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Roane County Ramblers

Complete Recordings 1928 - 1929 – 2004 (County)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

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CDs by Roane County Ramblers

This archival 12-tune set, remastered from 78 rpm recordings, provides a stirring example of how hellbent expressive and vigorous country music's pioneer performers truly were. The Roane County Ramblers - featuring fiddler Jimmy McCarroll, guitarist Luke Brandon, banjoist Howard Wyatt, mandolinist and occasionally guitarist Curly Fox - were one of many part-time strings bands that played hoedowns, barndances and just for the fun of it during the pre-Depression era.

Although strictly an instrumental group, the band let some personality yelp through with a few self-referential spoken intros and exhortations ("Aw right Jimmy, let's have a little bit of that ol' McCarroll Breakdown"). However, McCarroll's wild and sweet fiddle playing does most of the talking. Playing at a wicked tempo that would give the likes of Charlie Daniels nightmares, McCarroll's bow-work reveals shades of intense juke-joint jazz ("Everybody Two-Step"), Elizabethan folk ("Hometown Blues") and dynamic train-track novelty ("Southern No. 111").

A true backwoods dance band, the Ramblers polished off a series of country rags ("Callahan Rag"), reels ("Roane Country Rag"), trots ("Alabama Trot") and waltzes ("Step High Waltz") with a joyous zest that dwarfs anything on the "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack. Blessed with only minimal surface noise, lovers of traditional country will deem this a must hear item.