THE REAL ROOTS OF ROCKABILLY
by Chris Smith
Today, Nashville discourages references to God, booze and adultery, and tries to fill stadiums by peddling bland country rock acts with perfect teeth and hats. The days when southern country music was the tough sound of people leading tough lives often seem far away, but the real thing is still out there, and HILLBILLY JAMBOREE, drawn from the Arhoolie Records back catalogue, is the perfect antidote to recent trends.
50 years ago, when a teenage Chris Strachwitz came to America from Germany, one of the first sounds he heard was high-powered Mexican border radio stations, blasting out country music in defiance of FCC regulations. Strachwitz fell in love with what he heard, and from the first days of Arhoolie, founded in 1960, country artists have always featured strongly.
HILLBILLY JAMBOREE ranges across the United States: from Georgia, with a brilliant banjo and raggy piano of mechanic - and state senator - Uncle John Patterson, to the Californian showman (and woman)- ship of Rose Maddox and her brothers. Rose, who sadly died just recently, was the first really big female star in country music, paving the way for Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells and the rest. All the great sounds of old time music are here: the close harmony duets that were so popular in the 30s, carried on by the Armstrong Twins and the Hodges Brothers-.-the ringing Scots-Irish fiddle and banjo breakdowns of J E Mainer's Mountaineers and Homer 'Pappy' Sherrill-.-the dazzling fingerpicking of Sam McGee-.-the intense, hellfire gospel of Texan Bill Neely-.-the expert, and very entertaining revivalism of the all-woman Any Old Time String Band-.-and high, lonesome bluegrass from Del McCoury.
Previous Ace samplings of the Arhoolie treasure house have featured blues, Tex-Mex, Cajun music and Zydeco. This release adds another great American sound to the mix, hillbilly music - the real roots of rockabilly.