Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Down in the Basement [Old Hat, 2003]
Here be 24 of the 50,000 78s collected by fun-loving Joe Bussard, portrayed by co-compiler Marshall Wyatt as a crusty old sweetheart who'll make you mix tapes for 50 cents a song until the RIAA hits him with a writ. The same share-the-wealth openness lifts the selections, which are upful even when bemoaning life's travails. Unfamiliar arrangements of famous songs leaven the obscurities, and stars like Gene Autry and Bill Broonzy pitch in. The country breakdowns that lead it off and take it on out could convert Nas (or me). And the concept has room for the hot jazz bands of Luis Russell and Fess Williams. It's hard to imagine Harry Smith declaring either folk music. Bussard could care less. A-