Back before the folk revival of the Sixties, John Jacob Niles was the repository of an American folk tradition rooted not in the topical-song movement of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, but an older, stranger world traceable to the ballads of the British Isles brought over by early settlers.
Niles was an artisan, designing and building his own dulcimers, on which his primitive strumming furnished the simplest of accompaniment for the strange, keening voice in which he delivered his animated interpretations of songs like "Little Mattie Groves" and "Barbary Ellen". Extending the DIY principle, he founded his own label, Boone-Tolliver, on which were released the songs collected here. Even at this remove, it's a startling sound.
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