Eddie Dean

1501 Miles of Heaven

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It's ironic that Texas native Eddie Dean moved to Chicago in the '30s. Many of his cowboy songs painted such vivid pictures of life in rural, small-town America, and Chicago is about as urban as it gets. But even when Dean was living in the Windy City, he was still a Texan to the core -- and his Texas roots assert themselves in a major way on 1501 Miles of Heaven. This two-CD collection, which Allegro assembled for its Roots of Country label in 2001, is full of gems that are the essence of '40s and '50s cowboy music -- it doesn't get much more Western than "Rose of Santa Fe," "Red Sails in the Sunset," "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo," and "Oregon Trail." And Dean wasn't strictly a cowboy singer; he handles honky tonk impressively well on the tear-jerker "I'm a Stranger in My Home" and Ernest Tubb's "Walking the Floor Over You," while the 1948 classic "One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)" successfully combines country and pre-rock pop sensibilities. But as captivating as 1501 Miles of Heaven is, the collection isn't without its problems. Roots of Country fails to list either personnel or recording dates, and for serious collectors that type of laziness is infuriating. Further, many of Dean's definitive recordings are missing, including "On the Banks of the Old San Juan" and his most famous song, "I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven." But while 1501 Miles of Heaven is far from ideal, it does have a lot of good points and is worth acquiring for those interested in hearing more than Dean's most basic and essential work.

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