Various Artists

Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1952

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Given the track list of Country & Western Hit Parade 1952, an entry in Bear Family’s stellar series of releases on the theme, one can see that for country music fans, this was an amazing year all around. Imagine some of these songs pouring out of your radio or being played on a jukebox in a dancehall: Hank Thompson's honky tonk classic “Wild Side of Life,” Jimmie Dean’s nugget "Bummin’ Around," Carl Smith’s “Are You Teasing Me,” Webb Pierce’s “Wondering,” Hank Snow’s "Gold Rush Is Over," and Bill Monroe’s “Raw Hide,” to name a few. This 26-track compilation selects all Top Ten tracks for inclusion, though some were relegated to obscurity soon after. The latter group contains Lattie Moore’s “Juke Joint Johnny,” and Jim Eames' “I Cried Again,” but this is also the year that saw Kitty Wells lay down her classic “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and Hank Williams’ "Jambalaya (On the Bayou).” These are all here, plus another dozen or so all-killer, no-filler cuts from country music’s grand history. As is customary for all releases on Bear Family, the set includes exhaustive liner notes, complete track information, and great photos. The entire set is packaged in a hardback bound digipack -- it’s worth every penny; actually, the entire series is. For fans of traditional country & western music, this set is essential listening.

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