Charlie Poole wasn't a particularly brilliant banjo player (although his later three-finger-style picking would set the table for the advent of bluegrass banjo a couple of decades after his death), and he wasn't the world's greatest vocalist either, but he had a certain devil-may-care charisma that made him a superstar in the string band era of the 1920s. Poole's greatest talent – aside from an ability to go on long drinking sprees and to manage to be at the center of things even in his absence – was in his song adaptations, which drew from sources outside the standard Appalachian fiddle tunes and reels, including pop, ragtime, and blues. This extensive 96-track, four-disc box set from Britain's JSP Records collects the lion's share of his recordings on Columbia, Poole's label from 1925 until his death in 1931 at the age of 39. Also included are a handful of cuts Poole made under the table for Paramount (where his North Carolina Ramblers were called the Highlanders) and Brunswick (which saw the band disguised as the Allegheny Highlanders).
Naxos has collected its four volume traversal of the lute music into a handy slipcase. All the volumes are available singly, but you can also buy the four together as a quartet of excellence, presided over by Nigel North, the acknowledged hero of the hour. What follows is a reprise of two volumes already reviewed - volumes 1 and 3 - and a look at volumes 2 and 4.