The Statler Brothers

Flowers on the Wall [Columbia]

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When their 1966 crossover hit "Flowers on the Wall" was used in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction, the Statler Brothers enjoyed a deserved career resurgence. The song's ironic denial ranks with George Jones' "She Thinks I Still Care" as one of country music's most vivid descriptions of a bitter reject trying to convince himself of his indifference toward his ex-lover. As Flowers on the Wall aptly demonstrates, the Statler Brothers' influence on country music extends to nearly every vocal harmony act that followed them. The Oak Ridge Boys are often cited as the most prominent disciples, and it's easy to trace the inspiration for their bass-vocal-hooked signature song, "Elvira," to the precedent of Harold Reid's deep, robust instrument. Equally adept at country, gospel, and pop, the voices of Phil Balsley, Lew DeWitt, and brothers Harold and Don Reid soar gracefully above diverse arrangements which run the gamut from near-a cappella minimalism to a rollicking mix of banjo, ukulele, and piano. Unlike many '60s albums, wherein the featured single is surrounded by inappropriate, lackluster remakes of the current hit parade, Flowers on the Wall balances its well-chosen cover material with original compositions that match the quality of the title smash. Having reached national prominence with the assistance of Johnny Cash, it's fitting that the group pays tribute by recording a lovely, mariachi-flavored version of Cash's "I Still Miss Someone." Roger Miller is another obvious influence, and the group not only revitalizes his "King of the Road" with their trademark harmony vocals, but also offers their own charming, Miller-inspired novelty entitled "The Doodlin' Song" (sample lyric: "does a stink weed really stink/and how far down does a kitchen sink?"). From the painful melancholy of "My Reward" to Tom T. Hall's cautionary tale of "Billy Christian," the Statler Brothers display remarkable versatility, especially for a debut album. Highly recommended, Flowers on the Wall is one of those rare musical treasures which bridges the gaps between several genres and generations.

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