Stoney Edwards is probably the best hardcore country singer of the '70s that never got the attention he deserved. He never had a big hit -- two songs, "She's My Rock" and "Mississippi You're on My Mind," peaked at 20 and he never got any higher than that -- and after releasing four albums in five years, he was dropped by Capitol Nashville, with his recordings remaining out of print until Razor & Tie released this 20-track retrospective in 1998. Even this reissue didn't get the attention it deserved and was discontinued less than three years after its release, once again consigning Edwards to the status of a cult item among serious country fans, when he deserves much more. Why was it so difficult for Edwards to be heard? Most answers would likely say that it was because he was a black country singer, but Charley Pride was a fixture at the top of the country charts throughout Stoney's time on Capitol (indeed, his success was a significant factor in the label's decision to sign Edwards). Surely his race was likely a factor in his lack of success, but it's also true that he simply was not singing music that was fashionable at the time. Edwards was a pure country singer, in the vein of Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard, and his music was firmly in the hardcore honky tonk tradition, which was not exactly burning up the charts in the early '70s. Ironically, he didn't always stick to the tried-and-true honky tonk themes of drinking, cheating, love, and loss; he certainly sang his fair share of those songs, but he often sang about the pains of poverty, growing up country, trying to find work, and thinking about leaving his family behind. It was a sharp mix of expertly chosen covers and wonderful originals that revealed Edwards was as strong and imaginative a writer as he was a singer. Also, his productions and performances subtly stretched the boundaries of his beloved honky tonk, as he injected hints of the blues to his phrasing while the music occasionally flirted with modern and traditional folk. It was a rich blend and it has weathered the test of time, standing as some of the best hardcore country cut in the '70s, regardless of its status on the charts. It's the kind of music any true country lover will treasure, so even if it is difficult to find, it's worth seeking out because it's music that gets better with each listen. Sure, it would be nice to have actual albums on CD released eventually, but Poor Folks Stick Together: The Best of Stoney Edwards is such a perfectly assembled collection -- containing all of his modest hits, terrific album tracks, and even the previously unreleased "Jimmie Rodgers Blues" -- that after listening to it, it's hard to imagine that Edwards isn't better known. Too bad it's so hard to find.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine