Give Me the Roses While I Live: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1932-33
The Carter FamilyROUN 1069
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Give Me the Roses While I Live: Their Complete Victor Recordings 1932-33 is the sixth in a series of nine CDs released by Rounder Records. These releases cover the entire career of the Carter Family: Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter, Sara Carter (A.P.'s wife), and Maybelle Carter (A.P.'s sister-in-law). If Give Me the Roses is any indication of the care that Rounder has taken in putting together these collections, then the entire collection is worth owning. As the title indicates, Give Me the Roses is a complete collection of session work that spanned a ten-month period. Interestingly, all seventeen of these songs were recorded in two sittings. The first eleven tracks were recorded on October 12, 1932 in Camden, New Jersey, and the final four tracks were recorded on June 17, 1933 at the same studio. All of the tracks are remarkably clear and free of the hiss and pop that one associates with 78 rpm records. Indeed, David Glasser, the engineer who mastered this collection, deserves an award for the quality of the sound. There is one thing that David Glasser could not overcome: monaural recording. Actually, no one, no matter how gifted he or she might be at mastering recordings, can transform mono into stereo. All fifteen of the songs on Give Me the Roses were recorded before stereo recording equipment was invented. For all of their clarity these songs, along with all of the other songs recorded by the Carter Family, remain monaural. But lack of stereophonic separation is not a problem unless one is wearing headphones or otherwise actively looking for audiophile quality sound reproduction.
Monaural 78s were the state-of-the-art until the early 1950s. They usually held one song per side, so an album of 78s bore much more resemblance to an album of photographs than the long playing records (LPs) that came out in the 1950s. LPs were played back at 33 1/3 rpms, and this slower speed allowed an entire album's worth of 78s to appear on a single LP disk. However, LP technology was not advanced far enough beyond 78s to make reissues all that attractive to the record buying public. In 1980, the creation of the compact optical disc (CD) changed everything. Since then it has been possible to revisit those old 78s and put an entire album's worth of songs (and more) on a single disc that should not sonically deteriorate. Thus we have Rounder's series of discs on the Carter Family in chronological and circumstantial order.
Give Me the Roses is an example of the best use of current recording technology. Rounder not only reintroduces the Carter Family to a new generation of listeners, but archives their music for later generations to enjoy. Also, series designer Scott Billington and writer Charles Wolf have combined their talents to create an informed, informative, and pleasing package.
Make no mistake, the Carter Family's recordings are historic. This trio from Clinch Mountain changed the orientation of hillbilly music from instrumental to vocal, introduced a new style of guitar playing (created by Maybelle Carter), and brought it to mainstream audiences in the United States. The Carter Family's accomplishments allowed artists like Jimmie Rodgers to come along and help invent country and western music.
For those of you who are fans and players of Old Timey music, this CD (or any of the others in the series, for that matter) is indispensable. On Give Me the Roses the Carter Family performs traditional songs ("If One Won't Another Will," "The Broken Hearted Lover," "The Spirit of Love Watches Over Me," "On the Sea of Galilee," and "Home by the Sea"), traditional and contemporary songs arranged by A.P. Carter ("The Church in the Wildwood" and "I Never Will Marry"), original music credited to A.P. Carter ("Sweet as the Flowers in May Time," "Will the Roses Bloom in Heaven," "My Little Home in Tennessee," "The Sun of the Soul," "Two Sweethearts," and "The Winding Stream"), and one song written by R.H. Cornelius ("Give Me the Roses While I Live"). All of these songs are performed simply. The arrangement is usually just Maybelle on guitar, Sara on lead vocal, and A.P. and Maybelle singing harmony. But the simple arrangements suit the Carter Family's style, and this makes their music elegant as well as a joy to hear.
For more information on the Carter Family and Rounder's Carter Family series visit Rounder's web site at http://www.rounder.com, and a site dedicated to the Carter Family at http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/7059/carters.html.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz