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Jack White Builds a ‘Cabinet of Wonder’ Full of Classic Jazz, Blues

Third Man Paramount Records Rise Fall Compilation Archive

Jack White is once again making moves to preserve the music of yore. Back in May, his Nashville-based Third Man Records announced an ongoing collaboration with legendary Memphis label Sun Records. And shortly thereafter, the onetime White Stripe and freshly active Dead Weather-man donated $200,000 to Congress’ National Recording Preservation Foundation in order to ensure that old music currently consigned to fragile mediums will make the transition to digital sooner than later. Now he’s turning his attention to the oeuvre of the unlikely aural treasure trove that was Wisconsin’s Paramount Records.

Third Man and John Fahey’s Revenant Records will be jointly celebrating the “race records” bastion with The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932, which an announcement describes quite colorfully (but likely accurately) as “an epic, two-volume omnibus of art, words and music housed in a limited-edition, hand-sculpted cabinet-of-wonder.” Take a gander at Volume One above. That’ll come November 19, with Volume Two slated for a year later.

Paramount Records began as a subsidiary of a chair manufacturer and was, at first, merely devoted to producing records in bulk, on the cheap. As Third Man paints the picture, they more or less stumbled upon their incredible roster, which featured “early jazz titans (Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller), blues masters (Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Skip James), American divas (Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters), gospel (Norfolk Jubilee Quartette), vaudeville (Papa Charlie Jackson), and the indefinable ‘other’ (Geeshie Wiley, Elvis Thomas).”

The initial installment will cover the period of 1917 to 1927 and feature 800 remastered tracks from 172 artists, more than 200 restored ads and images, six heavy duty LPs on “burled chestnut-colored vinyl” housed in a “laser-etched white birch folio,”  250-page clothbound hardcover art book, a 360-page “encyclopedia-style” field guide with artist and discography info, and an app inside of a USB drive containing all of the music and ads that go with. And, let’s not forget, all of that will be contained inside of the “handcrafted quarter-sawn oak cabinet with lush sage velvet upholstery and custom-forged metal hardware.”

View more photos at Third Man.