Years later, folk archivist Harry Smith's willingness to freely combine blues, gospel, Appalachian, and other varieties of music on his Anthology Of American Folk Music remains one of the collection's most striking features. Ultimately, it may be this as much as the quality of the selections that led to the set's endurance. Just as important to Smith as preserving the songs he selected was showing the connections between them: Looking only at individual musicians such as Dock Boggs, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. J.M. Gates, or The Memphis Jug Band—hearing their music apart from one another—it takes much longer to find the common ground between them. Boston's Tarbox Ramblers is astute enough to recognize this and versatile enough to make a career out of it. With a few originals placed alongside an assortment of traditional songs, some taken from Smith's Anthology, the Ramblers' self-titled debut shifts from blues to bluegrass, and from the sacred to the profane, with an ease that makes it possible to overlook any difference. The album's off-the-cuff, live-in-the-studio feel keeps the connection between the band and its influences at the fore, as does singer Michael Tarbox's unpolished but forceful vocals. Folk music left gloriously undefined, it's a must for those interested in the continuation of traditional music into the present—and perhaps a glimpse into the music's future.

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