In 2014, writer John Jeremiah Sullivan penned an essay for the New York Times Magazine about blues musicians Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley. Thomas and Wiley were unlikely candidates for such a profile. “The Ballad of Elvie and Geeshie” traced the strange legacy of the Black Mississippi women from little-known pre-World War II recording artists to subjects of present-day New York Times Magazine curiosity. Their recordings were scant: a sum total of three records released nearly a century prior by a small Wisconsin-based furniture-turned-record company known as Paramount. Copies are exceedingly rare; their format—the vaunted 78 rpm. shellac disc—has not been mass-produced since the 1950s, when it was eclipsed by the slower-spinning but better-sounding microgroove LP and seven-inch EP. This combination makes the simple audition of their music feel like a discovery. Sullivan’s profile...

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