The Carter Family – “Wildwood Flower” (1935)
Music so sturdy, simple, direct, and affecting is rarely achieved, especially that stands the test of so many decades. The clean melodies of the Carter Family are clearly from another time, virtually another world, yet they call forth an elemental, essential musical understanding in any American. And perhaps they tap into the foundational strains of “folk musics” everywhere, and speak universally.
Uncle Tupelo – “Wait Up” (1992)
I’m not in love with any Uncle Tupelo album in its entirety, but this Tweedy-penned tune has stuck with me over the years. The quiet desperation, pleading from a point of exhaustion, in the three-note melody and lyrics is affecting and simple. The tantalizingly brief shifts from the jaunting banjo to the half-speed, cavernous wailing of Peter Buck’s electric guitar is like a sonic metaphor for a glimpse beyond the surface of workaday fondness into the occasionally realised, sometimes beautiful, sometimes dangerous depth of love.
Flatt & Scruggs – “We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart” (1949)
I don’t know much about bluegrass and country music–but I know I tend toward the pre-electric forms that emphasis vocal harmony. This track from Flatt & Scruggs has always stuck with me. It has the sweetness and simplicity of earlier Carter Family tracks, wonderful banjo playing, and a nice bit of fiddle.