In 2001 the U.K.-based Westside reissue label began releasing CD two-fers featuring '50s and '60s folk crooner Jimmie F. Rodgers. His albums for Roulette Records had been out of print for well over three decades. Rather than reissuing the discs chronologically, however, Westside chose a thematic approach. For some artists, such could easily be considered historic hara-kiri. However, this is not the case with Rodgers -- as this initial installment amply demonstrates. Despite the fact that Jimmie Rodgers Sings Folk Songs and The Folk Song World of Jimmie Rodgers were originally issued in 1958 and 1961, respectively, each of the two dozen tracks has a seamless continuity. Rodgers became a household name after appearances on Arthur Godfrey's syndicated television show in 1957. His performance of "Honeycomb" made such an impression upon Roulette Records owners Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore that they had him in a recording studio less than 24 hours after his audition. By the decade's close, he had scored 11 Top 40 hits as well as a half-hour weekly musical variety show on NBC. This two-fer captures Rodgers at the height of his popularity performing the music that he and his audience loved the best. Although the North American folk music boom was still a few years away, without a doubt Rodgers played an integral part in introducing the genre to a pop audience. Jimmie Rodgers Sings Folk Songs -- his third LP in less than two years -- is a foray into the whimsical world of English folk ballads, such as "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" and "Lord Randal, My Son," as well as the traditional American folk standards, including the story song "Soldier, Won't You Marry Me" and the decidedly modern reading of "Bo Diddley." These contemporary arrangements are perfect for Rodgers, whether accompanied by a small combo ("Gotta Lotta Tunes in My Guitar") or in a more intimate setting ("Lassie O' Mine"). Although The Folk Song World of Jimmie Rodgers was cut some three years after Jimmie Rodgers Sings Folk Songs, the album flawlessly follows not only thematically, but likewise in the resonance of the material. There are a few tracks, though, which clearly stand out as minor gems. His take on the "Boll Weevil Song" bops along as if it might have been a Gene Vincent cover, and by way of contrast, "Seven Daffodils" is chilling with its ethereal backing vocals and airy vibraphone flourishes that seemingly hover over the rest of the song. Both titles have been remastered from the original quarter-inch production tapes and as a result have never sounded as pure and full as they do on this tremendous-value-for-the-money two-fer. Interested parties should note that Westside plans to restore all eight of Jimmie Rodgers' non-seasonal Roulette Records titles as two-fers as well as his 1959 Christmas classic It's Christmas Once Again. They are available as U.K. imports and well worth the price of admission.
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer
feat: Luigi Creatore