Ralph Peer's 1927 Bristol, Tenn., sessions (recently issued on CD by BMG Heritage), which introduced Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, are probably the best-known commercial field recordings of th

Ralph Peer's 1927 Bristol, Tenn., sessions (recently issued on CD by BMG Heritage), which introduced Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, are probably the best-known commercial field recordings of them all. But these lesser-known OKeh Records sides are no less revelatory. The present two-CD set—released in conjunction with an exhibit that runs through next March at the Library of Virginia in Richmond—brings together 33 of the 36 released tracks cut in October 1929 by 13 different Richmond-area acts. Drawing from a pool of talent that mainly performed on local radio, OKeh recorded a broad variety of roots music —jubilee quartets (doing both sacred and blues material), shape-note singers, a blues harmonica soloist, country fiddlers, even a Hawaiian-guitar band. Virginia Roots not only probes the richness of musical tradition in the region but also affords a thrilling glimpse into the methodology of bush-beating recording expeditions in the bygone days of "race" and "hillbilly" recording. Distributed by Sidestreet.—CM

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