Record of the day: "Fonotone Records, Frederick, Maryland"

Record of the day: “Fonotone Records, Frederick, Maryland”

Various Artists
Fonotone Records, Frederick, Maryland (5 Cd Dust-To Digital DTD-03)

The musical tradition of the United States is littered with eccentric characters, but Joe Bussard can certainly be considered one of the most curious figures to ever appear within it. The son of a farmer, from the age of six Joe began to be interested in music by listening to banjo and fiddle players engaged in spirited performances of the music
country that resonated at the popular festivals of Frederick, Virginia. Over the years Joe managed to get his hands on a large quantity of 78 rpm records documenting gospel, blues, jazz, bluegrass and folk music.

In 1956 rock'n'roll was about to explode across the country but Bussard was disgusted by this type of music, he considered it
commercial; he therefore decided to found a label called Fonotone entirely dedicated to the music he had listened to since he was a child, in order to preserve an unwritten tradition that risked being lost, crushed by the triumph of market discography.

The strangeness of its behavior lies in the fact that at the time in which the 33 rpm record definitively established itself in all the
houses, Joe continued undaunted to produce 78s until 1970 and to sell them by mail at the fixed price of one dollar.
The musicians were recorded in the cellar of his house and had the opportunity to perform the pieces only once, without the possibility of resonating or carrying out tricks in postproduction.
The audio quality of these recordings is perfect thanks to equipment for the futuristic era and Bussard himself, who was also a musician, often joined in on the other side of the microphone.

Word about this unique, so-called “down home” music label spread throughout Virginia, and before long Fonotone had built a rich and inspiring catalog.

The collectors' label Dust-To-Digital has lovingly reproduced many of these pieces in a splendid anthology divided into 5 CDs, accompanied by a luxury box set that includes photographs, a book, reproductions of labels and even a steel bottle opener; beyond the packaging, this box should be recommended for the purity and expressiveness of the music contained, an authentic portrait of a vanished era, swept away by business. Voices, guitars, violins, banjos, autoharps and double bass bring Faulkner's America to life through popular songs of every style.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.