Omni’s 2010 release A Big Bag of Songs cherry-picks from albums Billy Edd Wheeler released between 1963 and 1972, relying heavily on the 1963 LP A New Bag of Songs, which accounts for the first nine songs here. Wheeler is best known for “Jackson,” which was popularized by Johnny Cash and June Carter, an association suggesting that Wheeler was a country songwriter, and while that was certainly a genre he sang, particularly after the success of “Jackson,” he was rooted in folk, with his earliest recordings reminiscent of a single-man Kingston Trio. He never quite shook this vibe, especially whenever he relied on his high keening vibrato, although he did eventually gain a fuller production as the ‘60s drew to a close. Based on A Big Bag of Songs, Wheeler’s career plays a little bit like the trajectory of a ‘60s folksinger in microcosm, beginning with the stripped-down troubadour of 1963 and ending with the progressive country of 1970, complete with layers of vocal harmonies and banjos, and while there’s a lot of stuff of period interest here, there’s not a whole lot that transcends its time -- apart, of course, from “Jackson,” which he deservedly built a career upon.
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