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kenny weir

A Yodel For The Bear Family label ...

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Not for the first time in my life Bear Family is taking a big whack of my time in terms of listening, money, online browsing, researching and pulling of triggers.

The outfit is so broad and diverse that there’s no way I could claim to be holus bolus in love with all of it, as opposed to maybe Mosaic or Jazz Oracle.

Nope, not interested in Doris Day or Bonanza box sets, or even Nat King Cole.

There’s a few rockabilly releases I’d like get familiar with again – Johnny Brunette Trio, Sid King maybe – but by and large I find straight-out rockabilly near unlistenable these days.

But for my areas of interest – honky tonk, western wing, hillbilly boogie and so on, with a nod to old-timey and bluegrass – it sometimes seems that there’s not a Bear Family release out there that will not provide at the very least some interest and at best jump-for-joy delirium.

And unlike, say, Ace (who have also been getting a fair whack of my custom), BF always has full recording/personnel details.

And with BF there’s always the thrill of knowing the next revelation is just around the corner!

Here’s what I picked up in the run-up to Christmas …

The Texas Troubadours – Almost To Tulsa: The Instrumentals

Simply incredible! Backin’ the boss, Ernest Tubb, these guys were kept on a pretty tight – if very tasty – leash. Here they sizzle. Smokin’ pedal steel and lead guitar, particularly from Buddy Charleton and Leon Rhodes. There’s a whole CD at the rear end of the third final Hag BF box of the Strangers doing the same sort of stuff – but nowhere near as compellingly as this. IMO. On a couple of tracks the Troubadours veer towards bachelor pad/lounge territory, but that’s cool with me, too. Unreservedly recommended to diggers of Hank Garland, Speedy West/Jimmy Bryant and so on, but also fans of Hank Roberts and Tal Farlow, and anyone interested in checking out the roots of Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry.

Ernest Tubb – Thirty Days

Picked this up at the same time after a year or so of prevarication. The Bear Family Tubb boxes stretch to five, comprising 30 discs. So it was time get real and admit I was never going to go that far, even had I the money! There’s a Proper box, but that would’ve restricted me the early stuff only. Thus it seems clear this is the best single-disc available – and it sounds great. Like all in the BF Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series, it puts the emphasis on uptempos, rockers and groovers. But not exclusively.

(Arguing the toss on country music at the weekend with a buddy, he admitted that when it comes to country he prefers, erm, Gillian Welch, John Prine and even Neil Young, and that what he called that “catch” or “cry” in the voice of Hag and his ilk was always going to be a deal-breaker for him. My response was that if you don’t dig that kind of voice – God knows what he’d have thought if I’d spun some Tubb for him – and if you have a problem with novelty tunes, drinking songs, cowboy tunes, Bible-thumping gospel outings, sickly sweet sentimentality as found on Wayne Raney’s The Child’s Side Of Life or Fuzzy-Wuzzy Teddy Bear by Hal “Lone” Pine/Betty Cody (see below), wailing steel guitars (pedal and otherwise), endless tributes to southern culture, well … you may be loving some fine artists, but you sure as hell ain’t digging country. IMO. Take all that stuff away and it’s no longer country.)

(In some ways I feel lucky to be free of all the baggage that seems to accompany country for many people, including it seems many Americans … Another mutual friend of ours once confessed that the sound of bluegrass made her feel ill.)

But back to specifics …

Leon McAuliffe – Tulsa Straight Ahead (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series)

Wow, wow, wow! This has blown me away. Capitol ’50s recordings from Bob Wills’ steel man. Nothing all that original here, but it all swings and rocks. More slick than the Wills recordings on which Leon performed – and more in line with the R&B-tinged cuts available by Billy Jack Wills. Great and hot fiddle, steel guitar and vocals.

Leon Payne – I Love You Because

This one had been calling to me for a while, so it’s sad to report I’ve been a little underwhelmed. A hugely successful songwriter (viz the title track right through to Jim Reeves), Payne turns in a mixed bag of honky tonk and related stuff. One for the true believers (which is me), but not essential.

Other goodies in my Bear Family collection …

Hank Snow – The Goldrush Is Over (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series)

Ah, yes, bliss, another blind spot eradicated. I don’t know why I spent four decades of country fandom without ever really checking out Snow – maybe (shamefully) because in my mind’s eye there was some sort of connection between Snow and the likes of the aforementioned Jim Reeves. Silly! Anyways, this does the job – rocking, wailing brilliance from beginning to end. Especially surprising are Snow’s own acoustic guitar breaks. He ain’t no virtuoso, but perfection doesn’t always require that level of genius. Which is no doubt genius of a kind, too. Like Tubb, Snow is covered by multiple box sets – a whole lot too much for me, although the set showcasing the Thesaurus transcriptions of Snow doing his own material and covers with his own band has profound appeal. I’m more likely to spring for one or two of the recent releases that are thematically presented - railroad tunes, cowboy songs, Hawaian stuff.

Hal Lone Pine/Betty Cody – On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

More from Canada. Straight-up mixed bag but almost always with a twist that contrats it from the mainstream US product of the times. Lovely!

Montana Slim/Wilf Carter – The Dynamite Trail

Another Canadian! My country adventures of recent years could well be sub-titled “How Kenny Learned To Chill Out And Love The Yodel”. But that might be going a bit too far. More like “Kenny Learns To Live With The Yodel”. In any case, there’s wall-to-wall yodelling here, a single disc I chose to get to grips with this particular artist. I dunno – maybe some earlier stuff might be more my go, but this is too slick/formulaic for me, yodelling aside.

Frankie Miller – Blackland Farmer (The Complete Starday Recordings and More …)

Whooeeee – three discs of unrepentant honky tonk brilliance. Many of these sides are, I’m guessing, among the last with Nashville fire before countrypolitan doused the flames. Like fellow Starday artist George Jones, Miller writes little but has a genius for making other’s lyrics his own and so believable one simply falls into the song. A prime example: Baby Rocked Her Dolly – in which an old codger in a rest home looks back on his life – is pure dynamite. There’s a single BF release of Miller’s earlier recs for Columbia, more in the Hank mould.

(Hey, hey – the magic of subliminal listening! As I’m bashing this out, Leon Payne is sounding better by the minute! Similarly, I find that when doing such a banal time-wasting thing as playing computer solitaire, I often pick up details in the music that have previously passed me by.)

Benny Barnes – Poor Man’s Riches (The Complete 1950s Recordings)

More Texas honky tonk schtick a la Miller/Jones. Some great, some good, some pretty awful really. Not essential.

Jess Willard – Honk Tonk Hardwood Floor

One of those BF releases on which I simply took a punt, with spectacularly enjoyable results. Lisping former sidekick of Jack Guthrie doing one-of-a-kind west coast honk tonk/hillbilly. Weird, surreal, essential. And absolutely one of THOSE voices seemingly calculated to give the screaming shits to those who dig, say, the likes of Shania “Ball Of Twine”.

Gene O’Quin – Boogie Woogie Fever

Ah, re-acquainted with another old friend. And another one of THOSE voices. Irresistibly enjoyable west coast jive with beaucoup Speedy West, Jimmy Bryant, Merle Travis and so on. The musical equivalent of a shit-eating grin.

Jimmy Swan – Honky Tonkin’ In Mississippi

The liners notes make quite a bit of Swan’s campaign for the Miss. Governorship on a segregationist platform. So what? Heaven forbid we stop listening to music for such reasons. Real, real hardcore honky tonk in the Hank Williams mould.

Jack Guthrie – Milk Cow Blues

One of three BF Guthrie releases, this features him and his band doing covers such as Muleskinner Blues, San Antonio Rose, Peach Picking Time In Georgia and so on. Really fine, but the Oklahoma Hills CD is probably the better pick in terms of Guthrie’s individual talent/voice. That’s on my wishlist.

Jimmy Murphy - Electricity

Brilliant beyond words. Right up there with the likes of Monk, Longhair, Howlin’ Wolf, Roger Miller in terms of one-off American genius.

Roger Miller – Kings Of The Road

Speaking of which … quite an old release by now (1990), but still the best single disc comp as far as I know.

Skeets McDonald – Heart Breakin’ Mama

Jimmie Skinner – One Dead Man Ago

As with the Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb single-disc comps, these gonna Shake This Shack releases cherry pick in sublime fashion multi-disc box sets. These’ll do me for these two fine artists. More essential stuff. Jimmie Skinner has the laudable knack of doing a relatively modern honky tonk style with a real old-timey feel. A fair bet, too, he's an influence on Bob Dylan. Skeets is simply classic and about as hard as country gets - mostly a mix of Nashville cats and pre-Hag Bakersfield.

