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JSP (JSP77138)

This Riley Puckett showcase is well overdue. The one hundred tracks in this 4CD box set cover his career from the early guitar solos and duets in 1928 to the guitar/mandolin sessions in 1940 taking in his recordings with Clayton McMichen, Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, The McMichen-Layne String Orchestra and sessions with mandolinist Ted Hawkins, fiddle player Charles Smith and banjo player Arthur Tanner.

Until Riley Puckett came on the scene, most old time tunes were instrumentals with the fiddle being dominant but once he started singing, the entire south fell in love with his warm, clear voice. He was to become one of country music's first superstars alongside Vernon Dalhart, Carson Robison and Jimmie Rodgers, dominating Columbia's hillbilly output that featured Riley, either as a band member or soloist, on 150 out of 850 releases. Clayten McMichen of The Skillet Lickers, who could be overly critical of Riley's talent, had to admit that "Riley proved the people wanted to hear singing and if he didn't sing on the records, they didn't sell many".

This set demonstrates just how varied his material was ranging from blues, country dance tunes, sad old ballads, traditional mountain songs and ‘pop' music of the day. His wide appeal was nurtured with nostalgic songs of mother and home and all that southern mountain folk loved to listen to most as he performed tunes about the Old Carolina Home, Cumberland Gap, Frankie And Johnny, Waitin' For The Evenin' Mail, Jesse James and Sourwood Mountain along side his interpretations of popular songs like South of The Border, My Buddy, When I Grow Too Old To Dream, It's A Sin To Tell A Lie and Margie.

This excellent compilation by Chris King is a well-rounded and varied look at the career and music of Riley Puckett and should be investigated immediately. 5 stars.

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Review Date: Febraury 2011

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