Various Artists

Starday-Dixie Rockabilly, Vol. 2

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The Starday family of labels has more in-laws than a hillbilly family has second cousins, apparently. The logos of no less than seven different labels are printed along the bottom of this album jacket, and the liner notes provide more information about various business transactions between Starday, King, and Houston's Gold Star studios than they do about the artists themselves. In fact, there is not a word included about any of these artists, let alone a line. There is also no information about who wrote the songs that are recorded, some of which sound like they were made up as the tape rolled. The late '70s and early '80s were something of a heyday for compilation reissues of this sort of material on vinyl, and as anyone familiar with country and rockabilly would know, there doesn't seem to be any end to the line of obscure, unknown artists who emerge from the shadows in the course of such projects. Here we have names such as Link Davis, Sonny Fisher, Thumper Jones, Benny Joy, and "Groovey" Joe Poovey, most of whom toiled in the confines of the previously mentioned Houston studios in order to come up with these rhythmically charged ditties. The "rockabilly" label was of course something that has often been attached to recordings such as these after that fact, and there are cases where one wonders why. While titles such as "Rock It," "Fat Woman," "Let's Get Wild," "Move Around," and "Rockin' Daddy" obviously are touchstones of the rockabilly philosophy, Poovey seems something of a fish out of water with "My Life's Ambition." Sound is pretty good overall despite the fact that some of the tracks were remastered from vinyl singles and sound like somebody first poured moonshine over them and then did a jig. Like its bastard offspring garage rock, rockabilly is an art form which no amount of garbage seems to be able to damage. Be it bad taste, shoddy equipment, or sloppy recording, it all just adds to the ambience, which is thick enough to thoroughly soak a slice of white bread on this collection. What is missing is a single artist whose inspiration takes them way above and beyond the norms of the genre. Die-hard rockabilly fanatics will no doubt want this stuff, but listeners who are attempting to touch base with geniuses of the genre should head for the trailers inhabited by types such as Hasel Adkins, Charlie Feathers, or Carl Perkins. This is also not a particularly generous collection, as listening to the entire set will take less than a half an hour.

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