Hawkshaw Hawkins – Car Hoppin’ Mama

Eddie Hill – The Hot Guitar

Two more Gonna Shake This Shack release. The Hawkins is genial, rocking and pure ambrosia, with the vocals more in the Merle Travis/Johnny Mercer vein. The Eddie Hill is good fun along the Hot Rod Lincoln lines, but not essential.

Harry Choates – Devil In The Bayou (The Gold Star Recordings) 2 cds

Link Davis – Big Mamou

Two more American heroes, sort-of Cajuns both. Essential, both of ’em – heaps of wailing fiddles, swing, cajun, rockabilly and much more.

And, of course, Kenny has boxes …

Merle Travis - Guitars Rags And A Too Fast Past

His Capitol classics - couldn’t live without it. Genius/loon/jiver all in one.

Bob Wills – San Antonio Rose

Ditto.

Various – A Shot In The Dark/Tennessee Jive

Heavyweight comp of early Nashville labels. Fabulous.

The Blue Sky Boys – The Sunny Side Of Life

Far and away my fave sibling harmony outfit. And, yes, couldn’t live without it. But … there is an undeniable sameness about the tempos, keys, lyric content and so on. Would make me hesitant about picking the Carter Family, Uncle Dave Macon and Louvin Bros sets, even if I could afford them.

Merle Haggard – Untamed Hawk/Hag

Another blind spot joyfully banished. I’m a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to Hag, but with these two boxes I’ve become a zealot. Why are Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons, just for example, so revered in rock circles when Hag’s associated with Okie From Muskogee and not much else?

Merle Haggard – Hag: Concepts, Live & The Strangers

Not nearly as compelling as the Capitol studio tracks covered in the first two boxes, but has its moments. But not the gospel stuff, which is frankly bloody awful.

Floyd Tillman – I Love You So Much It Hurts

Founding father of honky tonk along with Tubb and Williams. Unsung giant/genius. And another one-of-a-kind a la Longhair and Monk and so on.

Jimmie Davis - Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine

Louisiana Governor-to-be does much country smut and hard-grinding blues with Oscar Woods on steel.

Cliff Bruner And His Texas Wanderers

This was pretty much the beginning of my born-again interest in this area. But despite having large amounts of Bob Dunn and Moon Mullican, I find there is something ho-hum about this as a whole. Geez, that sound sacreligious even to me!

Bill Monroe – Blue Moon Of Kentucky

Has the duets with Charlie, the tremendous proto-bluegrass with accordian and classic early cuts with Flatt & Scruggs. As well as two discs of alternate takes. But it is the earlier four-disc box of the ’50s Decca stuff with Jimmy Martin that I really covet.

Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Most Colourful Hillbilly Band In America

Slightly silly impulse buy, as it has plenty of the band’s whacko rocking stuff, but also unfortunately also plenty of Rose’s routine but still enjoyable Nashville cuts.

I even have non-country boxes …

Duke Ellington – Live From The Cotton Club

Smiley Lewis - Shame Shame Shame

I got this 2nd hand here in Melbourne. As I walked to the counter, a smartass quipped: “I always wanted to see what someone who wanted four discs by Smiley Lewis looked like.” Idiot! Four discs, sure, but larded with not just one of great blues singers but also plenty of other Crescent City greats such as Tuts Washington and many more. Basically replaces the stuff I used to own on vinyl in another time, if not another place.

Kenny’s wishlist …

Gonna Shake This Shack tonight series: Johnny Horton, Faron Young, Cowboy Copas and many more.

Multi-disc boxes: Marty Robbins western/cowboy set, Speedy West Jimmy Bryant, Darby & Tarlton.

Plenty curious about: Tex Ritter, Gene Autry and literally dozens more.

Bear Family – the fun way to poverty.

Tips and recommendations most welcome!

Edited by kenny weir

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Yeah - Getting into Bear Family will break your budget before you know it.

Here are a few good ones:

The Farmer Boys: Flash Crash & Thunder

Sonny Burgess: Classic Recordings 1956 - 1959

The Louvin Brothers: Close Harmony

Webb Pierce: Wondering Boy 1951 - 1958

Darby and Tarlton: Complete Recordings (You mentioned it as one you want to get & it is one to get.)

