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The Unsung Father Of Country Music 1925-1934

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Audio CD, September 23, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ernest V. Stoneman, pioneering composer & country performer, defined the formula of 'three chords and the truth' and became the first rural singer/songwriter of the 20th century to record. This collection features 46 beautifully remastered performances of Ernest and his circle of talented friends & family. Sentimental love songs, early gospel hymns, fiddle-breakdowns, and disaster songs are included in this set with over 20 never before reissued. Stoneman was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in early 2008. Deluxe package also contains a 44 page booklet with an introduction by Patsy Stoneman, which contains many rare & haunting images.


When Victor Records field engineer and A&R man Ralph Peer arrived in Bristol, TN, in the summer of 1927, he had a mission to record every rural Southern musician he could find. By the time he left Bristol, Peer had recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts and had set the cornerstones for the future of country music, a genre that had yet to be recognized or defined. The Bristol Sessions, the so-called Big Bang of country music, yielded the first recordings from both the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, as well as historic recordings by names less familiar, but no less important, including some restyled and rewritten traditional rave-ups by a previous Peer discovery, harmonica and autoharp player Ernest V. Stoneman. Stoneman had turned up on Peer's doorstep some three years earlier, and Peer, impressed by the musician's ability to generate original material, had steered him to Victor, and Stoneman's first release, a two-sided original epic narrative called The Titanic, was an immediate and huge hit, selling thousands of copies in 1925. It was, alas, to be Stoneman's first and last trip to the charts, making him, as well as arguably country music's first true songwriter, also one of the genre's first one-hit wonders. This delightfully conceived two-disc set covers Stoneman's early recording career between 1925 and 1934 (with sides attributed to his various groups the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers, Frank Jenkins' Pilot Mountaineers, the Sweet Brothers, the Ernest V. Stoneman Trio, and others) with the Gennett, Paramount, Edison, Victor, and AR imprints, and what emerges is a revelatory look at how Stoneman turned an assortment of gospel hymns, hillbilly raps, and square dance reels into an often wry, ironic, and completely original view of the world turning through its mysterious affairs. The Titanic is here, as well as reconfigured fiddle romps like Old Joe Clark, the poignant All I've Got's Gone (in early and late versions), odd, ornate narratives like The Fate of Talmadge Osbourne, and eerily modern-sounding pieces like Nine Pound Hammer, all of which show, given the times, an uncommonly sharp musical sense. It's comforting, somehow, to think that Stoneman, who started out recording to wax cylinder, now has a defining collection available on CD in the 21st century. Some voices don't get lost. Thank God for that. --Steve Leggett,

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Goodbye, Dear Old Step Stone
  2. John Hardy
  3. The Resurrection
  4. West Virginia Highway
  5. The Titanic
  6. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter
  7. The Burial of Wild Bill
  8. Sweeping Through the Gates
  9. Long Eared Mule
  10. The Religious Critic
  11. Possum Trot School Exhibition, Pt. 1
  12. Possum Trot School Exhibition, Pt. 2
  13. I Am Resolved
  14. A Message from Home Sweet Home
  15. The Wreck of the Old '97
  16. Old Joe Clark
  17. Mountaineer's Courtship
  18. No More Good-Byes
  19. The Raging Sea, How It Roars
  20. The Face That Never Returned
  21. Ramblin' Reckless Hobo
  22. Hop Light Ladies
  23. All I've Got's Gone

Disc: 2

  1. Goodbye, Dear Old Step Stone
  2. The Railroad Flagman's Sweetheart
  3. There's a Light Lit Up in Galilee
  4. Sourwood Mountain
  5. The Orphan Girl
  6. Too Late
  7. The Fate of Talmadge Osborne
  8. I Know My Name Is There
  9. Flop Eared Mule
  10. The Lightning Express
  11. Old Time Corn Shuckin', Pt. 1
  12. Old Time Corn Shuckin', Pt. 2
  13. Are You Washed in the Blood?
  14. When the Snowflakes Fall Again
  15. The Wreck on the C&O
  16. Once I Had a Fortune
  17. The Road to Washington
  18. He Is Coming After Me
  19. Say, Darling, Say
  20. The Old Hickory Cane
  21. New River Train
  22. Nine Pound Hammer
  23. All I Got's Gone

