The cover illustration by R. Crumb and the photos enclosed within hardly hint at Poole's being one of country music's earliest outlaws--rather, they portray him as a coiffed businessman-cum-banjo. It is in the three discs and the 35-page booklet that we begin to see a true picture of Charlie Poole. Though he didn't write the songs, he sang his rough-and-tumble life in the ones he chose: "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister?," "Husband and Wife Were Angry One Night," and "I'm the Man That Rode the Mule 'Round the World." These are songs of a simple and stubborn man in trying times. It's not all misery and strife though. The pure George Formby style of "Monkey on a String" hints at a lighter side. "Sunset March" (inspired by Fred van Eps's "Infanta March," also included in this set) may be the track that best gets at Poole's banjo style.
"Hellions both, the pair loved nothing more than traveling, raising Cain, playing music, and having a drink, and another tune, and another drink."
--Henry "Hank" Sapoznik on Poole and close friend Posey Wilson Rorrer (from the booklet)
Not all the tracks in this set are performed by Poole, hence the subtitle ...and the Roots of Country Music. Also included are a couple dozen tracks recorded by Poole's mentors and contemporaries, giving excellent context to Poole's work. The term "bluegrass" was yet to be coined and the country outlaw profile was still a good 20 years away. It's surprising to learn that Charlie Poole only recorded and released records during a five-year period leading up to the hell-bent bender that led directly to his death at 39.
In terms of packaging, this box set is top-notch. The design, typography, and photographs are as genuine as the music. The booklet contains a brief introduction by Roanoke, Virginia, DJ Kinney Rorrer, whose father was close with Poole. Also included are accounts of Charlie's run-ins with hecklers, women, and the law, as well as an in-depth bio that surely contains the majority of what is known of his short life. Perhaps only Rorrer's out-of-print Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole reveals more about this grandfather of country music and godfather to country ruffians. --Peter Hilgendorf
"...an indispensable new three-disc set ....This is music that has lost none of its power to confound or thrill." -- Kelefa Sanneh, NEW YORK TIMES
"...hillbilly chamber music...a quintessentially American mix of rawness and elegance." -- David Gates, NEWSWEEK
"An impressive, important and revelatory audio experience " -- TORONTO STAR
"Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams get all the credit, but the father of country music may really be Poole...." -- DALLAS MORNING NEWS
"Listening to these recordings, you hear a confident singer in control of his musical destiny... History teaches many wondrous lessons." -- Chet Flippo CMT.COM
"Lord knows Charlie Poole deserves a box set....he helped transform country from traditional songs into commercial, recorded country music." -- John Morthland, NO DEPRESSION
"Sometimes recorded sound offers delayed immortality to the deserving. For Charlie Poole, 'You Ain't Talkin' to Me' does exactly that." -- Ted Anthony, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rating: **** "Poole's jazz-oriented flair for swinging rhythms shaped a style that blazed a trail to the future." -- Anthony DeCurtis ROLLING STONE
Rating: A -- Tom Sinclair, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY