Wednesday, March 10, 2010
ROW: Dewey Corley & Walter Miller – The George Mitchell Collection (Fat Possum)
George Mitchell changed my life. More specifically, it was the catalytic agent contained in the veritable mountain of music he collected on dozens of criss-crossing trips across the rural and urban South. The best “one-stop shop” to hear exactly what I’m typing about is a collection released most recently by Fat Possum on seven compact discs (representing 47 volumes of artist-specific 7”s). Recognizing addicts like myself as easy marks, the FB folks have also released a number of single disc collections that expand on the samplings found in the larger set. Corley and Miller are in a very palpable sense antiques: the former contributing vocals, one-string washtub bass, harmonica and kazoo and the latter picking passable acoustic guitar. Their repertoire is right out of the Pre-War medicine show playbook with songs often ramshackle in construction, but every bit as rarified in world-weary feeling and prevailing idiosyncrasy. Corley actually coaxes a decent sound out of his tin kazoo, an irascible instrument that is usually more annoying than endearing thanks to its biting timbre and severely limited range, one that matches his wheezy croak of a voice. These tracks date from 1967, but the only thing that betrays their vintage as other than four decades prior is the clarity and intimacy of Mitchell’s field recording.