Folklorist/singer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger
may not bear the cultural weight of his better-known cousin Pete
, but between the two a veritable encyclopedia set of sepia-tone Americana resides. Seeger
's follow-up to his excellent 2003 Smithsonian Folkways release True Vine
is as much a historical artifact as it is the perfect front porch/parlor room soundtrack for a hot summer's day. Early Southern Guitar Sounds
is just that, a 28-track musical lecture on the styles, body shapes, and songs that mythically described the guitar from around 1850 to 1930. Seeger
takes the listener through ragtime, blues, Celtic-infused old-timey ballads and straight up traditional folk and country on a multitude of different instruments, from pre-World War I arch tops to a turn of the century banjo, lending his voice to a few and his formidable instrumental skills to the majority. This isn't flashy or progressive noodling, rather it's the musical equivalent of the slow food movement, offering up samples of cuisine that haven't seen a dinner table since the first World War, let alone been injected with any commercial additives. As with all Smithsonian Folkways releases, Early Southern Guitar Sounds
features exhaustive liner notes that include dissertation-worthy descriptions of playing styles, detailed photos of period instruments, and song-by-song histories that make you want convert your listening room into an old oak library or pine box saloon.