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 23, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: 5-String Productions
  • ASIN: B001CDL8KA
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,908 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Quintilian on October 24, 2008
Format: Audio CD
This is a wonderful two disc collection of 46 songs by early Country Music pioneer Ernest V. Stoneman. It should, if there's any justice controlling the music world, provoke a deeper recognition in early country music fans, and in anyone interested in the history of American music, of the value of Stoneman's contributions. The entire package makes the case, and makes it well, that Stoneman has at least as much a claim on the title of Father of Country Music as more well-known pioneers such as Charlie Poole and Jimmy Rodgers. Stoneman avoided the personal excesses of the former and lacked the superstar status and distinctive personality of the latter. Moreover, as Henry Sapoznik's liner notes point out, Ralph Peer's continued over-eager marketing of Rodgers after his death helped create a mythology around Rodgers that still frames our assessment of the development of early country music. This box-set is a giant step forward in the efforts to retrieve Stoneman from relative obscurity and to develop a greater appreciation for his gifts as a songwriter, arranger, and recording artist.

He recorded on a number of different labels and with a variety of outfits, which contributes to the diverse and highly textured sound of this collection. In addition to recording solo, Stoneman recorded with groups featuring members of his family, including his wife Hattie on fiddle. He also cut sides with Galax, Va. brothers Herbert and Earl Sweet and with father and son team Frank and Oscar Jenkins, from North Carolina.

Stoneman was a multi-instrumentalist, manning not only the guitar but the autoharp and banjo as well. Songs such as "The Titanic" and "The Wreck on the C&O" feature Stoneman on his autoharp and self-accompaniment on harmonica.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "Dutch" Bruton on October 2, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The sound of a phonograph needle settling into the crackling groove of a timeworn 78 rpm record opens this 2-CD retrospective of early country music pioneer Ernest "Pop" Stoneman. The needle drop has become a signature of sorts for Christopher King, the Grammy-winning compiler of 2007's "People Take Warning! Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs, 1913-1938," as well as 2003's "Charlie Patton: Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues." Together with award-winning author and musicologist Henry "Hank" Sapoznik, King has crafted a series of CD compilations that faithfully reproduce the tinny sounds of phonograph records from the early 20th century, warts and all. There is almost no digital cleanup to speak of; the hiss, crackle, and pop of time and age is an indelible part of the presentation, as vital to the music as the players and instruments.

In the case of King's latest release, "Ernest V. Stoneman: The Unsung Father of Country Music," the surface noise of the old original 78s acts as a kind of portal into an earlier time, coloring the music in the sepia tones of a long gone age. Collecting tracks recorded between 1925 and 1934, this beautiful package (including a book of extensive pictures and liner notes handsomely designed by Susan Archie) serves as an overview of Stoneman's unsung career. Born in Carroll County, Virginia in 1893, Stoneman was one of the earliest country music journeymen of his day, playing a variety of instruments (most notably the guitar, autoharp, and banjo) and writing his own songs. His recordings from the mid-1920s for such labels as OKeh and Victor helped bring Blue Ridge mountain music to a wider audience.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Osborne on October 28, 2008
Format: Audio CD
For some time I survived on the County Records Stoneman collection, but this collection gives the listener direct access to Stoneman's truly diverse talents. The ripping, romping "Long Ear Mule" is reason enough to get the discs. Then there's the hilarious "Religious Critic," forerunner to the light comic sensibility of modern country music. But the king of them all, for me, is Stoneman's version of "The Wreck of the '97," by far the best version of the tune I've heard. Its quick guitar runs and syncopated fiddle/harmonica break perfectly captures the tragedy of speed.

The packaging is suberb, and the remastering is excellent.

If you even think you like old-timey country, you got to get this in your ears ASAP.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Peck on October 6, 2008
Format: Audio CD
If you want to understand the history and roots of American music, you have to know how country music came to be. With this CD set, you will get the story of one of country's founding fathers and most brilliant performers.

This is an astounding work. Stoneman was one of the early creators of what we now call country music and his accomplishments were nearly forgotten. He was the first A&R guy, the progenitor of the modern singer-songwriter, an accomplished singer and instrumentalist and his children went on to be great musicians. But until this set, only collectors of old records and country music scholars were truly aware of his importance.

Chris King and Hank Sapoznik have rectified this injustice. By picking his best recordings and expertly gleaning the music from the old discs, they have made his work accessible to modern ears. And the notes put his career and accomplishments in context. His life was a story that couldn't have made up: rags to riches to rags to riches.

Can't recommend it highly enough.
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