Virginia Roots - The 1929 Richmond Sessions
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Virginia Roots - The 1929 Richmond Sessions
Outhouse Records (

cd cover In October 1929, musicians from across Virginia gathered at a furniture store converted to a recording studio for the Okeh Record Company. This Richmond event brought together a microcosm of the music of Virginia, capturing old-time string bands, African-American vocal quartets, hokum, blues, and even a Southern take on Hawaiian music.

The pieces reflect just a bit of the wide spectrum of American music at the dawn of the age of mass media, a breadth probably not equaled since. Can you picture the scene outside that studio for the five day session? White/black, sacred/secular (often the same group), slick/rough, urban/country, all after fame and money. Outhouse Records has documented the entire output in Virginia Roots, an obvious and worthwhile labor of love.

The Sparkling Four and The Golden Crown Quartet contributed the then current style of Afro-American unaccompanied gospel four-part singing, remindful (especially the former) of the roots of similar South African groups. The religious songs on these CD's, both white and black, are the most powerful cuts of the collection.

There is fine country string band music by Babe Spangler, the Buck Mountain Band, Roanoke Jug Band, and the Salem Highballers. And it can't get much more exotic than the Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra, the house band at the Tubize rayon factory in Hopewell, Virginia. They performed a hapa haole Hawaiian number and a gospel tune.

Not every group is technically great, but all have that immediate power of authenticity. The 48-page booklet that accompanies this two-CD set includes extensive notes by veteran music researchers, and can serve as a paradigm for such projects. - Stacy Phillips

Listen to a few short samples:
The Sparkling Four
The Bubbling Over Five
Tubize Royal Hawaiian Orchestra
Spangler and Pearson

CD available from cdRoots

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