This two-fer contains all 20 songs from singer and songwriter Jimmie Dale Gilmore's first two albums. They were originally released by Hightone Records in 1988 and 1989, respectively. What's ironic is that it had taken almost two decades for Gilmore to record on his own. He'd been a fixture in Austin's music scene for nearly two decades by that time. His high tenor voice is in excellent form on both recordings, though it is more immediate, reedy, and less warm than on his bigger-budget Elektra/Nonesuch debut, After Awhile, from 1991. These songs meld originals with tunes by Texas songwriters including Townes Van Zandt, Melvin Eddy, David Halley, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock -- the latter two Gilmore's running partners since high school in Lubbock and his partners in the Flatlanders. The highlights are many. The opening reading of Van Zandt's "White Freight Liner Blues" places it in a wild lonesome setting that fits the songwriter's intention perfectly. Ely's "Honky Tonk Masquerade" is less honky tonk and more old-time country; it stands in stark contrast to the songwriter's original version. Gilmore's own "Dallas" and "Deep Eddy Blues" are among his most enduring numbers; these performances may be the definitive ones. Hancock's "When the Nights Are Cold" closes the set. This stands as one of the most moving country love songs of the last 50 years, and this is the version that counts. Given the price tag and the fine remastering job, this is an excellent value; it provides a solid, deep-roots introduction to Gilmore's work.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek