In 2011, the legendary Canadian country singer Stompin' Tom Connors began an ambitious project to record a ten-album set of vintage country, folk, and pop standards that were the core of his act when he first began performing in the early '50s. The set was not yet complete when Connors died in 2013 at the age of 77, but some of the recordings he left behind for the project have received belated release on the compilation Unreleased Songs from the Vault Collection, Vol. 1. Most of the 17 songs on this set (the first in a projected series devoted to Stompin' Tom's unreleased work) feature just Connors' voice and acoustic guitar, and on a few of these tunes, he sounds a bit weary, as if time was taking its toll on him (and to be honest, Stompin' Tom's singing was always better than his guitar work). But even in subdued form, Connors' performances feel committed, and it's clear he loves these songs and enjoys singing them. When Connors is able to kick himself into higher gear, he's in grand form, especially when he tears into one of his patriotic numbers like "Cross Canada," "My Stompin' Grounds," and "Flyin' C.P.R." with a little band behind him. Many of the covers that dominate this set are more sentimental than one might expect from rough-and-tumble Stompin' Tom, and "Darktown Strutters Ball" seems like an odd choice in the 21st century, but everything here seems to come from the heart, and it all feels like a part of his rich creative legacy. Unreleased Songs from the Vault Collection, Vol. 1 isn't Stompin' Tom at his very best, but it's fun and entertaining stuff that shines a light on the legacy of Canada's greatest troubadour.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming