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About 3 years ago, I took a couple of evening courses in music at Washington University given by the splendid Ken Mitchell. They were intense and instructive, but the greatest legacy they left was an enormous boost to my record collection. One was relatively specific – The Music of The Beatles. The other very broad – a history of American music of all types from the first settlers up until rock 'n' roll.

Each course initiated an intense spell of record buying to bring the music discussed into my house. So much music, indeed, that much of it remains unexplored even today.

These thoughts entered my mind as I played the first of ten discs comprising the entire recorded legacy of The Carter Family this morning.

These are the American folk songs that provided the impetus for both the country and modern folk movements, and each one is a pearl. Listening to the collection is almost too strong a brew. When these songs were released in the 1920s through the 1940s, no more than two recordings would be on a disc, and that was enough to satisfy. The concentrate that modern compilations provide has the bad effect of blurring the distinctions. I find myself having to ration the listening to just a few songs at a time. Of course, this expands the playing time even further. It's going to take me to the end of my days to assimilate this music in its entirety.

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