Long before Carl & Pearl Butler made the biggest country hit of 1962 with "Don't Let Me Cross Over," Carl Butler recorded as a solo artist for the Columbia and OKeh labels. Blue Million Tears chronicles these early years with 28 recordings Butler waxed between 1950 and 1953, and traces his evolution from an open-throated hillbilly singer patterned after Roy Acuff to an electrified honky tonker moving toward the style of his better-known '60s recordings. Bear Family Records is famous for exhuming long-lost hillbilly bop and rockabilly recordings, but there is nothing of that sort here -- only traditional country music with a few train songs and lots of slow weepers. "Plastic Heart," a novelty that Acuff also recorded, stands out among the many ballads because of its humor and dissimilarity to the surrounding material. Butler had no hits during his early years, and even among his fans these '50s recordings are considered inferior to his '60s hits, but nonetheless, Blue Million Tears is a valuable anthology of rare recordings that should interest serious collectors of traditional country music.
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