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Friday, November 11, 2011

REVIEW – Across the Digital Divide (# 2)... “Like Desperados” - Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Charlie Daniels Band, others

                  “Older recordings have a magnetic charm – not simply because many of them were
              released primarily on magnetic tape cassette, or before that, on 8-track or 4-track
              tape and/or grooved vinyl phonograph record. In an age before pitch correction
              software, there was a fundamental honesty to recorded music.
                  Obviously, not everything new is wonderful, and not everything wonderful is new.
                  “The Guide's new review series, 'Across the Digital Divide,' brings us face-to-face
              with old recordings that should not be forgotten, for the sake of our cultural heritage,
              our history, art, our musical legacy – recordings that set high standards of
              musicianship and production that we should aspire to meet today.”
                                                                                        - from the introduction to this series.
    A cornerstone of Americana music is “outlaw country,” a genre that is as foreign to today's Nashville pop-country as a western saddle is to a plastic lawn chair. This album, a 1998 compilation from Sony Music Special Products, contains some of the most classic outlaw country songs by the genre's biggest stars, in tracks recorded from 1974 to 1982.
    Guy Clark's iconic “Desperados Waiting for a Train” supplies the impetus for the title, and that song opens the album, sung by David Allan Coe.
    Johnny Cash follows with his original, “Don't Take Your Guns to Town.”
    Track 3 is Marty Robbins singing his immortal hit, “El Paso.”
    Next is “Red Headed Stranger,” the Stutz / Calisch co-write sung by Willie Nelson; it was Willie's trademark for many years before he recorded “On the Road Again.”
    Track 5 is Johnny Paycheck singing the Billy Sherrill / G. Sutton co-write, “The Outlaw's Prayer.”
    Track 6 brings Bobby Bare with the Shel Silverstein / M. Davis collaboration, “Tequila Sheila.”
    Track 7 is Billy Walker, a name you may not know, singing “Cross the Brazos at Waco,” written by K. Arnold.
    Johnny Rodriguez sings track 8, “North of the Border,” a Steve Davis / Billy Sherrill song.
    The late Townes Van Zandt just had to be represented on any album with this name or theme, and he is, with “Pancho & Lefty,” the radio hit of years past sung by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
    The last track is the Charlie Daniels Band performing Charlie's original “Billy the Kid,” a song that should be revived and presented alongside the old traditional folk song, every bit as much as Dave Stamey's “Skies of Lincoln County.”
    “Like Desperados” has only ten tracks, but what a compilation. With so many signature songs, it's the kind of album that brings back a stampede of memories. We'll share just one. The closing track first appeared on the Charlie Daniels Band's “High Lonesome” LP, and we recall that it was full of gems. It's been years since we've heard all of that long-gone album, including the wonderful title track. But hearing this compilation makes us want to find it again, and makes us wonder what tracks were on the other albums by the artists represented here.
    Released on cassette in 1998, Sony re-released the album as a CD in 2001. A web search produced a number of secondary market sites with the CD is available for reasonable prices. Grab it while you can find it easily. That won't always be the case.
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    We hope you enjoyed this, our latest new review of an old recording in our “Across the Digital Divide” series. The series' longevity is determined by your interest and feedback.
    WE WELCOME YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR REVIEWS IN THIS SERIES, from blues to bluegrass to borderlands, Cajun to cowboy to Celtic to Cape Breton to Quebecois, music of the sea or the islands, new-old-trad-alt-post folk, and acoustic singer-songwriter music of its day – any acoustic Americana recording that was released ten years ago or more. We may need to ask you to send us a cassette copy or burned CD along with a Xerox or legible scan of the L-card or the 8-track's pasted-on label or the vinyl record's liner notes. If you think it's worth keeping alive and sharing, we probably will, too!
    A full description of the Guide's “Across the Digital Divide” review series is available at  
 Entire contents copyright (c) 2011, Lawrence Wines & Tied to the Tracks. All rights reserved.  

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