By Kurt Wolff
Dubbed the Bristol Sessions, those recordings are being honored with a new tribute CD set for release this October. Titled Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions Revisited, the collection will feature new recordings of select songs from those iconic sessions by such artists as Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Steve Martin, Marty Stuart, Doyle Lawson, Shannon and Ashley Campbell (who are two of Glen Campbell’s children), Eddie Stubbs and Ashley Monroe.
The Bristol Sessions took place in July and August of 1927 in the town of Bristol, which sits on the border between Tennessee and Virginia. The sessions were presided over by Ralph Peer, a New York City producer who became a pioneer in field recording, traveling to various cities in the 1920s to record budding folk and blues artists. In the process he helped turn the old-time folk style of rural Southerns into a new breed of commercial music that was dubbed at various times folk, hillbilly, country-western and eventually just country.
Because the Bristol Sessions marked the recording debut of both Rodgers and the Carter Family, they are today considered one of the most vital and productive recording events in the history of country music. Other artists who recorded during those same sessions included Ernest Stoneman, Blind Alfred Reed, Henry Whitter and the Johnson Brothers.
Orthophonic Joy will feature new versions of 16 of the songs that were cut during the original Bristol Sessions.
“It was like all these tributaries coming together into a big well of American music,” Harris says of the Bristol Sessions, in a promotional video released about the upcoming tribute album.
“It was the Big Bang of country music,” echoes producer Carl Jackson.
And as for the reasons for doing a tribute album? “I just think it’s important to know your history, period,” says Gill.