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Yeah - Getting into Bear Family will break your budget before you know it.

Here are a few good ones:

The Farmer Boys: Flash Crash & Thunder

Sonny Burgess: Classic Recordings 1956 - 1959

The Louvin Brothers: Close Harmony

Webb Pierce: Wondering Boy 1951 - 1958

Darby and Tarlton: Complete Recordings (You mentioned it as one you want to get & it is one to get.)

Used to own the Farmer Boys on vinyl. Not sure it'd really do the trick for me these days.

I have the earlier 4-Star & Pacemaker tracks - fantastic raw stuff - on a double CD on Acrobat, so can live without the later (Decca?) Pierce hits on Wondering Boy.

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And some very hot tips for the new year ...

Big Jeff Bess - Tennessee Home Brew

The Browns - A Country Music Odyssey

And then there's recent Sons Of The Pioneers box, and two boxes devoted to George Jones's Musicor recordings, not to mention the Freddie King box, as well as one featuring the complete Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, and also a box of the complete Charlie Rich on Sun and ... Damn!

But I guess I'll let the John Wayne box - 10 cds, 1 dvd, 464-page book - pass.

Edited by kenny weir

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Uhum Kenny

methinks you need the Freddie King box-I know I did! Its my first taste of the Bear Family, arrived a couple of months ago-and even Wifey, who doesnt like the blues, loves it!

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Uhum Kenny

methinks you need the Freddie King box-I know I did! Its my first taste of the Bear Family, arrived a couple of months ago-and even Wifey, who doesnt like the blues, loves it!

Um, a question: How does it hold together as a package, mixing the early King/Federal stuff with the later Cotillion/Shelter material? There are plenty of good comps of the early stuff available.

Besdies, what about the Buck Owens set? Pretty much top of my wishlist that is ...

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I don't buy many of these big boxes anymore, but I did note that you mentioned Frankie Miller Blackland Farmer - great song, as a matter of fact it'll be on my blues set - Miller has a web site and is apparently still active.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Oh yeah ... Bear Family ...

Sure, their status is fully deserved, and yet ...

I've bought a lot of their releases in their vinyl days, I just LOVE their "deutsches jazz festival 1954/55" box set and have also picked up quite a few of their single and double CD reissues on R&B artists in somewhat mroe recent years and in fact just recently shelled out for the Nashville R&B box set ("A Shot in The Dark") despite the fact that I have quite a bit of it on earlier Krazy Kat LPs ....

and yet ...

... sorry to say this but in more ways than one they're a bit of a mixed bag too IMHO, PARTICULARLY in the Country field.

KennyWeir, I agree that no doubt their box sets are just perfect for real diehards and completists, but beyond that target audience? Nothing wrong with those 50s/early 60s "name" country artists, by and large, but in such huge doses as on these box sets? IMO they just are overdoing it, even to those who are much more than casual listeners, and at THEIR price level that can get painful.

Isn't it really so that all too often these country artists constantly coupled a more lively number with one of those terrible tear jerkers on the flip sides of their 78s (and then 45s)? (Gotta please them all, something for everybody, especially with that mum'n'dad'n'everybody smalltown USA country audience of yore, I guess ... :D) Those country tear jerkers really haven't stood the test of time all that well, so who needs all that B-side dross (except completits, of course)?

And once these artists hit (literally) on a hit formula their subsequent singles sometimes really acquired a bit of a sameness. Believe me, I do have a soft spot for early post-war (and even late pre-war) country music and have often been out searching for new discoveries (including on Bear Family as a friend of mine is heavily into this music and these B.F. releases so I've had a chance to check out quite a bit ;)) but these "complete works" often really are just too much. To me it becomes painfully evident that these 45s were supposed to be listened to ONE 45rpm at a time, not in huge 30-track CD strings of tunes in one go. A bit like what has been said about 20s and 30s blues 78s when reissued today, in fact.

All in all, some slightly more selective programming often would have done the overall outcome a world of good as a lot of those B-side tear jerkers or otherwise repetitive ditties just are relatively forgettable today. Sometimes completism really gets in the way of appreciating the music IMHO.

