Various Artists

More Ballroom Kings

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More Ballroom Kings Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Bob Jones was one of those rock & roll true believers who existed entirely behind the scenes. A record collector who parlayed his love for old records into a career mastering for such specialty reissue imprints as Charly, Ace, and Bear Family, he also ran his own vinyl-only reissue label called Detour Records in the '80s. Jones dug deep into the vaults of several labels and assembled tight, thematic collections that packed a real punch, but unfortunately they, like the 45s he compiled, never saw a revival in the CD age. As a tribute to the departed Jones -- he died of cancer in 2009 -- Bear Family reissued five of these collections in 2014, including this 1987 collection. More Ballroom Kings is a sequel to Ballroom Kings, which was a 1982 compilation of the best of Pee Wee King. More Ballroom Kings also features Pee Wee King -- he owns a quarter of the 16 tracks here -- but, as the title suggests, the net is thrown wider, rounding up other western swing artists who recorded for RCA between the late '40s and early '50s. Some of these names remain obscure, but others have received a career rehabilitation since the release of this LP, including Wade Ray, Elton Britt, and Homer & Jethro. All are happily playing western swing, working with bands that aren't as sprawling as prime Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys. Often, they sound more like Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys -- a slightly leaner lineup that also hit the hardwood honky tonk floors a little harder (Ray also uncannily sounds like the jovial Thompson). By concentrating on groups and bandleaders all working the same style, More Ballroom Kings gels and also thrills: it sounds like a never-ending party in the dancehall on the edge of town.

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