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Maddox Brothers and Rose

On the Air: The 1940's – 1996 (Arhoolie)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Maddox Brothers and Rose

In 1984 and 1987, Arhoolie released two LP collections of 1940's Maddox Brothers and Rose California radio transcriptions, both of which went out of print. The good news for fans of this plucky family's music is that the two earlier collections (minus four songs for reasons of space) have been combined on one CD and made available again.

The first half of the disc shows the group in their early pre-recording days. An early 1940 KFBK session (featuring a 14-year-old Rose Maddox) has the group concentrating largely on western-themed numbers. Though the war years split up the family act, the Maddoxes regrouped in the closing days of 1945 and the disc includes their first post-war broadcast for KGDM. Though the group hadn't played together for four years, the growth- particularly in Fred Maddox's astonishing slap bass technique on "The Girl I Love Don't Pay Me No Mind"- is obvious.

By 1946, the group had secured a recording contract with 4 Star and were invited to perform on WSM's "Grand Ol Opry" in 1949 - their only appearance on the show - and both songs from that broadcast are included. The rest is made up of early '50's KTRB broadcasts and a few unreleased demos. The sound quality is more than a little uneven - the KFBK and WSM recordings are the best-sounding - but given the circumstances, we're lucky to have these transcriptions at all. "On the Air" is a welcome addition to the group's canon on CD.