Johnny Horton

Country Legend

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Johnny Horton was one of the biggest crossover country acts of the 1950s before his career was cut short at its peak when he died in an auto accident in 1960. Horton was best known for his historically minded story-songs such as "North to Alaska," "The Battle of New Orleans," and "Sink the Bismarck," while he also cut a number of tough honky tonk numbers that have earned him a loyal following among fans of classic hard country. However, none of those songs appear on this collection; instead, Country Legend is compiled from early sides Horton cut in 1951 for the Abbott label, owned by his then-manager, who was trying to promote him as "the Singing Fisherman," several years before he signed to Columbia Records and began scoring hits. Horton was still finding his feet as a singer when he was recording for Abbott, his songwriting had yet to fully mature, and the production and arrangements on these sessions are often cloying and overly sentimental. In short, this disc captures Johnny Horton at perhaps the weakest point of his creative life, and while the man was just good enough a singer that these tunes are tolerable at worst, they don't offer much indication of the great music he would be making five years later. Not bad for completists, but folks looking for a decent Johnny Horton collection would be much better off with the near-definitive Honky Tonk Man: The Essential Johnny Horton 1956-1960.

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