Some of the songs in this massive collection make you shake your head with wonder - surely this one can't have been released as a record for people to buy in a record shop? Imagine the conversation from 1929 - "Excuse me, have you got I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground, by Bascom Lamar Lunsford?" "Why certainly young sir, it's right here, that'll be 30 cents!" But apparently ALL of these songs, ballads, fiddle tunes, gospel shouts, shape-note choirs, blues, string bands, cajuns and hot sermonising were indeed issued on 78s, and the public did buy them. Well - the rural folk in the Southern states, not those sophisticates in New York.
A guy called Ralph Peer found out by accident that white people down in the South would buy records by Uncle Bunt Stephens in their hundreds and thousands - he couldn't understand it either, being a city slicker himself, but he knew a good thing when he saw it. So what became the country music industry started up. Then Ralph deduced that the black folks would also like the opportunity to buy their own kind of music, and so began to issue country blues. Between 1925 and 1933 an amazing kaleidoscope of country, folk, blues and jazz was released and some of it's right here in this big box.
And at least half is just as enjoyable now as it was then - although you probably need to be a bit of a folkie or a blues fan to really love it. Or maybe you went to see O Brother Where Art Thou and got the brilliant soundtrack album - well, Harry Smith's Anthology is where you find the original recordings of that kind of stuff. It's often raw and harsh, but it cuts through. It has power and magic, and a crazy happiness to it. This music is not show business.