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slavery, and war and in its un-technologized essence, it provided a formal statement of ordinary simplicity and defiance in a “world gone wrong.” By plugging in his instruments and complicating his lyrics, Dylan had turned his back on the people from whom his music derived its life. But as Marcus goes on to demonstrate, Dylan only further internalized this music, translating it into his own take on the old music, an “Invisible Republic” of characters now known through the recordings called the Basement Tapes. To trace this history, Marcus has to take the reader back to the source which is, of course, Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. The Anthology occupies an entire chapter in Invisible Republic, entitled “The Old Weird America.” Marcus’ writing about the Anthology is a particular tour de force in a book with many wonders. Effortlessly, Marcus leads the reader through this music to a rediscovery of our American heritage, as though literally re-introducing us to our departed ancestors, well-met in the imaginary universe of these songs \(a town he shake hands with Dock Boggs,” writes Marcus of the edgy-voiced Virginia coal miner, “who sounds as if his bones are coming through his skin every time he opens his mouth. And yet who can turn away from the dissatisfaction in his voice, the refusal ever to be satisfied with the things of this world or the promises of the next?” Marcus understands that narrative is critical to these songs both within them and as critical apparatus and he is a match for Smith’s own musings in the original liner notes \(included in facsimile in the comic headline summaries, like this one, for Mississippi John Hurt’s “Frankie”: “ALBERT DIES PREFERRING ALICE FRY, BUT JUDGE FINDS FRANKIE CHARMING AT LATTER’S TRIAL.” In “The Old Weird America,” reproduced in its entirety in the supplementary notes to the new release of the Anthology, Marcus wonders at length over the strangeness of this music and its impact when it was first released in 1952. The influence is indisputable. Joni Mitchell, Mike John Cohen and others heard these songs and went off to find these performers. Bob Dylan incorporated many of these tunes into his early music witness the metamorphosis of “Down on Penny’s Farm” by the Bently Boys, to “New York City Blues,” and finally to “Maggie’s Farm.” And brace for the shock when you first hear the flute sounds of Henry Thomas, borrowed by Canned Heat for their Woodstock anthem, “Going Up the Country.” The strangeness is another matter. Marcus, in his forgivable zeal, somewhat overstates this point. He repeatedly describes the performers on the Anthology as “like visitors from another world,” and cites another` critic who declares that “the biggest danger lies in underestimating the Ironically, this may have been truer in the fifties than it is in the nineties. For sure, listeners whose exposure to music is limited to MTV fare will find this music as exotic as Balinese gamelon. But for only slightly more adventurous listeners, this music will sound a bit like coming home. Not that this isn’t “strange” music it is, but it has been internalized into our contemporary music, in much the same way that surrealism has become a staple of advertising, and Bauhaus cabinets are universal kitchen design \(perhaps even more so, because this is popular culture, not an acaSmith’s collection divided into the three broad categories of Ballads, Social Music, and Songs traces all currents of contemporary music to their headwaters. Diversity rules, as Smith mixes tunes and follows threads like a demon D.J. Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Rabbit Foot Blues” \(“Let me tell you about those meatless and Blues” and “Poor Boy Blues,” then poverty leads to crime and punishment with “99 Years” and “Prison Cell Blues,” and then to the grave: “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” moans Blind Lemon Jefferson. If the Anthology rages and bums through calamity and salvation, it ends in a flurry of triumphant songs \(“This hammer killed John Henry, but it won’t kill me,” sings Henry Thomas’ “Fishing Blues.” How else to end a day hard of work, but to go fishing? I bet your life your loving wife catch more fish than you Any fish bite if you got good bait Here’s a little tip that I would like to relate Any fish bite if you got good bait… All but one of these songs were recorded between 1926 and 1931 \(“Home Sweet Home,” by the Breaux Freres, was recorded first recorded iteration of the main currents of American popular music including blues, gospel, Cajun, Appalachian, western swing, and all manner of popular song from folk lyric to jug bands to jazz. Parenthetically, Texas figures prominently in this history. To start with, many of the songs on the Anthology were recorded in Texas or by Texans or by people who lived significant parts of their lives here. Like the legendary Henry Thomas of Big Sandy, hobo extraordinaire. Or “world champion fiddler” Eck Robertson, born in Arkansas, raised in Amarillo, and recorded in Dallas. Or the well-known Blind Lemon Jefferson of Dallas. And many others, too: honorary Texan Ken Maynard \(“The American Boy’s “Prince” Albert Hunt, Ed Crain. Also, the influence of this music is traceable to the musical heritage of which Texans are justifiably proud. Eck Robertson’s legacy can be traced through traditional fiddlers like Major Franklin, Louis Franklin, Norman Solomon, and Ricky Turpin, as well as such western swing artists as Bob Wills, Cliff Eck Robertson, 1963 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 13, 1998