As the 1990s drew to a close, someone in charge of the Document label decided it was time to reissue every record they could locate by Georgia's own Fiddlin' John Carson
. This amounted to 165 selections, which were doled out chronologically in seven volumes with sound quality ranging from excellent to corrosive. The earliest of these (recorded in 1923 and 1924) are well worth experiencing as some of the very first hillbilly records ever pressed. With a few exceptions, including a battered copy of "Old Sallie Goodman," most of the 23 recordings on volume one are clean enough that the voice and fiddle come through strong, relatively clear, and undiluted. Carson
's voice is arrestingly honest and visceral; his fiddle generates penetrating multi-phonic currents that almost seem to purl like bagpipes in the wind from moment to moment. The only other musician on these sides is believed to have been banjoist Land Norris
's playlist is largely stocked with folk and old-timey fiddler's favorites as well as topical tidbits like "The Farmer Is the Man That Feeds Them All," "When Abraham and Isaac Rushed the Can," and "Old Aunt Peggy, Won't You Set ‘Em up Again?" Those who enjoy the pleasures of comparison may want to savor Carson
's handling of "The Cat Came Back" and "Billy in the Low Ground" alongside covers recorded a few years later by Kentucky farmer Fiddlin' Doc Roberts
. Unfortunately, the 78 rpm platter used for Carson
's take of "Cat" had deteriorated to the point where the needle has trouble negotiating the grooves without causing distortion. Hopefully when these historic recordings are reissued again, some sort of noise reduction technology will have improved the playback experience. Most of what's here sounds great and everybody ought to hunker down and connect with these amazing old records.