rockwell to audition -- and sign -- their neighbor, country-blues great Mississippi John Hurt. Despite the popularity of their releases, the partners never ventured far from the place of their births, save for trips to New York and Atlanta to record. Narmour passed away in 1961; Smith followed in 1968. ~ Peter Aaron

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