Review Mississippi String Bands

Various Artists
Mississippi String Bands Volume One
County Records CO-CD-3513

Various Artists
Mississippi String Bands Volume Two
County Records CO-CD-3514

Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited 1998

Too many tracks and artists to list individually


I recall sorting through R. Crumb’s old-time music cards, daydreaming about actually owning a Floyd Ming’s Pep Steppers record. Carolina flea markets could supply Charlie Poole 78s, but those exotic waxings from deep in the heart of the mysterious South could hardly be found here. Fortunately, County Records reissued the best of them in 1975.


County Records now enjoys the process of reissuing those albums on CD complete with updated notes, new tracks, even entirely new projects. The Mississippi String Bands compilations spring back to life as a pair of twenty-track CD’s. Some artists, such as Ming’s Pep Steppers display a clear influence from the state’s blues tradition. The Carter Brothers have a ruthless energy rare even then. Almost universally the fiddle dominates, and the 5-string appears much less than in the Atlantic South.


Considering that most folks would want both, the liner notes prove odd. Following identical introductions, each booklet contains information, often available no where else, about the artists heard on the disc. Some folks, such as the wonderfully precise Leake County Revelers, appear on both and thus receive exactly the same text in each booklet. Otherwise, these two compilations are essential for anyone interested in old-time music. After an overdose of Round Peak or a steady diet of Highwoods sound-a-likes, the Mississippi String Band collections offer a fabulous assortment of different and sometimes wild fiddle band music from 1927 through 1935.