Tex Ritter

High Noon [Rajon]

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This is a satisfying if slightly annoying double-CD collection of Tex Ritter's work, In part, it's an expanded account of the same material covered in ASV's High Noon: 1942-1952, 40 tracks on two CDs instead of 27, and the additions do, indeed, make for an even fuller account of Ritter's art, with numbers such as cautionary western song "Double Dealin' Darlin'," the prisoner's lament "Fort Worth Jail," the poignant ballad "Love Me Now," and the twangy, rollicking "Don't Make Me Sorry" augmenting more familiar work, including the title song, "Rye Whiskey," "Rock and Rye," and "Jingle Jangle Jingle." But the highlight here -- which does not appear on ASV's CD -- is "Trouble in Mind," as smooth a piece of country-pop as Ritter or anyone else of his generation ever recorded; his baritone, coupled with the girl chorus and the spare, steel guitar and accordion-driven arrangement, is worth the price of admission by itself, and makes this a must-own for anyone looking for a truly definitive account of Ritter's music and legacy. The music, in keeping with Ritter's era and its traditions, is mostly stripped down basic country, with fiddle, steel guitar, and accordion accompaniment backed by a couple of rhythm guitars and a standup bass -- all pre-countrypolitan, and doubly satisfying for those who prefer their country music or their cowboy songs lean and direct. The only aspect that makes this set slightly frustrating is the absence of any recording dates for any of the tracks here, or any references to these recordings in the admittedly spare liner notes. The sound is also a little variable, but minor noise in the sources intrudes on some of the tracks. But in terms of pure listening, and nearly two hours of immersion in some of Ritter's most enjoyable work, you can't do too much better than this double set.

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