Various Artists

5000 Miles Away from Home

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5000 Miles Away From Home is an unusual Bear Family release on several counts. Subtitled "Nashville Stars In Germany, 1957," it's only got nine songs on it, totalling less than 25 minutes of music, probably the shortest digital disc from the label that practically invented the 30-song CD; additionally, it's an amateur recording, which is a major departure for the European reissue label that makes it a point of licensing every master it uses from its legitimate owner. The reason for those departures lies with the extraordinary rarity of the material here -- there was no known official audio recording of the first overseas USO tour by RCA's roster of Nashville stars, which took place in 1957; but in 2000, an audience tape of exceptional quality turned up and was duly licensed, with the surviving participants contacted for their recollections in assembling the notes. As to the CD, it's priceless, absolutely priceless, and worth whatever Bear Family is asking for it -- even though the performers are represented by only a single song each, we get to hear them and their backing bands singing live, up-close, and personal: Janis Martin romping and stomping through "I'm Walking," the Browns' harmonizing to "It Takes a Long, Long Train With a Red Caboose," Hank Locklin turning in a beautifully bluesy "A Good Woman's Love," and Jim Reeves singing his heart out on "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" and "Courtin' in the Rain." Among the lesser stars, Del Wood gives us a pounding, rollicking "12th Street Rag," and Tommy Hill turns in the bluesy country ballad "Fraulein." Leo Jackson's outtro of "Wildwood Flower" does what every good house band is supposed to do, leaving the listener wanting more.

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