Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jimmie Rodgers: The Essential Jimmie Rodgers [RCA, 1997]
Rodgers isn't the most accessible of totems--read Nolan Porterfield on his "raw energy" and "driving" guitar and you'll think somebody made a mistake at the pressing plant. But he didn't invent country music being a purist. He was the first to put into practice the retrospectively obvious truth that Southerners wanted more from their music than hymns, reels, and high-mountain laments--blues voicings and pop tunes and even a little jazz, though most of these classics are strictly solo. Also, he yodeled, a sound that encompasses the restless bad-boy escapism of "The Brakeman's Blues" and "Pistol Packin' Papa," which fortunately for rock and rollers predominates, and the dreamy good-boy nostalgia of "Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea" and "My Old Pal," without which he wouldn't have meant spit in T-for-Texas or T-for-Tennessee. Also encompassing both is "Waiting for a Train," as signal a Depression song as "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." It was recorded in 1928. A