Actually the CLIFF BRUNER box that you mention is a case in point. Of course, being a Western Swing fan, I just had to have it when it came out, but just like you I find quite a bit of it is just ho-hum. But did you check out the liner notes closely? The author was pretty clesr about it - in those days the A&R men had too much of a say and Cliff Bruner's band was one of those that just were MADE to record pretty ordinary MOR stuff as the label owners wanted to milk a formula. A 2-CD (or POSSIBLY 3-CD) set would have made a KILLER compilation, but the rest? Not essential ...

And here I am talking about one of my all-time favorite country subgenres so you can imagine I am even much less impressed about the complete works of those 50s Nashville mainstream bigwigs. ;)

So all in all it is labels such as KRAZY KAT and COUNTRY ROUTES that serve my tastes far better.

(But thanks for the Texas Troubadours instrumentals and Leon McAuliffe CD plugs - I may just have unfairly overlooked these, judging by your description)

And, Kenny, if you are into country music from that era in such a big way, let me get in a plug for this one too:

http://bacm.users.btopenworld.com/cd-cat.html

Not all of their programme is gold that glitters (except for diehards again) but there are enough gems there to warrant inspection.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Not for the first time in my life Bear Family is taking a big whack of my time in terms of listening, money, online browsing, researching and pulling of triggers.

Hal Lone Pine/Betty Cody – On The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

More from Canada. Straight-up mixed bag but almost always with a twist that contrats it from the mainstream US product of the times. Lovely!

Tips and recommendations most welcome!

I'm sure you know that they are Lennie Breau's parents... There's a French-Canadian family history, but they were from Maine, as I recall, though they moved in and out of Canada over the years.

Is Lennie heard on any of these recordings?

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I can speak up for Harry Choates, Devil in the Bayou. Not only is the music so enjoyable, the cd producers Andrew Brown and David Sax did the best notes we have on this important figure in Cajun music. Now if only Choate(s) had recorded some of his great swing guitar playing. Supposedly that was his best stuff of all!

On another note, Joe Bussard swears that Jimmy Murphy was the last great country music artist. Plays Murphy's music on his radio broadcasts just about every week.

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all in all it is labels such as KRAZY KAT and COUNTRY ROUTES that serve my tastes far better.

Yep, Steve, I have a bunch of Krazy Kats.

You make some good points.

Please note, I also expressed hesitancy about the potential sameness/tedium of the Carter Family, Dave Macon and Louvin sets - as well as the Cliff Bruner. That latter surprised me, given the deserved esteem in which I hold that fiddler, Bob Dunn and and Moon Mullican.

Having said that, my Merle Travis, Bob Wills, Hag (2 out of the three anyway), Floyd Tillman, Frankie Miller and Jimmie Davis multi-disc sets all feature what I consider to be major artists. And there is so much outstanding music and so much diversity that they certainly don't suffer from the somewhat inevitable flaws you detail.

Note also my eager embracing Bear Family's Gonna Shake This Shack series. Do I need a box set by Jimmie Skinner or Skeets McDonald or Hank Snow? No. Do their cherry-picked single disc comps thrill me to bits? Yep.

Note also that before detailing my relatively modest list of boxes I did also detail my single disc purchases from recent years and before - numbering 18 in all.

Yes, yes - the Troubadors and McAuliffe discs are great!

Going by a couple of replies here, and perhaps even for my self, it seems there is a tendency to think Bear Family=box sets. That's actually not the case.

Edited by kenny weir

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You are right, Kenny, I ought to have referred to the Bear Family single CDs a bit more. But as I haven't had a chance to listen to several of those you mention I cannot really comment on them (yet).

What I said about their box sets was just spurred by the fact that all in all it is many of these box sets that really put them on the map, reissue-wise. And their production, including their books, really is flawless. No doubt about it. Unfortunately, if you go the "completist" route you can overdo it with this kind of music.

And I won't doubt that the Gonna Shake This Shack series deserves the plug you give it.

BTW, referring to a non-Bear Family CD you mention, did you have a chance to compare the early Webb Pierce CD on Acrobat that you mention (a release that is totally unknown to me) with the one on Krazy Kat?

http://www.interstate-music.co.uk/krazykat/kkcd16.htm

Somehow I have a feeling there is bound to be a lot of duplication going on here (and I am pretty sure KK was there first, seeing that their LP version of that music has been out for almost 20 years now).

