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Historic Johnson City Sessions Due in Early October

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The Johnson City SessionsBristol, TN/VA -- Last April, Cybergrass reported on the Johnson City Sessions project. The project is a young sibling of sorts to the Birthplace of Country Music's The Bristol Sessions. The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) are working together for the Johnson City Sessions Weekend to be held October 18-20. Bear Family Records is presenting Johnson City Sessions: Can You Sing Or Play Old-Time Music? due that October weekend.

“Johnson City has long been an important stop for the musicians of our region and beyond. East Tennessee State University is growing artists who will carry on the music tradition of our region,” said BCM President John Rainero. He added, “BCM sees a wealth of opportunity in working with ETSU on future projects.”

The Johnson City Sessions, conducted by Columbia Records producer Frank B. Walker in October 1928 and October 1929 in Johnson City, Tennessee, are generally viewed as the second-most important field recording sessions ever conducted in Appalachia (the most influential being the Bristol Sessions of July-August 1927). Collectively, the 1928 and 1929 Johnson City Sessions recordings for Columbia Records are deemed by today's scholars and record collectors as constituting a strong, distinctive cross-section of old-time Appalachian music at the cusp of the Great Depression.

The forthcoming Bear Family Records box set marks the first time that the 1928 and 1929 Johnson City Sessions recordings have been compiled in any form. The 1928-1929 Johnson City Sessions: Can You Sing Or Play Old-Time Music? box set is a 4-CD collection and a 12 inch by 12 inch LP sized book on the music and history of the time. Bear Family is known for their superb high-quality books and recordings.

While Bristol, TN/VA has been recognized as the Birthplace of Country Music that had its Big Bang with the Carter Family recordings, Johnson City wasn't far behind. Johnson City, TN is in the Tri-Cities area which also includes Kingsport, TN where many top bluegrass and old-time artists call home. While the Johnson City Sessions were right on the heels of The Bristol Session but, 1929 was not the year to do anything big and new as the Great Depression was also in full swing. Fortunately, the Johnson City Sessions survived and are being reintroduced this October.

In addition to this announcement, Dr. Ted Olson, BCM Content Team Member and Professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University, unveiled the artwork for the Johnson City Sessions Box Set, whose release is slated for early October on Germany’s Bear Family Records. This effort follows the success of 2011’s Bristol Sessions Box Set, also released by Bear Family. Olson, who served as co-producer and co-writer on both sets, played an instrumental part in making them a reality.

“While many people around the world have heard of the Bristol Sessions, very few people – even locally – have heard of the Johnson City Sessions. Yet the recordings from Johnson City are wonderful in their own right,” said Olson.

The celebration concluded with the unveiling of the Johnson City Sessions' historic marker. The ETSU Old Time Pride Band, which features BCM Content Team Member Amythyst Kiah, provided a smooth soundtrack to the event.

For more information on the Johnson City Sessions, please visit the Session's Facebook page.

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