We knew it was a big deal, back in May, when the German reissue label Bear Family released the four-CD box set Knox County Stomp: The Knoxville Sessions, 1929-1930. The exhaustive set collects more than 100 tracks recorded at the St. James Hotel and other locations in downtown Knoxville during the tail end of the first great era of commercial sound recording.
The sessions, for the Vocalion and Brunswick labels, were notable for the variety of music they produced, from hillbilly and blues to jazz and even a dramatic account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud. But the records disappeared almost as soon as they were released—the onset of the Great Depression led to a collapse of the music business. The sessions remained something of a mystery in Knoxville until the box set was released; Knox County Stompfeatures a detailed hardbound book with recording details, photos, profiles of the artists, and a lengthy history of Knoxville’s music scene at the time.
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