You Aint' Talkin' to Me (Columbia / Legacy)
Reviewed by Harvey Pekar, Fri., May 27, 2005
You Ain't Talkin' to Me (Columbia/Legacy)
Along with Jimmie Rodgers and Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole (1892-1931) is among the founders of modern country music. Though a professional performer for a comparatively short time, he's also cited as one of the precursors of bluegrass. Prior to that, Poole was a mill hand in North Carolina textile factories, who began playing banjo at the age of 8 and developed a finger picking style as opposed to the old clawhammer approach. One of his earliest influences on the banjo was Fred Van Eps, one of the most acclaimed musicians of his day. Poole liked and performed songs from just about every musical genre, from sentimental ballads to foot-stomping dance tunes. As a young man, Poole teamed with fiddler Posey Rorer and traveled the local area playing gigs between day jobs. Later they were joined by guitarist Norman Woodlieff, and formed the North Carolina Ramblers, with Poole as the group's vocalist. They met with increasing success and soon were touring in Canada and Montana. In 1925, they signed to Columbia, and their first disc was a hit, selling more than 100,000 copies. After these first sessions, Poole toured until the year of his death. His band and his clear, penetrating singing made an immediate impact, inspiring other country performers until the Depression, when demand for the Ramblers dropped off so suddenly that Poole had to go back to the mills. In 1931, he received a movie offer for his music that set him off on a month's bender that killed him. This 3-CD box contains 43 of nearly 70 recorded selections. Included are other tracks by acts that influenced or were influenced by him, so we can hear Poole in the context of his times. Rambler selections featuring Poole's slicing vocals and direct, no-nonsense banjo work are often quite entertaining and always historically significant.