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Internet Radio Station Review: The 1920's Radio Network

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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I'm not much for big band music — which is why I dig the 1920's Radio Network.

Even though the swing era was before my time, I've heard hits of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, et al far too many times. So I don't have much use for "nostalgia" programs that just cycle through the same old playlist again and again.

The 1920's Radio Network does anything but. Don't be confused by their marketing statements ("We're your big band radio station!" "We are your one-stop service for for original music from the 20's"). The station actually presents a refreshing and exciting mix of popular music from the pre-rock era, encompassing everything from early recordings from the beginning of the 20th century up to the early 1950's.

Public radio station WHRO in Norfolk, Virginia operates the 1920's Radio Network, which features a blend of original and syndicated programming. On a typical broadcast day you'll hear hot 1920's jazz, smooth ballads from the 1940's, dance numbers from the 1930's, songs from movies and Broadway shows, and much more.

Perhaps because most of the music is unfamiliar, I find it pulls me in and sweeps me from one song to the next. Early jazz recordings tend to have a frantic energy to them that can act like a jolt of audio espresso. Tunes from the 1930's have some of that same energy, but slightly more refined. And of course, the gentle, yet insistent, forward motion of 1940's swing almost always prompts some involuntary toe-tapping. Not surprising — most of this music was designed for dancing.

Most nostalgia stations stick to the big bands and the balladeers — not so the 1920's Radio Network.

Yes, you'll hear Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney. But you'll also hear early jazz artists like King Oliver, and the Original Dixieland Jazz Band; stage and movie stars such as Ethyl Merman, Eddie Cantor, and Fred Astaire. Plus there's important African-American artists such as Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, and the Mills Brothers.You'll also catch some tight harmonizing with the Modernaires, the Boswell Sisters, and (of course) the Andrews Sisters. And there's plenty of top-flight jazz aritsts such as Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong (mostly as a trumpet player), Bix Biederbecke, and Ella Fitzgerald, plus smooth crooners like Perry Como, Vaughan Monroe, and even Rudi Vallee!

The 1920's Radio Network also drops in vintage radio commercials, movie ads, and public service announcements ("Buy War Bonds today!") to help set the mood. Overall, the upbeat and optimistic nature of the music makes the 1920's Radio Network pure audio fun -- no matter how old (or young) you are.

Bottom line: This ain't your grandpa's swing music. These righteous sounds are solid, Jackson.

How To Listen:

Accessible through most wireless music players

Website: The site has links to open the stream in Windows Media, iTunes, and Winamp

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