Benny Martin

Lover of the Town

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AllMusic Review by

Lover of the Town is a pretty surprising reissue in the scheme of things. It compiles a dozen recordings Benny Martin made for Mercury Records in the mid-'50s, mostly vocal performances of straight country songs Martin composed. Martin is recognized as one of the all-time great bluegrass fiddlers, but none of his Mercury recordings were chart hits, and it is rare for a label other than Bear Family to license this kind of niche-within-a-niche title from a major label. Nonetheless, Red Sundown Records did it and the result is a welcome Benny Martin retrospective manufactured from the original master recordings. The liner notes characterize the uptempo honky tonk-styled "Ice Cold Love" and the title track as hits, but they didn't chart nationally. Martin enjoyed a great deal of exposure on the Grand Ole Opry with Colonel Tom Parker as his manager, and inspired enough interest in major labels to facilitate later moves to Decca and RCA, so his records must have sold reasonably well. "Lover of the Town" is based on the traditional song "Bully of the Town," and "Me and My Fiddle" is a humorous theme for Martin and his fiddle playing with a melody that is strangely similar to Dolly Parton's "9 to 5." Only the instrumental "Orange Blossom Special" spotlights Martin's playing -- the overall focus is on Martin's singing and songs. Lover of the Town is a fine collector-oriented release -- let's just hope the label didn't lose its shirt making it.

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