As part of Columbia's excellent Country Classics series, Honky Tonk Heroes spotlights country music's transition from the bluegrass-heavy golden age of Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe to the honky tonk style that featured the more urbane, shuffle-beat sound forged by Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price in the '40s and '50s. A shift in lyric matter occurred too, as depression-era tales of rural strife were supplanted by woeful stories of tavern life. While Floyd Tillman's overwrought vocals and cloying violin passages on "This Cold War With You" are planted in the past, Little Jimmy Dickens' mixture of country bumpkin singing and hard-driving, guitar-heavy accompaniment on "A Sleepin' at the Foot of the Bed" rides the line between the golden and honky tonk age. The transition is made complete on Lefty Frizzell's classic "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time," with its swinging 4/4 beat and tale of bar hopping. Ray Price would take the honky tonk sound to full flower, compliments of his famous shuffle-beat sound on huge hits like "Crazy" and "Heartaches by the Number." Johnny Horton would even add a little rockabilly flavor to the mix with "Honky Tonk Man." With even more great songs by Charlie Walker, Marty Robbins, and Stonewall Jackson, Honky Tonk Heroes is the perfect introduction to the honky tonk sound and a must for any country music collection.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook