The Golden Age of American Popular Music: The Country Hits

The Golden Age of American Popular Music: The Country Hits

CD

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Overview

This interesting compilation assembles 28 country hits that also crossed over to the pop charts between 1953 and 1963 -- albeit usually charting far lower on the pop side and stopping well short of the Top 40. It should be clarified at the outset that despite the somewhat similar titles and concept, this is an entirely different CD than another anthology on the Ace label, The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Country Edition. That disc had plenty of country hits that were really big pop hits (à la Marty Robbins' "El Paso"), some of which are still played on oldies radio. The Golden Age of American Popular Music: The Country Hits, in contrast, has very few such items, with exceptions here and there like Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" and Johnny Cash's "Don't Take Your Guns to Town." What this collection does do is give you a pretty good cross section of country music as it moved away from hillbilly roots to more commercial, poppier, and more slickly produced sounds, though these particular cuts hardly sound slick per se. Many of country's greatest, and certainly most popular, singers of the era are represented, including Cline, Cash, Robbins, Jim Reeves, Ray Price, Bobby Bare, Lefty Frizzell, Roy Clark, Hank Snow, Eddy Arnold, Floyd Cramer, and Faron Young. To the pop and rock fan, however, there aren't as many songs that will stand out as there are on The Golden Age of American Rock 'n' Roll: Special Country Edition; even the quite thorough liner notes admit that "most of the inclusions here are of a gentler nature than those on its sister CD." But there are some actual classics on the track list, including Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Man"; Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You," later covered for a huge pop hit by Ray Charles; and Ferlin Husky's "Wings of a Dove." There are also some items worth hearing for their sheer offbeatness, such as Skeeter Davis' "My Last Date (With You)," a sort of vocal version/answer song to Floyd Cramer's huge hit "Last Date," and Cramer's own Top Ten pop instrumental cover of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose."

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