The Bailes Brothers

Standing Somewhere in the Shadows: The Legendary King Sessions 1953, Plus

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The Bailes Brothers' recording career stretched over quite a few years and several labels after they made their first discs in 1945, and included two separate stints for King. The first, a brief one consisting of a couple dozen recordings done in Nashville in the last half of 1946, are thoroughly documented on Bear Family's companion CD to this collection, Remember Me: The Legendary King Sessions 1946. By the time they came back to King in 1953, the act was fading a bit, not having recorded since 1947 (Johnnie Bailes did a stint in prison in the intervening years). For their 1953 King sessions, the ever-changing Bailes Brothers lineup featured just two brothers, guitarist/lead singer Walter and mandolinist/tenor vocalist Johnnie, backed by Lambert Arend on steel guitar and Big Tiny Smith on bass.

All 11 of the tracks they released on King in 1953 and 1954 (along with the previously unissued "I'll Run All the Way") are on this compilation, which adds two songs from Walter Bailes' 1956 single, and eight songs from four 1957-1960 solo singles by Johnnie Bailes. If hard times were getting the brothers down, however, they didn't show it on the 1953 King recordings. They're fine hillbilly harmony tunes, mostly penned by members of the Bailes family, if a little old-fashioned at a time when country music was rapidly evolving. They're often lyrically pious, whether or not they were explicitly religious or gospel-oriented, as you can tell from the titles of "Jesus' Blood," "There's a Difference in Religion and Salvation," "Avenue of Prayer," and "God's Hand Rules the World." Yet they're delivered with an inviting, if somewhat fatalistic, cheer that makes them more accessible and emotionally resonant than many folk and country performances of such material were.

Their solo sides reflect a bit of the mid-'50s trends in country and pop, and are less consistent, but aren't without their assets, Walter doing pleasingly plaintive vocal duets with his wife Frankie on the 1956 single "'Cause He Loved Me First"/"Saved." Johnnie got into early Nashville uptempo honky tonk on late-'50s cuts like the quite good "So Much," co-written by Mel Tillis and featuring Webb Pierce on harmony vocal. That would have been a promising direction to follow, but his career staggered along with a couple historical folk pieces on his next 45, Bailes returning to a religious vein with two sentimental country-pop-gospel numbers on his 1960 single. Much of the Bailes Brothers' complex history during this period is recounted in depth in Dick Spottswood's liner notes, and other phases of their career are covered on both Remember Me: The Legendary King Sessions 1946 and another Bear Family compilation, Oh So Many Years, which concentrates on their 1945-1947 Columbia sessions.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:19
2 2:29
3 2:38
4 2:36
6 2:56
7 2:35
8 2:29
9 2:28
11 2:55
12 2:50
15 2:58
16 2:30
17 2:09
18 2:06
19 2:45
20 2:32
21 2:41
22 2:11
blue highlight denotes track pick