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You are right, Kenny, I ought to have referred to the Bear Family single CDs a bit more. But as I haven't had a chance to listen to several of those you mention I cannot really comment on them (yet).

What I said about their box sets was just spurred by the fact that all in all it is many of these box sets that really put them on the map, reissue-wise. And their production, including their books, really is flawless. No doubt about it. Unfortunately, if you go the "completist" route you can overdo it with this kind of music.

And I won't doubt that the Gonna Shake This Shack series deserves the plug you give it.

BTW, referring to a non-Bear Family CD you mention, did you have a chance to compare the early Webb Pierce CD on Acrobat that you mention (a release that is totally unknown to me) with the one on Krazy Kat?

http://www.interstate-music.co.uk/krazykat/kkcd16.htm

Somehow I have a feeling there is bound to be a lot of duplication going on here (and I am pretty sure KK was there first, seeing that their LP version of that music has been out for almost 20 years now).

Steve, by and large I agree with you.

When it comes to the boxes, what I tend to find myself doing is gravitating towards really strong artists who are represented by a 4-5 disc set.

10 cds by Wynn Stewart - or even Hank Thompson? I agree, too much for me.

OTOH, the Buck Owens looks just the right sort/size.

The Krazy Kat Webb is the same material - just less of it. And as it's really good strong stuff, I am happy to have the two-disc set on Acrobat.

Yeah, I do a lot of comparing between different issues and companies.

And of course, when it gets down to comparing the likes of the various Carters and Uncle Dave Macons and so on, you necessarily confront the moral conundrums of buying JSPs.

Ah yes, the books. In many cases, the books constitute not only the best but the only decent biography of significant artists - Floyd Tillman being a good example.

Really doing some deep listening to this today:

41RJcPF3HAL._SS500_.jpg

As I said above, nothing groundbreaking here - but my, my it's good.

Not just the steel guitar, good as it is. What really grabs me are the whole performances and little details, some fine fiddle and also clarinet, trumpet, sax. And the various vocalists are mostly top shelf. Just one example - Duane Bass on Eating Right Out Of Your Hand - the phrasing, the swing, the delivery - sounds to me right up there with Tommy Duncan when it comes to the Crosbyesque school of western swing singing.

And, importantly, as my son pointed out this morning, the typeface on the cover is the same as for Indiana Jones. :party:

*******

Another thought: Steve, do ya reckon the same criticisms can be made of some of the pre-war Mosaic sets? The Bix for instance? No more made for the sort of concentrated listening that box sets invite than the Cliff Brunner, I'd suggest.

But then, I can happily listen to severals hours of uninterrupted Charley Patton (yes, I have the flash Revenant) or the Pops Decca Mosaic for disc after disc! :crazy:

Edited by kenny weir

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Steve: Here's a good example of what I figure we're talking about here ...

Many years ago, in an earlier period of intense interest in this area, I adored a Bear Family vinyl LP I had of Pee Wee King. Slick, rocking '50s western swing of the type found on the Leon McAuliffe CD. Every track a monster.

On that basis, a few years ago - just as I was getting back into this stuff big time - I saw and bought a secondhand copy of his Bear Family multi-disc set.

Man, that was some of the most lame-ass country I've ever heard! IMHO. Sold it soon after - and will probably pick up the Pee Wee King Gonna Shake This Shack comp some time this year, having as it does all the hot stuff one on disc.

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Steve: Here's a good example of what I figure we're talking about here ...

Many years ago, in an earlier period of intense interest in this area, I adored a Bear Family vinyl LP I had of Pee Wee King. Slick, rocking '50s western swing of the type found on the Leon McAuliffe CD. Every track a monster.

On that basis, a few years ago - just as I was getting back into this stuff big time - I saw and bought a secondhand copy of his Bear Family multi-disc set.

Man, that was some of the most lame-ass country I've ever heard! IMHO. Sold it soon after - and will probably pick up the Pee Wee King Gonna Shake This Shack comp some time this year, having as it does all the hot stuff one on disc.

Hee hee ... BIG grin here ... :D :D

Yes I know what you are talking about.

