Various Artists

Rockin' at Town Hall

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The British-based Country Routes label (part of Interstate Music) is best known for its releases of radio transcriptions of country artists, and once upon a time the 13 artists represented here could have fit into the country category. But they're all really rock & rollers, performing live on radio's Town Hall Party, and doing some of the best rockabilly music that money can buy. In contrast to the relatively low-fi Elvis Presley Louisiana Hayride transcriptions, the stuff here is loud and generally cleanly mastered, and the lineup, apart from the absence of Elvis and Buddy Holly, is practically a who's-who of country rockers recorded live between 1959 and 1961: Carl Perkins ("Blues Suede Shoes," "Matchbox/Boppin' the Blues"), the Collins Kids ("Shake Rattle & Roll"), Warren Smith ("Rock 'n Roll Ruby"), Bob Luman ("I Got a Woman," "Oh Lonesome Me," "I'm Walkin'," "Milk Cow Blues"), Larry Collins ("Ramrod," "Honky Tonk"), Wanda Jackson ("Real Cool"), and Amos Headrick ("Good Rockin' Tonight"). There are a few sloppy moments, and a couple of songs are incomplete, but by and large this collection really cooks on all burners all the way through, and gives a glimpse of what some of the best rockabilly players sounded like playing directly to an audience on some really good nights. The Bob Luman songs alone (backed by a band that includes James Burton on electric guitar) are worth the price of this disc, and the Larry Collins and Collins Kids stuff will astound the uninitiated.

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