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People Take Warning: Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs, 1913-1938 Box set

14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, September 25, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

A stunning, landmark 3CD Boxed Set featuring 70 beautifully remastered recordings by some of the cornerstones of American vernacular recording + a 48 page book with eye-popping historic images never before reproduced. These songs of death, destruction and disaster, recorded by black and white performers from the dawn of American roots recording, are rare audio messages in a bottle. Produced and annotated by the Grammy winning team of Christopher King and Hank Sapoznik, booklet and packaged designed by Grammy award winning Susan Archie, with an introduction by Tom Waits

Disc: 1
1. Titanic Blues Hi Henry Brown & Charlie Jordan
2. Wreck Of the Old 97 Skillet Lickers
3. Bill Wilson Birmingham Jug Band
4. The Crash Of the Akron Bob Miller
5. The Fate of Talmadge Osborne Ernest Stoneman
6. El Mole Rachmim (Für Titanik) Cantor Joseph Rosenblatt
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. The Story of the Mighty Mississippi Ernest Stoneman
2. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues Robert Hicks
3. Dixie Boll Weevil Fiddlin' John Carson
4. Mississippi Boweavil Charlie Patton
5. Ohio Prison Fire Bob Miller
6. Memphis Flu Elder Curry
See all 24 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Peddler And His Wife Hayes Shepherd
2. The Little Grave in Georgia Earl Johnson
3. Kenney Wagner's Surrender Ernest Stoneman
4. Henry Clay Beattie Kelly Harrell
5. The Murder Of the Lawson Family Carolina Buddies
6. Naomi Wise Clarence Ashley
See all 22 tracks on this disc

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Tompkins Square
  • ASIN: B000ULQV20
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,948 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By "Dutch" Bruton on November 26, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Close your eyes and hear the suffering through the ages, as disasters both great and small are relived in song by roving musicians with only a fiddle or a guitar to stake their claim on history.

Close your eyes and see the carnage reenacted. In Frank Hutchison's "Last Scene of the Titanic," see all the pretty ladies in their evening gowns and all of the tuxedoed gentlemen plummet over the deck of the great juggernaut as it collides with a massive iceberg, sending them wailing and flailing and thrashing in a demonic ballet into the icy Atlantic waters.

Open your ears and hear the plaintive cry of a child in the night, who wakes from a portentous dream in which his daddy is trapped in the interminable blackness of the coal mine (Blind Alfred Reed's "Explosion in the Fairmount Mine"), only to discover that dear daddy was indeed trapped in a mine explosion and is one of 200 unrecovered miners never to see the light of day again.

True-life scenes such as these are the subject of this massive 3-cd set, in which seemingly congenial-sounding folk and blues songs from the early twentieth century document disasters and real-life tragedies with a quiet intensity that disturbs the casual listener far more than any contemporary death metal band could. This is not Sturm und Drang, this is real pain and suffering devoid of fantasy or romanticism. These are songs for the legions of anonymous dead, musical coffin markers for the ones who were lost along the way.

Highlights range from the grim to the funny. In "Mississippi Heavy Water Blues," Robert "Barbecue Bob" Hicks complains that the murky brown flood waters have washed all the wimmenfolk away.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Rothchild on October 1, 2007
Format: Audio CD
This is one really stunning project but for many reasons! I got it initially because I love pre-war blues and Tom Waits but I didn't realize how beautifully put together the whole thing was until I opened it up. When the whole book is opened up, the inside spreads almost 22 inches and there are several fully reproduced panorama photographs of disasters: one of the aftermath of the Baltimore Fire looks like an atom bomb went off and another of a train wreck really captures the devastation of these early disasters. The introduction by Tom Waits is beyond cool. It has the archaic cadence of these songs and yet perfectly describes how these pieces were written and spread throughout communities. Besides the beautiful writings, photographs, and annotations, I am most impressed with both the wide variety of songs (there were many I had never heard before) and the actual sonic clarity of the collection. What is truly a revelation is how great certain songs sound compared to other cd issues. If you like cool eye and ear candy, then this is for you.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Peck on November 10, 2007
Format: Audio CD
The ballad, a song that tells a story, in the modern world is something of a fading form. But in the age before cable news and internet immediacy, much of the world got their news of important events from song. In this brilliant work, Chris King and Hank Sapoznik have created a remarkable collection of songs that told of disasters, man-made and natural. The stories range from the sinking of the Titanic and famous train wrecks, floods and fires to murders and mine disasters.

The collection, presented in a beautifully packaged 3 CD boxed set, is expertly produced with the sound of the original 78 RPM recordings preserved with a minimum of noise and all of the original musical content. This is typical of King's Grammy Award winning work. Sapoznik's (a noted historian of both old-time American and Yiddish music) excellent notes offer both historical context and a deep musical insight. The introductory essay from Tom Waits is one of the most insightful takes on the ballad I have ever read.

I can't recommend this highly enough. For anyone who wishes to understand American musical history (or just loves the music), this is a serious must-have.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Johnson on July 12, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Yes, for the umpth time, I am deep in research of the roots, the many roots of American folk music. As part of this search I have spilled plenty of ink over the folk revival of the 1960's, and its links to today's folk scene, that I have the most intimate knowledge about. But that is hardly the end of the story. In fact the 1960's folk revival is something of the tail end of a vast exploration done by a few musicologists, most famously the father and son team of John and Alan Lomax. While the revival itself explored many kinds of music from the mountains of Appalachia to the plains of Texas and beyond the "rage" for roots then, exploited most effectively by the likes of Bob Dylan, centered on the topical songs of the day done by in the age old manner of the traveling troubadours of yore.

While the subject matter of the 1960's scene, naturally, tendered toward the overtly political around the issues of conventional war, nuclear disarmament, the fierce civil rights struggle in the American South that dominated all serious talk, social isolation, the rebellion against social conformity and the like historically the "singing" newspaper tradition was far from those "deep" concerns. The tendency was to be more personal either with songs of love. longing for love or of thwarted love or on a more mundane level disaster, manmade or natural, murders and other sensational crimes and whatever other local gossip could be turned into a ballad. But beyond that, as this compilation bears witness to every song seemingly had to provide a cautionary note.
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