Inspired by an account of AP Carter's quest to preserve the folk tradition of rural America in Amanda Petrusich's excellent book, It Still Moves, I determined it was time I sampled the delights of The Carter Family to a greater extent than I'd been able to on assorted TV programmes.
The first thing to say about this collection is that it's great value for money - fifty tracks for a few quid is amazing, especially as the music has been remastered to the point where it's not possible to hear the eight decades which separate us from the recording of some of them. The liner notes are brief but informative, telling the reader about how different artistes have adapted Carter's music for their own songs, amongst other things. Dylan is one such mentioned, but I also noticed that the tune to Motherless Children bore an uncanny resemblance to Gillian Welch's No One Knows My Name, and that Wildwood Flower itself formed the basis of Emmylou Harris's Carter-inspired track on All I Intended To Be.
Levon Helm's tribute, on his album Dirt Farmer, was to just sing Single Girl, Married Girl more or less straight.
Whilst to 21st Century ears the production is charmingly unsophisticated, the liner notes point out that Maybelle's guitar playing was, in its day, revolutionary, and in its own way one of the reasons The Carter Family have gone down in the annals, so it's worth a listen just for that.
Much more, however, this is an indispensable piece of Americana.