You Ain't Talkin' to Me, a three-disc set that collects 40 sides from Charlie Poole alongside 32 cuts from the banjo plunker's contemporaries and descendants, is a great next step for anyone interested in exploring the roots of country music beyond Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family. Some will want to squeeze all of this under the umbrella of what critic Greil Marcus has dubbed "the old, weird America." Well, Poole's Columbia recordings are certainly old (all but a few were cut before the Great Depression), and his twangy, guitar-styled banjo picking and even twangier Piedmont-bred wail will sound plenty weird to 21st-century ears. Listen closely, though, and Poole's country blues are as frustratingly up-to-date as our own lives: "White House Blues," "Husband and Wife Were Angry One Night," "Old and Only in the Way," "If the River Was Whiskey." Poole died young in 1931, but for those willing to listen, he's still singing his blues, and ours, all these years later.
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