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Carter Family

Longing for Old Virginia, Last Sessions – 1998 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Carter Family

The final two volumes in Rounder's Carter Family reissue series, seals the book on one of the most important and thorough projects in the history of country music. At nine volumes and well over 150 songs, the work the Carter Family set down for Victor is like a vast mosaic of small, polished stones, of deceptively similar shape and hue, that, when set together, tell an American story with great scope and detail.

The penultimate release covers two recording sessions from 1934, a good year for the Carters. With the Depression slowly wearing off, and Victor establishing its new, more economical Bluebird label, the trio was once again selling records with consistency.

The music on the eighth volume features a range of vocal combinations, tight trio and casual trio harmony (see the chorus on "On a Hill Lone and Gray"), A.P.'s solo deadpan twang on his original composition "It'll Aggravate Your Soul," and especially Sara's pungent drone through out. What's most pleasurable is how fresh the selections are: even the family's more enthusiastic fans will find the material unfamiliar - and utterly convincing.

The last release is not, of course, the last time the family recorded together, but their final Victor sessions before moving to the American Record Company and later Decca. These last sessions contain some of the family's most blues based work, with songs like "Something Got a Hold On Me," "Lonesome Homesick Blues," and "You're Gonna Be Sorry You Let Me Down." The last two show Maybelle Carter's growing confidence with a lyric, and point in the direction her career would take. Like, the preceding volume, most selections here are not the stuff of Greatest Hits, and for that they're especially worth savoring. Like the other seven volumes, these last CDs are essential to any country music lover's collection.