Various Artists

Hillbilly Houn' Dawgs & Honky-Tonk Angels

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Bob Jones was one of those rock & roll true believers who existed entirely behind the scenes. A record collector who parlayed his love for old records into a career mastering for such specialty reissue imprints as Charly, Ace, and Bear Family, he also ran his own vinyl-only reissue label called Detour Records in the '80s. Jones dug deep into the vaults of several labels and assembled tight, thematic collections that packed a real punch, but unfortunately they, like the 45s he compiled, never saw a revival in the CD age. As a tribute to the departed Jones -- he died of cancer in 2009 -- Bear Family reissued five of these collections in 2014, including this 1989 LP, Hillbilly Houn' Dawgs & Honky Tonk Angels. This is a deep dive into the vaults of RCA/Victor, rounding up selections recorded at various RCA studios between 1952 and 1956. Some of the names will be familiar to serious country listeners -- Charline Arthur, Bob King, and the Davis Sisters have small, dedicated cults, while Terry Fell wrote the standard "Truck Driving Man" -- but the sounds will likely feel more familiar to a wider audience. The album alternates between hopping country boogie, straight-ahead Hank Williams weepers, two steps, and honky tonk, sometimes finding some weird cracks between all these sounds, such as Wade Ray's "I Need a Good Girl Bad," which swings so loosely it sounds more R&B than country, and Jack Turner's "Walkin' the Chalk Line," which would've qualified as a Johnny Cash parody if it hadn't been recorded prior to "I Walk the Line." This illustrates how expertly this collection was chosen: it was assembled with a real ear for what's worthwhile, balancing near-novelties and oddities with rip-roaring forgotten gems.

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