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Atlanta street singer Peg Leg Howell wasn't really much of a guitarist, but his songs, many of which were made up of fragments of street vendor calls and other pre-blues material, have a sort of greasy and rough-hewed grace to them, and when combined with Eddie Anthony's careening fiddle runs, achieved a distinct sound (part string band, part hokum jug band) all too rare in early blues. His "Skin Game Blues" is a poignant and perfectly nuanced classic in the genre, while "Coal Man Blues" is an early statement and indictment of class distinction in the American South.
James Cole was one of a small number of black fiddlers from the historic '20s and '30s stringband days whose playing managed to be documented on recording, but he certainly isn't one of any small number of people named James Cole. Factor in a few named Jimmy Cole and there is the making of some kind of not all-star, but cool all-Cole combo. There is even strong reason to believe there were actually two fiddlers from the same era named James Cole, but even some of the most intense detectives from the ethnomusicology department have given up sorting out who is who.
The music of the Dallas String Band has been called pre-blues as well as proto-blues. The group has been referred to as the only black string band in history and an early Texas country band, sometimes in the same paragraph, often after being credited with erasing all color lines in American musical history. Enough lies are told about the group to resemble another great cover-up in Dallas history, the one with the grassy knoll and the book depository.