Down in the Basement
Record collectors can be a weirdly obsessed lot, and the men who canvass old backwoods towns, hoping to find and wheedle rare folk and blues 78s out of old hoarders, may be the strangest of the bunch. Consider Joe Bussard of Frederick, Md., a 60-something enthusiast who’s been hunting these shellac grails since he was in his teens. I first read about him and his basement full of old records in an excellent February 1999 cover story by Eddie Dean in the Washington City Paper, and I wondered about the records that made Bussard wax rhapsodic. This beautifully packaged CD answers that question; its 24 pristine cuts were compiled by Bussard himself, and the 74-page perfect-bound booklet contains some fine essays and annotation. If you treasure the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music, you’ll want this.