Jimmie Driftwood

Comprising Jimmie Driftwood's complete recordings for RCA, cut between 1957 and 1961, this three-CD set opens with Driftwood's most famous song, "The Battle of New Orleans," and the ten other songs that comprised the classic country-folk collection Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs. The material here, when compared to the music of the Weavers or the Kingston Trio, seems like a field recording from 100 years earlier, with Driftwood's rural Arkansas pronunciation, twangy intonation, and spare backing. The Wilderness Road is every bit as good and even more entertaining, since Driftwood seems even more comfortable with the recording process. Disc Two opens with Driftwood's September 1959 sessions for The Westward Movement, a series of songs about the beginnings of the great American migration west, which features a somewhat more sophisticated sound. The second half of the disc is made up of Tall Tales in Song, Driftwood's series of songs about myths and tall tales from history and local legend. The last five songs come from a Time-Life LP, How the West Was Won, and deal with such figures as General Custer, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid. Disc Three opens with the Grammy-winning album Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, which returns Driftwood to his more familiar backing band (including John D. Loudermilk), accompanied in surprisingly restrained manner by the Anita Kerr singers. The last half of the disc includes Sea Shanties, Driftwood's final album from 1961. The sound throughout is excellent, and the music is all priceless, whether one's taste runs toward country or folk. The booklet transcends Bear Family's usual standard, with extremely detailed notes and essays (some by the man himself), as well as the usual full sessionography. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi


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