World Music Network has taken audiences on a thorough journey into the history of the blues over the course of the past year or so. The company has done this with the release of two blues compilations, The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues and before it, The Rough Guide to the Roots of the Blues. Now Friday, WMN continues its journey into the history of the blues with a third new offering, The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You’ve Never Heard (Vol. 2). This second volume in the specific blues compilation series is another impressive piece for anyone with any interest in the blues in large part because of its featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. While the songs are themselves key to the compilation’s presentation, the record is not perfect. It has one shortcoming related to the songs. That shortcoming is the lack of any background information on the songs in the form of liner notes. While this clearly detracts from the record’s presentation, it is not enough to make the compilation a failure. The work done to remaster the songs makes up for the noted shortcoming, to maintain the compilation’s appeal. That production and the songs join to make the record yet another welcome addition to WMN’s ongoing Rough Guide To… recordings that is well worth hearing.
World Music Network’s latest addition to its ongoing Rough Guide To… recordings series (and its blues entries therein) is a positive new entry in that franchise. That is due in large part to its featured songs. The songs in question span approximately 16 years of American music history. Getting a little off topic here, there are no liner notes to explain why that span was chosen or even the artists and songs. This will be addressed a little later. Getting back on the subject at hand, the songs (26 in all) provide listeners with another in-depth audio history lesson on the blues. Songs, such as ‘When You’re Down and Out’ is a well-known composition that has been covered by the likes of Tony Bennett and Eric Clapton. Scott Joplin’s ‘Easy Winner’ is one of his slightly lesser-known but still know works. It is covered here by The Blue Boys in a 1928 recording. Others, such as William McCoy’s ‘Central Track Blues,’ Walter Vincent’s ‘Overtime Blues,’ and Jesse Thomas’ ‘No Good Woman’ Blues’ are definitely more obscure songs, thus fitting again the compilation’s title. Odds are even the most devoted blues aficionados have likely not heard of the majority of the record’s featured songs. To that end, they will likely be a first time exposure for most listeners. Building on that, the history lesson that they provide in themselves could lead to a new journey for some and even more research into the history of the blues for others. Keeping that in mind, the songs featured in this record serve a very real and important purpose. In turn, they form a solid foundation for the record’s presentation. While the songs themselves are undeniably important to the record’s presentation, the previously noted lack of background information on the songs detracts from the record’s presentation to a point.
The lack of any background on the songs is a bit of a surprise in this case. That is because by comparison, the company has provided at least some kind of background introductory information on the songs featured in their existing compilations. As noted, it would have been interesting to find out why the 16 year span from 1927-1943 was selected for this volume of country blues songs. Even the slightest bit of background would also have been welcome. That would have served to enhance the listening experience even more for listeners, even at a minimal level. The thing is that even at that minimal level, it still would have served as a starting point in the noted research into the history of country blues for audiences new and seasoned alike. To that end, it is disappointing that said information was not featured with this compilation, unlike its predecessors. It is not enough to make the record a failure, though. It just would have been nice to have had it as part of the presentation.
While the lack of background information on the songs does detract from its presentation, the work put in to remaster the vintage recordings makes up considerably for that shortcoming. From one song to the next, the sound of the static from the old records (likely 45s in most cases) is fully audible. Along with that, the balance of the vocals and instrumentation (which in most cases was just a guitar or other stringed instrument) is just as expert. In short, what audiences get as a result of the work put in to remaster this record is a presentation that is just as appealing for its sound as for its content. When those two elements are considered together, they show clearly why this latest entry in WMN’s Rough Guide To… series and blues compilations is worth hearing.
World Music Network’s forthcoming compilation record, The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You’ve Never Heard (Vol. 2) is another welcome addition to the label’s ongoing series of Rough Guide To… releases. Additionally, it is a welcome addition to the ongoing series of blues compilations that the label has already released. That is due in large part to the songs that make up its body. The songs are a balance of familiar and lesser-known pieces that still live up to the compilation’s title. They also serve as a good starting point for audiences’ journeys into the rich history of the blues and even country music. The two genres really are inextricably linked. While the songs featured in this record give the compilation a solid foundation, the lack of any background on them does detract from the listening experience to a point. It is not enough to make the record a failure, but certainly would have enhanced the listening experience, as with so many of the record’s predecessors. The production/remastering of this record’s songs works with the songs themselves to round out the compilation’s most important elements. That is because audiences who love vinyl will have no argument here. The sound of the static and the general sound balance makes hearing the songs here just as enjoyable as on any vinyl. It really is a tribute to those who worked to restore the songs for their presentation here. When this is considered along with the record’s songs, the two elements more than make up for the record’s one shortcoming and make it well worth hearing and another welcome addition to WMN’s Rough Guide To… series of recordings. The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You’ve Never Heard is scheduled for release Friday through World Music Network.
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