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on August 5, 2014
The story about the discovery and rescue of these old vinyl records saved from the dustbin is revelatory: our throw-away world buries so much of what was valuable about the past, that this one success story makes me think about all that we've tossed out to make room fro the NEW will never be recovered. Thank you to those who saw their value and restored them for us! How little we regard the past and how much the past can teach us about music made by just plain folks.

These are recordings that I have found myself singing along with; many of the tunes are catchy and honest--as "roots" music often is. The gloss and bull *sh** of polished radio-friendly music is not here. These are recordings by people who were not on the fast track to success. There's an honesty and a down-homeyness that I love and respect.

The scratchy, low-fi quality only adds to their charm.
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on April 12, 2013
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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on September 11, 2014
These are all the songs I grew up with. We used to play them on the upstairs Victrola at my Great Grandmothers house. We sang them in our elementary school music classes. Then I heard them again during the folk music revival of my hippie days in college. What a delight to find them again.
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on February 7, 2013
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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on April 23, 2013
Certain genres of music are timeless. These are sounds from a simpler time, a less sophisticated delivery, but sophisticated subjects still raked over in contemporary folk music of today.
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on February 23, 2013
This is a really amazing collection! I got it for my husband as a CHristmas present and now we bought it for our friend and we know he'd love it too!
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on May 1, 2013
My review from

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. The rules of American popular music--country, pop, gospel, and even bluegrass, blues, and jazz--have long been codified 80 or 90 years after these sides were cut, and when we hear Earl McCoy's staccato steel guitar on "John Henry the Steel Drivin' Man" with that one unexpected note in his riff, Jimmie Tarlton and Tom Darby's quavering, yodeling harmonies on "All Bound Down in Texas," or the Happy Four's shape-note arrangement with harmonica fills on "Climbing the Golden Stairs," we can't help but touch parts of our musical and cultural imagination stored way in the back of our amygdala.

The Work Hard songs on Disc One deal with imagery far removed from most of us--Fiddlin John Carson's "The Farmer is the Man Who Feeds Them All," Oscar Ford's "The Farmer's Dream," Red Gay & Jack Wellman's "Flat Wheel Train Blues, Pts. 1 & 2," Pierre La Dieu's "Driving Saw Logs on the Plover"--while talking about ideas we still confront: class division in "Poor Man, Rich Man (Cotton Mill Colic No. 2)" by David McCarn, consumer cynicism in "I've Got the Chain Store Blues" by the Allen Brothers, and the injustice of prohibition (alcohol then, certain drugs now) in "When the Roses Bloom Again for the Bootlegger" by Earl Johnson.

The Pray Hard cuts on Disc Three often address issues that came up when country boys went to the city, or city culture came to the country. The listener may not be entirely convinced to go dry by Gid Tanner's "You've Got to Stop Drinking Shine," but the scolding of the Georgia Yellow Hammers on "I'm S-A-V-E-D" will surely get him to takea firm position one way or the other. "The Gambler's Dying Words" from Sid Harkreader & Grady Moore sports a melody quite similar to "Roving Gambler" to draw listeners close to hear their warining, reminding me of the chart my church youth pastor put up that pointed the impressionable to soundalike versions of dangerously secular bands.

The Kentucky Holiness Singers live up to their name with "I'm On My Way," a tune with a proto-bluegrass mandolin break punctuated by a little shouting, and the Dixon Brothers turn in a lovely, pious performance on "Easter Day."

The most fun here is of course on the 14 Play Hard tracks of Disc Two. Gid Tanner's "Work Don't Bother Me" captures the relish that those who worked so hard must have took to the weekend opportunity to tie one on and forget everything for a couple of days. The unnamed members of the improbably named North Carolina Hawaiians turn in a nifty "Solider's Joy," the dance number picked on ukulele, guitar, and steel guitar (picked Hawaiian style with some slides reaching into Duane Allman bird-chirping territory), the Carolina Ramblers rave their way through "Barnyard Frolic," and the Hack String Band's "Too Tight Rag" is the soundtrack to a cartoon short that hasn't been made yet, with fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo, and jazzhorn taking turns on lead licks.

