Hank Snow

Country and Western Jamboree

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Hank Snow's fifth long-player, recorded at two sessions in early November of 1956, was a relative oddity at the time as a non-concept album; during this period, Snow had begun releasing a series of LPs built around specific themes that had done very well. But it hardly matters, he could seemingly do no wrong in the studio in the second half of the '50s, as his record sales bore out (this when a lot of other country artists' sales were withering with the encroachment of rock & roll). But unified thematically or not, Country and Western Jamboree is an engaging, quietly impressive mix of mostly ballads and blues that shows off several of Snow's gifts magnificently. Most of what's here may seem very familiar on paper, but Snow and his backing band give it all a fresh approach in terms of style and virtuosity that holds up a half-century later. "Memories Are Made of This" gets a near-calypso treatment, while "I Almost Lost My Mind" is stretched to bracing dimensions of sincerity by Snow's delivery, in his slow drawl of a baritone; and he creates the illusion with Claude Boone's "Wedding Bells" of a first-time performance. Through it all, his voice is not only spot-on, but his lead guitar playing is also something to behold, and gets ample room in the spotlight, even sharing space with two fiddle-players -- Snow had been a first-rate player in his Canadian days, then pulled back from it when he first got to Nashville and saw the competition; but by this time he felt more than confident enough to play lead on his own sessions, and that's as important as his singing on numbers such as "Born to Love," "Singin' the Blues," "Poison Love," and "Among My Souvenirs." It's all great listening and a first-rate record and, incidentally, it's also a tribute to the purity of monaural sound, before the switch to stereo started forcing artists and producers to trick out their records with all kinds of artificial separation; stereo might have offered more flexibility (which some artists didn't need), but this record shows how rich and developed mono was at the end. And in that regard, this is not only a fine record to come back to in the 21st century, but can be a cleansing experience for some older listeners and a revelation for younger ones.

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