Tag Archives: Country

[161] The Original Carter Family – 1927 to 1934

13 May

Country music, perhaps even America as we know it, would be profoundly different without The Carter Family.


Cataloging and recording the songs handed down the generations throughout the South, A. P. Carter preserved a legacy and honed a sound which is still relevant and recognizable today.  The range of musical ground covered is dizzying, well over five hours of songs of praise, of despair, of celebration, of love, of longing.

Spiritual or sea shanty, ballad or barroom romp, each song is anchored by a metronomic rhythm section usually consisting of nothing more than a single guitar which lays down an unbreakable beat.  Over this foundation, fascinating story songs unfold, cleanly melodic and enhanced by close harmony whenever a chorus rolls around, by strict unison singing elsewhere.

For nearly ninety-year-old recordings, the sound quality here is quite astounding.

I love the way just two voices and one guitar can fill a room.  I love the sheer quantity of found music in evidence here.  I love that I can enfold myself in the sound that  Johnny Cash and June Carter (and a multitude of others) heard, that so inspired them to create music of their own.

And I hate how often otherwise open-minded people will casually admit that “I like all kinds of music except Country . . .”

Next Week:  Elliott Carter – Symphonia

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 161 = 7%)
Heard before blogging? No.  (21 of 161 = 13%)
Recommend? Yes. (135 of 161 = 84%)

[33] Chet Atkins and Les Paul – Chester and Lester

22 Nov

When you imagine two guitar legends jamming, the sound you hear in your head is of rock and roll pyrotechnics, of power and showmanship. But when Les Paul and Chet Atkins got together, their collaboration resulted in Easy Listening perfection.

Chester and Lester

Chester and Lester











That’s not to say that their mastery of the guitar is not evident from almost the first note – it is – but the vibe and the mood they are shooting for is one of two old friends with nothing to prove, just hanging out and doodling with fingers and strings.

They nail it.

Not so surprising of two men so intricately linked to the instrument they play – one was known as “Mister Guitar”, the other all but invented the electric guitar as we know it today – after decades perfecting their art at the time of their collaboration here in 1977.

This is not so much “dueling banjos” as it is two old masters creating a space for each other to be heard, to explore, to entertain. And at the end of the day (which is the best time to listen to Chester and Lester) isn’t that why we’re listening to music in the first place?

The chatting between (and at times during) the songs is endearing, adding to the mood, and when they casually discuss how to start the next song in a sort of guitar shorthand – “You play something like this . . . then I’ll come in like this . . .” – my mind is blown.

I am thinking of starting a new collection – not a shock, I am sure, to anyone who knows me or my family at all.

I want to collect as many versions as possible of one of my favorite songs, featured here, “It Had To Be You.” Each time I hear the song anew I am struck by the different ways it can be colored – Frank Sinatra’s quiet certainty, Harry Connick Jr.’s frantic need, and now the lazy introspection of Chet and Les.

It is a highlight of the album, but also of my entire 1,000 Recordings experience to date.

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 33. 6%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 33. 12%)
Recommend? Yes. (27 of 33. 82%)

Next Week: Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity


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