Various: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo/Southbound)

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Tommy Johnson: Slidin' Delta
Various: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo/Southbound)

Among the many delights of this exceptional double disc package -- subtitled "Super Rarities and Unissued Gems of the 1920s and '30s -- are the artwork by that obsessive record collector Robert Crumb, and the hilarious essay by compiler Richard Nevins who attempts to justify the habits of hoarders while also acknowledging this is a crazy kind of sickness.

His account of the Collyers -- three New York brothers whose four-storey house was crammed with so much stuff that they had tiny trails through the piles -- is fascinating in a grim way.

In 1947 police raided the place to find one had died of starvation and the other they discovered (after a week of cutting away a roof and removing 136 tons of stuff) had suffocated under a pile of rubble.

Nevins is himself something of a collector -- that's putting it mildly -- but he makes a good case for the social importance of such types: they keep things so we may discover them later.

And this wonderful compilation of old country and blues songs (which includes just a few well-known names such as Memphis Minnie, the Memphis Jug Band and Son House) takes you back to a time when songs were often about story-telling as much as entertainment.

Too many gems here to recount: the saloon piano of Smith and Irvine, and barn dances and blues from folks with names like the Three Stripped Gears, the Kentucky Ramblers, Jaybird Coleman, and Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles (who offer Fightin' in the War with Spain).

This is indeed a trove of the eccentric, the authentic voices from a long gone period, and just downright great country and blues.

Anyone taken with the Harrry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music should be checking out these tracks. They may not have the resonance of Smith's collection but they add necessary breadth to our understanding.

And they are often bloody good fun too.

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