I have the Bear Family Pee Wee King LP too but in fact I like the "Ballroom King" LP (on the U.K. Detour label) even better. And then I have two or three more LPs (released in the late 80s) programmed along the same lines and that just about does it for me as far as Pee Wee is concerned. Have checked a couple of other more recent releases but found that the most fascinating sounding titles were already there. So no need to go any further into the non-essentials. That is - there may of course be a hidden trove of uninhibited, all-out transcriptions by them (much like Bob Wills' Tiffany Transcruiptions, who knows?) but it would only be labels such as Krazy Kat that I would trust to bring them to us in a well-presented manner. ;)

As for the "sameness" of early jazz Mosaic boxes, I guess others would be more qualified to judge that so you will have to ask the question elsewhere.

At any rate, I do agree with those who claim that a lot of pre-war blues should really be consumed in small doses (just like they were consumed back then on 78s) because otherwise the feeling of sameness would prevail before long. If you can stand more then this is a matter of personal preference (I can stand more late 40s/early 50s Honkin' Sax R&B than many others, but I'd agree they normally ought to be taken in smaller doses too).

However, I do feel there is a fundamental difference between having box sets of, say, 20s or 30s jazz bands on the one hand and late 40s and 50s country artists on the other. In many cases those country songs were all vocals with relatively sparse instrumental backing (a FAR, FAR cry from those early post-war Western Swing bands that blasted away full steam, even at moderate tempos). 20s jazz OTOH was largely instrumental with a really full instrumental sound (despite all fidelity shortcomings) and not only solos but also lots of interplay of the instruments that will give you some meat to cut your teeth into. Much less so with the nasal country vocal twang with (relatively) subdued backing where the instruments were just that - BACKING - well in the BACKground of the vocalist. Limited instrumental means that reach the end of any possible diversity earlier than in the case of full bands that thrive on instrumental action. A bit like in the case of 20s/30s blues with maybe one guitar or one piano for the entire backing. Fascinating vocals, for sure, but 30 of them in a row? ;)

So if you want to compare the non-essential character of those 50s country completist boxes with earlier music (and looking beyond early country blues), then - YES, I would not need a 4 or 6 or 8-CD set with the "complete works" of any of those 20s or early 30s crooners with semi-jazz or dance band backing either. ;)

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Steve: Here's a good example of what I figure we're talking about here ...

Many years ago, in an earlier period of intense interest in this area, I adored a Bear Family vinyl LP I had of Pee Wee King. Slick, rocking '50s western swing of the type found on the Leon McAuliffe CD. Every track a monster.

On that basis, a few years ago - just as I was getting back into this stuff big time - I saw and bought a secondhand copy of his Bear Family multi-disc set.

Man, that was some of the most lame-ass country I've ever heard! IMHO. Sold it soon after - and will probably pick up the Pee Wee King Gonna Shake This Shack comp some time this year, having as it does all the hot stuff one on disc.

Hee hee ... BIG grin here ... :D :D

Yes I know what you are talking about.

I have the Bear Family Pee Wee King LP too but in fact I like the "Ballroom King" LP (on the U.K. Detour label) even better. And then I have two or three more LPs (released in the late 80s) programmed along the same lines and that just about does it for me as far as Pee Wee is concerned. Have checked a couple of other more recent releases but found that the most fascinating sounding titles were already there. So no need to go any further into the non-essentials. That is - there may of course be a hidden trove of uninhibited, all-out transcriptions by them (much like Bob Wills' Tiffany Transcruiptions, who knows?) but it would only be labels such as Krazy Kat that I would trust to bring them to us in a well-presented manner. ;)

As for the "sameness" of early jazz Mosaic boxes, I guess others would be more qualified to judge that so you will have to ask the question elsewhere.

At any rate, I do agree with those who claim that a lot of pre-war blues should really be consumed in small doses (just like they were consumed back then on 78s) because otherwise the feeling of sameness would prevail before long. If you can stand more then this is a matter of personal preference (I can stand more late 40s/early 50s Honkin' Sax R&B than many others, but I'd agree they normally ought to be taken in smaller doses too).

