Many fans of Freddie Hart's sexy '70s love songs may not realize that his recording career began way back in 1953 when he was an aspiring honky-tonker and songwriter. Juke Joint Boogie is a 33-track anthology that looks at the early years of Hart's career when he recorded with producers Ken Nelson and Don Law at Capitol and Columbia Records, cutting straight country as well as hybridized songs intended to catch some of the pop market. Juke Joint Boogie offers an extended but incomplete survey of Hart's recordings from 1953-61, omitting dozens of tracks in spite of its generous program. The selections that are included seem to favor previously unreleased recordings and rock & roll-influenced cuts, although some of Hart's rock-oriented recordings from the era were omitted. One of his Top 40 Columbia hits ("What a Laugh!") was also left off. What remains are boogies (the title track), Ray Price-style shuffles ("The Key's in the Mailbox"), pop-oriented experiments ("Dance and Sing"), and straight-up rockabilly. Hart made a lonely pair of rockabilly recordings -- "Snatch It and Grab It" and "Dig Boy Dig" -- that he disavows despite their excellence. The prison songs "Chain Gang" and "The Wall" were Hart's first hits, and his recording of "Loose Talk," which he wrote, was covered by Carl Smith to become a number one country hit. Ken Nelson and Don Law let Hart try out a range of styles, which means that there is plenty of variety on this long set of music. Hart's early recordings have been out of print for decades, so Juke Joint Boogie is an overdue look at the formative years of one of the biggest country stars of the '70s.
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