The invention and introduction of electrically amplified instruments -- most notably the guitar and steel guitar -- began slowly transforming every branch of pop music beginning in the mid- to late '30s, shifting emphasis in bands from an ensemble approach to one that allowed for sharper sound definition and easily heard instrumental solos, all of which made the world, at least the recorded version of it, more defined and, well, louder. For the Western swing, honky tonk, and country genres, the change came when steel player Bob Dunn went electric with his group Musical Brownies in 1935. This fascinating four-disc, 100-track set attempts to put Dunn and his followers in perspective as the move to amplified instruments began to sweep through pop and country, and devotes a disc each to classic tracks by Dunn, Billy Briggs
, and Lefty Perkins
and closes out with a disc featuring electric guitarist Jimmy Bryant
and steel guitarist Speedy West
searing through studio sessions. It's an illuminating collection full of stinging guitar lines and gracefully skewed arrangements that shows once and for all that rock & roll didn't invent the electric guitar.