While chatting with the Bluegills at their home on New Year's Eve, I drunkenly spotted a 3-CD set that piqued my curiosity. It proves to be a better story that I would have imagined, as relayed to me by Bluegill and described here:
WORK HARD, PLAY HARD, PRAY HARD : HARD TIME, GOOD TIME & END TIME MUSIC, 1923-1936
Work, play, pray – the lifecycle of the rural America that created our greatest generation of country music, 1923 to 1936. These volumes survey songs of labor and occupation, hardship and loss; dance tunes, comic numbers, and novelties that provided distraction and fun; and the hymns and sacred pieces that reached beyond the raw material of daily existence for something enduring. Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard features 19 previously un-reissued sides and is largely drawn from the collection of the late Don Wahle of Louisville, Kentucky. A hillbilly 78 collector for many years, his records were hours away from the dump when producer Nathan Salsburg recovered them. Compiled and annotated by Salsburg with accompanying essays by Sarah Bryan (editor of the Old Time Herald), Amanda Petrusich (New York Times; author of It Still Moves), and John Jeremiah Sullivan(Southern editor of the Paris Review; author of Blood Horses and the essay collection Pulphead).
Fascinating stuff, and all the dissidents present last evening instinctively recognized the uncanny metaphorical relevance of hard times, good times and especially end times as these concepts pertain to the white bread bicentennial celebrations we're about to endure in New Albany this coming year. Let's just say that it gave us some ideas for agitprop. While you're digesting these and other "fun" times, learn more about the man who compiled the set, Nathan Salsburg.
ONE OF THE FINEST FINGER-PICKERS TO EMERGE IN RECENT YEARS FROM LOUISVILLE, KY, NATHAN SALSBURG ALSO WORKS AS A CURATOR AND ARCHIVIST FOR THE ALAN LOMAX COLLECTION. RESPONSIBLE FOR CATALOGUING THE THOUSANDS OF HOURS OF INTERNATIONAL FIELD RECORDINGS MADE BY THE INDEFATIGABLE ETHNOMUSICOLOGIST, IT’S A VOCATION RATHER THAN A DAY JOB FOR THIS OLD-TIME MUSIC ENTHUSIAST.
By Melissa Osborne (Wheel Me Out)
What’s the best thing about your line of work? The joy of discovery. It’s like every new singer or song puts a little pin on the map for itself, and makes the world that much more complex and exciting. I also love hearing threads tie together – you know, like the way the Irish Sean Nós singers often finish their songs by speaking their last lines. That shows up occasionally in Canadian ballads too, and those connections—that continuity and influence across time and space—just bring me such happiness.