Various Artists - Good for what ails you: Music of the medicine shows 1926-1937
[Old Hat Records/Enterprises, 2005]


Harry Smith, consummate hipster, occultist and field-recording anthologist, is credited by some with lighting the fuse that detonated the first wave of Punk rock with his Smithsonian Anthology of American Music. A weirdo by any standard, Smith maintained that the strangest, most vibrant American music was that from the dawn of electronic recording history. It's no exaggeration to suggest that this 2-CD anthology, with 48 songs and a vibrant 78-page (a single page for every revolution it takes to spin that old Shellac), History of the Medicine Shows, is the most likely heir to Smith's rich legacy. Like Punk, these old cuts are often politically incorrect, raw, perverse, utopian and funny as hell.

Welcome to the lost world of root doctors, pitchmen, minstrels with bootblack faces, rubes, sharps and Johnsons. While their Elixir Vitae may have been little more than granny's grain alcohol laced with cocaine or laudanum, the absolutely true (and spurious!) tonic secret of eternal youth was in the scratchy cuts, cats. Step up and lend an ear! You ma'am, you look as though you have a bad case of what the Greeks called electronica. Take these two discs and spin them daily. Let those 78 RPM scratches smooth the wrinkles on your agitated cerebellum. Hark to songs about resurrection, insurrection, miracle cures, horny heathens, stubborn mules,wayward pussies and Jimbo-Jambo Land (shut up, kid- I had a layover there)! Don't make me chase you with the bald-headed end of a broom, lady! Step up and hear the miracle! Tar-heels, Skillet-Lickers, Georgia Crackers and the giddily-named Johnson-Nelson-Porkchop are ready to shake your ragged soul until it shines like the seat of your pants. Pass those fins to the front! Waste no time in getting the finest 'tween wars collection of eccentricities to ever percolate down the pike. Things just ain't this weird no more. Tell 'em the New Lowdown sent you.

Steve Aydt

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Various Artists - Good For What Ails You - Music Of The Medicine Shows