I hadn't heard of several of the acts on this set before, much less most of the songs, and this set can be enjoyed equally by old-time aficionados and new initiates into these strange and old sounds: you'll get some of the more typical sounds from this style and era in songs you haven't heard to death, and some real gems, patterns of sound you've never imagined, like the Taylor-Griggs Louisiana Melody Makers' "When the Moon Drips into the Blood," and Whit Gaydon's "Tennessee Coon Hunt."
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on November 14, 2012
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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on July 15, 2014

1 John Henry the Steel Drivin' Man (1930) - Earl McCoy, Alfred Meng and Clem Garner
2 Poor Man, Rich Man (Cotton Mill Colic no. 2) (1930) - David McCarn
3 I've Got the Chain Store Blues (1930) - Allen Brothers
4 The Farmer is the Man Who Feeds Them All (1923) - Fiddlin' John Carson
5 The Farmer's Dream (1930) - Oscar Ford
6 When the Roses Bloom Again for the Bootlegger (1930) - Earl Johnson
7 Jerry, Go Ile That Car (1928) - Harry "Mac" McClintock
8 Flat Wheel Train Blues, Part 1 (1930) - Red Gay & Jack Wellman
9 Flat Wheel Train Blues, Part 2 (1930) - Red Gay & Jack Wellman
10 Driving Saw Logs on the Plover (1928) - Pierre La Dieu
11 All Bound Down in Texas (1929) - Darby & Tarlton
12 Poor Boy Long Ways From Home (1928) - Buell Kazee
13 Diamond Joe (1927) - Georgia Crackers


1 Work Don't Bother Me (1930) - Gid Tanner and band
2 Soldier's Joy (1928) - North Carolina Hawaiians
3 Fourth of July at the Country Fair (1927) - Bill Chitwood and his Georgia Mountaineers
4 McDonald's Farm (1928) - Warren Caplinger's Cumberland Mountain Entertainers
5 Barnyard Frolic (1932) - Carolina Ramblers String Band
6 Home Brew Rag (1935) - Cherokee Ramblers
7 Corn-Shucking Party in Georgia (1928) - Herschel Brown and His Boys
8 The Beer Party (1933) - Charlie Wilson & His Hayloft Gang
9 Charleston Rag (1927) - Aiken County String Band
10 Tennessee Coon Hunt (1927) - Whit Gaydon
11 Too Tight Rag (1929) - Hack String Band
12 Cheat `Em (1928) - Allen Brothers
13 Hide Away (1927) - Oscar Ford
14 The Preacher Got Drunk and Laid Down His Bible (1928) - Tennessee Ramblers


1 You've Got to Stop Drinking Shine (1930) - Gid Tanner
2 Climbing the Golden Stairs (1927) - Happy Four
3 Oh Declare His Glory (1927) - McDonald Quartette
4 Easter Day (1936) - Dixon Brothers
5 I'm S-A-V-E-D (1927) - Georgia Yellow Hammers
6 Way to Glory Land (1929) - Corley Family
7 You Must Be a Lover of the Lord (1929) - Fields Ward and the Grayson County Railsplitters
8 The Gambler's Dying Words (1927) - Sid Harkreader & Grady Moore
9 I'm On My Way (1930) - Kentucky Holiness Singers
10 Leave It There (1931) - Snowball & Sunshine
11 Where We'll Never Grow Old (1927) - Alfred G. Karnes
12 If the Light Has Gone Out of Your Soul (1928) - Ernest Phipps and His Holiness Singers
13 When the Moon Drips Away Into the Blood (1928) - Taylor-Griggs Louisiana Melody Makers
14 Beyond the Starry Plane (1928) - Red Brush Singers
15 My Christian Friends in Bonds of Love (c. 1933) - Elder G. P. Harris
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on June 25, 2015
It's very sad when the liner notes are the best part of the package and the only reason I gave it two stars. It is also very sad when you waste packing material on 3 CD's when two were more than enough. The music is very uninspiring and I hate to say it, almost boring. Any of the Yazoo's "Times Ain't Like They Used To Be" series are much better buy and way more interesting. This CD does not deserve a 5 star rating. For real 5 star ratings try either the same company's "Tompkins Square" release of Cajun - Creole accordion great Amede Ardion or the releases on the Dust to Digital label, "Baby, How Can It Be?" 3 wonderful CD's of love, lust and contempt 1920's & 30's or the "Old Hat' labels, "Good For What Ails You. Music From The Medicine Shows 1926-1937". I hate to belittle anyone's work but this just doesn't do it for me.
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