TAMIS Unveils Photos of New ‘Knoxville Sessions’ Box Set

In Music Stories, The Daily Dumpster Blog by Matthew Everettleave a COMMENT

The Knox County Public Library’s Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound has sent over some photos of the ACTUAL BOX SET of compact discs that the Bear Family record label in Germany will release this spring as The Knoxville Sessions: 1929-1930. What’s more, the box set is available for pre-order at the Bear Family website. At €109.95, it’s not cheap, but it will be the definitive collection of some of the most historically significant commercial recordings—jazz, blues, country, gospel, and more—made in Knoxville, remastered directly from the original 78s, with lots of photos and a hardbound book with copious text.

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Here’s the full official Bear Family description of the set:

4-CD boxed set (LP-size) with 156-page hardcover book, 102 tracks. Total playing time approx. 300 minutes.

•    With this set, Bear Family Records completes the map of commercial recording in East Tennessee in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
•    ‘The Bristol Sessions, 1927–1928: The Big Bang Of Country Music’ documented epoch-making sessions by Victor Records that launched the careers of Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, while
•    ‘The Johnson City Sessions, 1928–1929: Can You Sing Or Play Old-Time Music?’ focused on Columbia Records’ similar search for early country music talent in Appalachia, sessions that yielded many other seminal recordings.

The Knoxville Sessions, 1929–1930: Knox County Stomp features the music made at two sessions conducted by Brunswick Records at downtown St. James Hotel—music remarkable both for its variety and for the rarity of the records that preserved it.

Whereas the recordings made in Bristol and Johnson City were almost exclusively of old-time country and gospel music, the Knoxville sessions captured a more diverse gathering of Appalachian voices and sounds. Amidst old-time stringbands like the Tennessee Ramblers, the Southern Moonlight Entertainers, and the Smoky Mountain Ramblers, we also hear the majestic African American blues and gospel singer Leola Manning, the hot dance music of Maynard Baird & His Southern Serenaders, the virtuoso string ragtime of Howard Armstrong and the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, sacred songs by white and African American quartettes, songsters such as Will Bennett and Haskell Wolfenbarger, a unique recorded playlet about the Hatfield–McCoy feud—and even an address by the businessman whose enterprise brought Brunswick Records to Knoxville, Colonel J. G. Sterchi, president of the famous Sterchi Bros. furniture store chain.

The Knoxville Sessions, 1929–1930: Knox County Stomp gathers together, for the first time, all the issued recordings made at the St. James Hotel, remastered from the original 78s—some of them so elusive that only single copies are known to exist. These 102 fascinating performances, on four CDs, are accompanied by a xxx-page, LP-sized hardcover book containing essays on the history of Knoxville, the background to the sessions, and the individual artists, much of the material based on new research. The book is also filled with scores of rare photographs, many previously unpublished, as well as complete song lyrics and a detailed discography with 250 illustrations.

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The Knoxville Sessions: 1929-1930 will be released on April 28—just in time for Knoxville Stomp, a weekend festival scheduled for May 5-8 in various downtown venues celebrating the Knoxville Sessions.

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Senior Editor Matthew Everett manages the Knoxville Mercury's arts & entertainment section, including the comprehensive calendar section—Knoxville’s go-to guide for everything worth doing in the area. You can reach Matthew at matthew@knoxmercury.com.

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