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In 1959 and 1960, Alan Lomax taped over 80 hours of field recordings to document the vernacular musical traditions that were rapidly disappearing from the Southern landscape. Rounder has released the first six volumes in a series of 13 CDs that present the songs, sounds, and styles that continue to influence the directions of today’s popular music and culture. The first volume of the Southern Journey series presents blues, ballads, hymns, chanteys, and work songs. Though not as thematically defined as some of the other volumes, Voices From the South offers an outstanding point of departure for the series. The album is unique not only in its juxtaposition of African-American and Anglo-American performance styles, but also in its presentation of regional variants. Fred McDowell’s gospel blues from the hill country of northern Mississippi is presented alongside Estil C. Ball’s string-band ballads from southwestern Virginia, a prison work song led by Ed Lewis at Mississippi’s Lambert Penitentiary, a polyphonic hymn by the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, and the sacred shouts and spirituals led by the matriarch of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, Bessie Jones. Ten of the disc’s 24 tracks are issued here for the first time, and these pieces only serve to broaden the scope and appeal of the project. Presenting the different streams of Southern music side by side encourages listeners to make connections between the approaches, rather than focusing on the differences between styles heard in isolation. Voices From the South and the Southern Journey series will prove to be a gold mine for anyone interested in American roots music.Matt Watson