Various Artists

Hillbilly Fever, Vol. 4: Legends of the West Coast

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Hillbilly Fever, Vol. 4: Legends of the West Coast doesn't just cover the Bakersfield sound of the late '50s and early '60s, but also traces its development through the late '40s and '50s. The disc begins with a selection of cowboy songs (Jack Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills," Gene Autry's "You Are My Sunshine," Sons of the Pioneers' "Cool Water"), before moving toward Western swing (Al Dexter's "Too Late to Worry," Spade Cooley's "Shame on You") and country-boogie (Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Mule Train"). By the end of the disc -- after Skeets McDonald's "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," Jimmy Wakely's "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)," Tex Ritter's "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)," and Joe Maphis & Rose Lee's "Dim Lights Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)" have all been heard -- the electrified honky tonk of Bakersfield begins to emerge in the form of Jean Shepard ("A Dear John Letter"), Tommy Collins ("You Better Not Do That"), Ferlin Husky ("Gone"), Wynn Stewart ("Wishful Thinking"), Buck Owens ("Second Fiddle"), and Merle Haggard ("Sing a Sad Song"). Since it covers so many different styles, Legends of the West Coast is a little inconsistent. Nevertheless, it tells its story well and contains a wealth of classics, making it another essential addition to any comprehensive country library. [None of the five discs in the Hillbilly Fever series sold in its initial release, probably because its title was too smug to appeal to either hardcore record collectors or casual country fans. A year after the release of Hillbilly Fever, Rhino reissued the entire series under the title Heroes of Country Music. Unfortunately, the second time around, they pulled several essential tracks from each disc. But even in its edited form, the series is worth getting.]

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