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The Blues, Vol. 1

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Album Review

This mid-priced, 36-song collection covers Rodgers' career from 1927 through 1933. The material is arranged in chronological order, from "Blue Yodel No. 1," cut on November 30, 1927, to "Mississippi Delta Blues," from May 24, 1933, and includes all 12 "Blue Yodels," along with rival masterpieces like "Memphis Yodel" and "High Powered Mama." Amid the bluesy classics, at least one number here, "My Little Lady," shows Rodgers anticipating the romantic country & western sound and delivery of Gene Autry, who was a big fan of Rodgers. The audio quality is generally good, with even minor surface noise confined to the very earliest sides, and generally no more than one would expect from these 65- to 70-year-old recordings. The fidelity is sharp and very crisp — Rodgers sounds like he's singing in the same room on "Blue Yodel #2," and Ellsworth T. Cozzens' little steel-guitar flourish on the break hasn't sounded as clean since the end of the '20s. Most of what follows is about that good, if not better. The accompanying booklet is something else again, however, thanks to the French origins of this set. A lot of it is written in French, and only a shorter English adaptation of the French notes are provided. The price seems right, at around $24 list, making this competitive with RCA-BMG's Essential Jimmie Rodgers, for someone who wants more than that single disc but who is unprepared to spring for the Rounder or Bear Family sets. (French import)


Born: September 8, 1897 in Meridian, MS

Genre: Country

Years Active: '20s, '30s

His brass plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame reads, "Jimmie Rodgers' name stands foremost in the country music field as the man who started it all." This is a fair assessment. The "Singing Brakeman" and the "Mississippi Blue Yodeler," whose six-year career was cut short by tuberculosis, became the first nationally known star of country music and the direct influence of many later performers, from Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Williams to Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. Rodgers sang about...
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