It’s compilations like this that make some of us musicheads flinch in frustrated humility, that make us realize how much we DON’T know about the vast history of America’s music. We think because we know about bebop, fusion, free jazz, blues (electric urban blues, of course) and ambient styles/genres WE ARE HIP and what happened before 1940 was Squaresville - ancient history, man. There was a wealth of vibrant and unusual music happening in rural America in the 1920s and 30s, and the Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be series on Yazoo Records has been anthologizing it with these generous, inclusive/multi-style collections. Rather than make with a dry history lesson, the Times series presents a kaleidoscopic cross-section of rural music: country blues, string bands, cowboy songs, ragtime, mountain ballads, jug bands, fiddle tunes, gospel - styles that blur as they sometimes overlap. Highlights include Eck Robertson’s "Sally Gooden" and Louie Lasky’s "Caroline," both of which are superb examples of hillbilly minimalism - Tony Conrad and Steve Reich go to a hoedown. Eli Framer’s "God Didn’t Make No Monkey Man" is not so much a country blues song as it is an incantation, one man’s harrowing indictment of Darwin and Creation as he sails down the River Styx. Equally chilling is "Prayer of Death, Pt. 2" by Charley Patton, who makes Robert Johnson sound like a Blues Brother. (The only other relatively well-known blues fellow here is the great Skip James.) Then there are colorfully named ensembles like Uncle Dave Macon & His Fruit Jar Drinkers, The Swamp Rooters and Virginia Mountain Boomers.... glorious crackle and all. Many of the tracks here sound like they’re recorded transmissions from some parallel Earth, giving us a glimpse of an America we didn’t know existed. Audiophiles Beware: these recordings come from 78 RPM records whose quality wasn’t that great to begin with, so there’s some - what did they call it? oh yeah - "surface noise" to be had. It’s not that bad - actually the sound overall is quite good - and it’s worth putting up with for the treasures within.