However, I do feel there is a fundamental difference between having box sets of, say, 20s or 30s jazz bands on the one hand and late 40s and 50s country artists on the other. In many cases those country songs were all vocals with relatively sparse instrumental backing (a FAR, FAR cry from those early post-war Western Swing bands that blasted away full steam, even at moderate tempos). 20s jazz OTOH was largely instrumental with a really full instrumental sound (despite all fidelity shortcomings) and not only solos but also lots of interplay of the instruments that will give you some meat to cut your teeth into. Much less so with the nasal country vocal twang with (relatively) subdued backing where the instruments were just that - BACKING - well in the BACKground of the vocalist. Limited instrumental means that reach the end of any possible diversity earlier than in the case of full bands that thrive on instrumental action. A bit like in the case of 20s/30s blues with maybe one guitar or one piano for the entire backing. Fascinating vocals, for sure, but 30 of them in a row? ;)

So if you want to compare the non-essential character of those 50s country completist boxes with earlier music (and looking beyond early country blues), then - YES, I would not need a 4 or 6 or 8-CD set with the "complete works" of any of those 20s or early 30s crooners with semi-jazz or dance band backing either. ;)

Ahhhhh - yes that's the one. Ballroom King on Detour, not Bear Family.

When I mentioned pre-war jazz, I wasn't really thinking of instrumental stuff, but the whitish pop stuff on which jazz players performed. I reckon quite a bit of the Bix box falls into that category; as does - just for example - the double Jazz Oracle cd I have of Adrian Rollini. Some cool stuff but plenty of hohum to wade through, too. The same could be said of quite a few of my early jazz collection sets.

Nor, I'm sure, were the fundamental aims of the labels and A&R types any loftier. Indeed, in the case of blues, country and some jazz, the A&R guys and/or producers were one and the same.

Having said that, I only have two monster Bear Family boxes - Tennessee Jive, which is various artists and thus free of such worries, and the first Bob Wills, which I wouldn't want to be without.

Others - Merle Travis, for instance - are worth every disc and minute/hour in my world.

Edited by kenny weir

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Steve's comment on the problem nails it- so much of this stuff was for juke box consumption, not endless CD compilations - interesting that this should come up, as I was recently thinking that the whole download psychology is really more faithful to this old style juke box approach than the typical LP or CD project -

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Did somebody say Texas Troubadours?

BONUS CUT!!!

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Did somebody say Texas Troubadours?

BONUS CUT!!!

That there's the goods!

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Steve's comment on the problem nails it- so much of this stuff was for juke box consumption, not endless CD compilations - interesting that this should come up, as I was recently thinking that the whole download psychology is really more faithful to this old style juke box approach than the typical LP or CD project -

Good point.

I remember a few years back some of the more precious rock "artists" expressing dismay at the looming demise of the album, that is in terms of a certain number of tracks to be played only in the order determined by the artist.

Well I got bad news for them - it's looming no longer.

Let me add that I ALWAYS play these types of multi-disc sets using the shuffle mode.

And when I'm really hot on a particular artist, I have no problem going for an hour or more even if the music was never made with that in mind.

And it seems like some kind of miracle that this stuff is so freely available - AND that we even have choices about how to get our hands on it.

Like I'd guess most of us here, I remember some lean years in my lifetime.

Edited by kenny weir

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Juke Box Mentality = Sheet Music/Song Plugger Mentality transferred to new generation & technology.

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At the moment for me, about a dozen or so variants of hillbilly are supercharging my serotonin like nothing else, so I am blissfully biased.

But I am wary of contrasting ostensibly uncultured country and those who made it with the supposedly superior chops and/or musical intelligence of more contemporary jazz musicians.

I have hundreds and hundreds of alternate takes by heroes such as Jelly Roll, Armstrong and Ellington. In the majority of cases, any differences between the unissued and the released is obviously more due to happenstance than to any different creative approach, deliberate or otherwise.

Moving closer to the present there are obviously changes - longer tracks times for a start. Trane's Meditations come to mind as an example of very different versions of the same material.

But I also have dozens and dozens of previously unreleased takes spread across my reasonably extensive collection of RVGs. IIRC, the overwhelming majority of them illustrate eloquently that this stuff was just as set-in-stone as hilbilly, at least in a studio context and no matter what one thinks of the relative merits of the genres and the strengths/talent of their purveyors.

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I've never explored the extensive Bear country stuff. Love the big Cole boxes and especially the Louis Jordan Decca Bear box. That one's a real prize. I've been tempted by the Flatt and Scruggs stuff but haven't bitten. I like bluegrass.

Where's a good place to get the Bear boxes on the American side of the pond? CDWolf used to be the place, but no more.

gregmo

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