You Ain't Talkin' To Me: The Roots of Country Music (Colombia Legacy AC3K 92789)

3 CD box set (72 tracks)

Charlie Poole

By Bob Mitchell

I made a new friend this month: Charlie Poole. For years I've heard his name but until I listened to this wonderful box set, I had never heard him sing and play. The project is accurately titled because it is an intimate and comprehensive anthology of the music that would become traditional country and bluegrass. Today's audience is familiar with the high quality recordings made possible by digital technology, however there was a time when recordings were down right primitive. But, oh my goodness, what a thrill it is to hear and experience those scratchy originals. The release is supplemented with expansive and educational liner notes. There is no way to review this box set in the space normally allotted, but you should know the following information.

Charlie Poole (1892-1931) was the prototypical hard-living and prematurely dying performer. Like Hank Williams, he sang his life and his fans idolized him for it. Poole damaged his right hand in a wager that he could catch a baseball without a glove no matter how hard it was thrown. When he closed his hand too quickly the ball broke his fingers, permanently arching them. But like Django Reinhart, who transcended the constraints of a badly burned left hand to create a dazzling jazz guitar style, Poole also turned loss to gain. His treatment of three-finger banjo picking came to contain the critical DNA for bluegrass. Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers would leave home for weeks at a time, playing for spare change at dances, schoolhouse concerts, in general stores or on street corners. By all reports, a Poole show was something to see as he leapt over chairs, turned cartwheels and danced on his hands.

This magnificent box set is the first ever to feature Poole but it doesn't stop there. Read on. Disc One features recordings from 1925 through 1930 and includes classics such as "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "White House Blues," and "Old and In The Way." Discs Two and Three contain vintage recordings not only by Poole, but also by other artists of the day: Uncle Dave Macon, Gid Tanner, Fred Van Eps, The Georgia Crackers, The Red Fox Chasers, Big Chief Henry's Indian String Band, Red Peterson's Piedmont Log Rollers, Bryon Parker and His Mountaineers, The Blue Ridge Highballers and too many others to mention. You'll love their music as much as you love their names. In this intelligently crafted project, a listener is able to contrast Poole's recording with the other artist's version. It's fascinating! Songs such as: "Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight Mister," "Goodbye Liza Jane," "Sweet Sunny South," "You Ain't Talkin' To Me," "Moving Day," "Man That Rode The Mule 'Round The World" and "Monkey on a String." The release is plum full of gems. "The Deal," Poole's largest-selling record ever, is now a bluegrass standard and was covered by Flatt and Scruggs 1957. Eight decades after his first recording session in 1925, Poole's music continues to live and there's no reason to think it won't continue for another eight or more decades.