For two weeks in 1927, Bristol, Tennessee was the site of a legendary recording session known now as “the big bang of country music.” The sessions launched the careers of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and reinforced the popularity of Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman
whose music career was already well established in the recording
industry. Many of the regional musicians who recorded in Bristol did not
go on to fame and fortune, but their contributions to country music are
acknowledged and honored at last in this reimagined tribute project.
The new Orthophonic Victrola
had found an eager audience, and executives were on the search for new
talent. Thanks to Stoneman’s encouragement, Victor producer Ralph Peer found it in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a region that rightly claims its place as a who’s who of American roots music.
I was in Bristol, and out of the blue this idea came to me. You know,
nobody really had ever acknowledged the 1927 sessions for their impact
on country music and how important those sessions were.”
had officially declared Bristol “the birthplace of country music” in
1998, no one had ever paid tribute to those original sessions in the
studio. That was about to change.
has produced nearly every major artist in country and bluegrass, did not
think the idea was crazy at all. The two immediately imagined a tribute
befitting the original sessions, and the result is Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited. The double-CD was released by Sony Legacy Recordings on May 12, 2015 as a benefit for the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol. Like the Twain project, it brings a lot of talent to bear on an important historic topic.
narrated 19 spoken word tracks that provide context for the 18 newly
recorded songs. (The original songs can be heard in the background.)
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Emmylou Harris, Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Ashley Monroe, The Shotgun Rubies, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’, The Church Sisters, Corbin Hayslett, Brad Paisley,
Carl Jackson, Ashley & Shannon Campbell, Sheryl Crow, Larry Cordle
& The Virginia Luthiers, Jesse McReynolds, and The Chuck Wagon Gang
recorded the updated songs, all acoustic versions in keeping with the
originals. I had the privilege of researching and writing narrative, just as I had done for the Twain CD.
Bristol, Tennessee shares a state line with Bristol, Virginia. The
entire region is known for its musical heritage with such highlights as Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion and The Abingdon Crooked Road Music Fest in Virginia.
1927 sessions were a bona fide search for new talent, this new project
honored that tradition. The museum sponsored a contest
inviting musicians to submit videos of their performances of some of
the original recordings. Corbin Hayslett’s “Darling Cora” won the
competition. Another youngster, Keb H-Mac, twelve-year old protégé to
Keb’ Mo’, accompanied his hero on “To The Work.” Early reviews have also praised the work of The Church Sisters, twin sisters who are relatively new on the scene.
become another source of hometown pride for Rusty Morrell whose entire
life has been shaped by this music. “The original recordings provided
the raw ordination for the type of music that comes out of these hills.
Getting it out to the masses was a big deal,” Morrell said of the impact
of those early sessions. “I wanted to redo the songs with new artists,
to make the songs relevant to new generations who have no idea of the
history. For Carl and me, that was our job – to tell the story.”
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