Unlike so many entries in Ace's songwriter series, Dave Bartholomew has been the subject of many songbook compilations (not to mention many other collections of his production work), so what distinguishes Ace's 2011 set The Big Beat: The Dave Bartholomew Songbook is its focus. The Big Beat frequently looks outside the confines of New Orleans for its artists, something most other Bartholomew discs do not do. Certainly, there is room for Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis, Shirley & Lee, Bobby Charles, Roy Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Bartholomew himself, but the 25-track collection also finds space for the Johnny Burnette Trio, the Del Vikings, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee, Tom Rush, and Dave Edmunds, the latter being the last to bring a Bartholomew tune to the upper reaches of the pop charts via his 1970 version of "I Hear You Knocking." Larry Storch may knock the big beat off of its groove with his contemptuous 1957 spoof of "I’m Walkin'," but otherwise this set rolls around nicely, sometimes getting down and dirty (usually when the selections stick to Bartholomew's New Orleans), sometimes rolling a tad too easily (Brenda Lee’s syrupy "Walking to New Orleans"). But it’s never less than enjoyable, and sometimes -- as on Johnny Burnette's "All by Myself" and Tom Rush's "I'm in Love Again" -- it even offers up some surprises.
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