After hearing Polk Miller & His Old South Quartette perform in the 1890s, Sam Clemens commented, "I think that Polk Miller, and his wonderful four, is about the only thing this country can furnish that is originally and utterly American." Now that's what you call a compliment.
And now, some rare recordings by Miller and his group will see the light of day, as Tompkins Square Records gets set to release a CD containing 14 tracks--seven of which were recorded on Edision tube in 1909, and the other seven some 19 years later on disc.
A word to the politically correct of our post-modern age: the music of Miller and company was intended as a tribute to plantation music and Negro spirituals. Although it may sound a bit troublesome to some sensitive 21st century ears, one should also note that Miller's music contained none of the low farce or black-face then common in so-called "coon songs".
The new CD comes with a booklet featuring photos, memorabilia and notes by African American music historian Doug Seroff. You can order it here, as well as take a listen to Miller's tune "Oysters and Wine at 2a.m."