Review: Various Artists – Down Home Saturday Night

Label: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Released: July 31, 2007

As the liner notes describe, all across the country on a Saturday night music and good times go hand in hand and always have. American roots music, from bluegrass to zydeco, has been an influence on modern music as well as a vital part of life for many, many people. It’s the latter that this compilation tries to capture.

Down Home Saturday Night crosses time and genres, mining the Smithsonian Folkways archive to create a collection of what is essentially an American roots music party. From the opening track, John Sebastian and the J Band (yeah, the “J” is for “jug”) doing the old classic folksong “Minglewood Blues,” to “Uncle Bud,” the zydeco closer recorded by Boozoo Chavis and the Magic Sounds, every track can be taken on two levels, educational and enjoyable. Over the course of the album, cajun, bluegrass, jump blues, conjunto, Western swing (courtesy of no less than the Texas Playboys, masters of the genre), and country are all represented without the album seeming the least bit haphazard. Among all 15 excellent tracks, the New Lost City Ramblers version of “Bill Morgan and His Gal” still manages to stand out. The song itself has a clever comedy that eludes today’s hip, cool indie artists along with a sing along chorus that is irresistible. Complaining about his spendthrift girl, Bill Morgan sings, “You might have known me pretty long / But sure have got my initials wrong. / My name is Morgan, but it ain’t J.P.,” over great old string band backup. It’s more infectious than any of today’s pop songs.

This may be seen as a label sampler by some, but that misses the point. Typically, a compilation like this would focus on a particular genre, be it folk or blues or zydeco or any other, as its theme. While that’s a logical way to approach it, Smithsonian Folkways understands there’s an even more fundamental connection, the spirit of the music. With that understanding, they create what may be the ultimate party album for people who love music. Sure, there’s something to be learned on Down Home Saturday Night, but the album is such a good time, you don’t even realize it’s an education.

Rating: 10/10

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.