What Johnny Cash once called "the single most important event in the history of country music" is being celebrated on a new compilation album, out today (May 12th). Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited is a collaborative effort by some of the genre's most notoriously traditional names, including Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Brad Paisley, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.
The more than two dozen artists on the two-disc project put their own spins on songs originally recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions, also known as the "Big Bang of Country Music" — a project spearheaded by Ralph Peer in the Tennessee-Virginia border town. Over the course of two months, the Victor Records producer recorded 19 different artists at a makeshift studio inside a Bristol hat warehouse, resulting in some of the most influential songs in country music. The sessions also made stars out of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family — two of the most revered acts in all of music history. The historic significance of those Bristol recordings resulted in "the birthplace of country music" actually being deemed 300 miles from Nashville.
"They're almost like the North Star," says Marty Stuart of the 76 songs recorded during the 1927 sessions. "Country music has taken so many forms, and I've always contended that it does not matter if the casual listener falls in love with country music through Florida Georgia Line, Taylor Swift, Old Crow Medicine Show or whomever — just get in and start digging! You'll find some of the most colorful people, some of the richest, most beautiful stories that America has ever had to offer. But at the head of that stream is the Bristol Sessions."
Grammy winner Carl Jackson is taking Peer's place behind the board for Orthophonic Joy, producing such tracks as Stuart's take on J.P. Nester's "Black Eyed Susie," Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers playing "Sweet Heaven When I Die" by Tenneva Ramblers, and Ashley Monroe covering "The Storms Are on the Ocean," originally recorded by the Carter Family. Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs narrates stories behind the songs in between each track.
The album is backed by the Birthplace of Country Music museum, the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited Track List:
1. "Don’t Deny Yourself the Sheer Joy of Orthophonic Music…" (narration by Eddie Stubbs)
2. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, "I'm Redeemed"
3. "All They Needed Now Was Talent…"
4. Emmylou Harris, "Bury Me Beneath the Willow"
5. "Tonight He is Playing the Tune at Police Headquarters…"
6. Marty Stuart, "Black Eyed Susie"
7. "An Early Tradition of Scrapping for Rights and Royalties…"
8. Dolly Parton, "When They Ring Those Golden Bells"
9. "I Wish I Had Some Rocks to Throw at Them…"
10. Ashley Monroe, "The Storms Are on the Ocean"
11. "Any Song with a Story Will Go to the People’s Hearts…"
12. The Shotgun Rubies, "I Am Resolved"
13. "A Hoe-down Social in a Mountain Cabin…"
Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, "Sweet Heaven When I Die"
15. "Daddy Never Knew When He Would Come Up With an Idea for a Song…"
16. Vince Gill, "The Soldier’s Sweetheart"
17. "Where the Blues Meet the Church…"
18. Keb' Mo', "To the Work"
1. "Singers Who Had Not Visited Bristol During Their Entire Lifetime Arrived…"
2. The Church Sisters, "Where We’ll Never Grow Old"
3. "Love, Loss, and the Perils of the Moonshine Business…"
Corbin Hayslett, "Darling Cora"
5. "Ramblers Riding the Longest Train I Ever Saw…"
Brad Paisley & Carl Jackson, "In the Pines"
7. "Twenty-One Good Years at the Throttle…"
8. Ashley and Shannon Campbell, "The Wreck of the Virginian"
9. "Prized and Practical, Brutal Ballads…"
Carl Jackson, "Pretty Polly"
11. "Tremendous Heart Punch and Appeal…"
12. Sheryl Crow, "The Wandering Boy"
13. "Gotta Catch That Train…"
Larry Cordle & The Virginia Luthiers, "Train on the Island"
15. "History Saws and Strums Along with Itself…"
Jesse McReynolds & Carl Jackson, "Johnny Goodwin / The Girl I Left Behind"
17. "Introducing the Orthophonic Choir…"
18. The Chuck Wagon Gang, "Shall We Gather at the River"
19. "The Birthplace of Country Music…"