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Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Vinyl, December 4, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Work, play, pray the life cycle of the rural America that created our greatest generation of country music, 1923 to 1936. These volumes survey songs of labor and occupation, hardship and loss, dance tunes, comic numbers, and novelties that provided distraction and fun and the hymns and sacred pieces that reached beyond the raw material of daily existence for something enduring. Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard features 19 previously un-reissued sides and is largely drawn from the collection of the late Don Wahle of Louisville, Kentucky. A hillbilly 78 collector for many years, his records were hours away from the dump when producer Nathan Salsburg recovered them. Compiled and annotated by Salsburg with accompanying essays by Sarah Bryan (editor of the Old Time Herald), Amanda Petrusich (New York Times, author of It Still Moves), and John Jeremiah Sullivan (Southern editor of the Paris Review, author of Blood Horses and the essay collection Pulphead).
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Product Details

  • Vinyl (December 4, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Tompkins Square
  • ASIN: B009DJB82I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,519 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
The genesis of this collection is an archtypical story--collector/hoarder dies and callous company sent to clean up his house consigns his precious 78 collection to the dumpster. Young record collectors (undoubtedly doomed in their time to ignoble ends with houses brimming with relics of a bygone age) find 78s and talk callous company into allowing them to clean out house. They walk out with a massive collection of country 78s from the 30s, 40s and 50s and among the huge number of uninteresting records find a number of rare and unusual records.
Don Wahle, the man who collected these records, seemed to simply buy everything old timey country he could lay his hands on. I understand this mentality as I have a little of it myself--for years, I have bought any CD I could find from the late 60s/early 70s reggae music whether I had heard it or not. Natch, Mr. Wahle zeroed in on the hits--the booklet mentions he had 5 copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Gene Autry--but he also bought a number of records which have since vanished.
Amanda Petrusich--who cleaned up after master hoarder Don Wahle (a mentality I don't understand at all since I don't even like cleaning up after myself)--has assembled an awesome collection of old timey music from this collection. She organized the songs using the same method Harry Smith used--dividing the songs into works songs, party songs and gospel songs. By placing similar feeling songs together, the CDs are more listenable than if the songs are simply jumbled together.
Most importantly, she has selected the songs for quality. The songs are quite good and this collection is fun and enjoyable.
(For those worried about accuracy in reviewing please read the comments that follow. For those who simply want to buy a great CD set, please check the order button. Thanks.)
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Format: Audio CD
My review from lonesomeroadreview.com:

The story behind Work Hard is as wonderfully odd as the music this three-disc set contains. Some guys were cleaning out the house of a recently dead hoarder--Don Wahle of Louisville, Kentucky--and they knew enough to know that the boxes and boxes of 78 RPM records might be of interest to someone.

The Tompkins Square label culled much of its 42-track survey of hillbilly records from 1923 to 1936--including 19 cuts previously unissued in any format but 78--from Wahle's collection, and the result is captivating.

I've always loved recordings from this era, because you can hear the performers (and those running the primitive recording equipment) trying to figure out exactly what it is they are doing. They're not playing a barn dance with whiskey and dancing, they're not playing in a church at the back of a holler, and they're not playing in their parlor with family and friends gathered close. Most of them have never owned a record player. The closest they could have come to mass entertainment was a big fiddle contest, or the various radio shows that were beginning to fill the air and help songs and styles to spread quickly.

But one imagines the musicians recorded here shifting their feet, asking where they should stand and look, and holding back a little, not quite able to cut loose as in their native element. The picking is a little tentative at times too, but the effect is deeply satisfying.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful collection of unknown American folk/bluegrass songs. I was hopeful when I ordered it that the music would be similar to the sound track of "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou." I wasn't disappointed. Disc 1 was my favorite.
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This treasure was obviously collected and produced with love for, and understanding of, it and its times--difficult, fun-loving, and prayerful.
For me it's impossible to refrain from laughing, singing along, sympathizing, or otherwise participating within listening range of this music.
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Format: Audio CD
WORK HARD:

1 John Henry the Steel Drivin' Man (1930) - Earl McCoy, Alfred Meng and Clem Garner
2 Poor Man, Rich Man (Cotton Mill Colic no.
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