Billy Walker

The Columbia Hits

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Koch's 2005 collection Columbia Hits is the first time Billy Walker's singles from the late '50s and first half the '60s have appeared on an American CD. Previously, this material was collected on Bear Family's typically exhaustive 1993 six-disc set Cross the Brazos at Waco, and listening to Koch's generous 20-track collection, it's easy to hear why Walker was given the Bear Family treatment. Walker was a countrypolitan crooner halfway between Jim Reeves and Ray Price, possessing a sweet high tenor voice that was so smooth, he made everything he sang seem easy. Perhaps a touch too easy -- Walker seems to glide through the ballads and skip through the gently rolling up-tempo numbers without ever leaving a strong impression. He was a professional through and through, working within Nashville's studio system without stamping his recordings with a strong personal identity. That resulted in quite a few hits, but not too many big ones -- only his 1962 breakthrough "Charlie's Shoes" topped the charts, with the Marty Robbins-styled cowboy tune "Cross the Brazos at Waco" reaching number two two years later. The rest of his hits -- and all the ones he had between 1957 and 1965 are collected here -- are simply good products of the Nashville system, never breaking the mold, but never being anything less than pleasant. It's solid generic music in the best sense of the word: it's thoroughly of its genre, and will appeal to anybody that enjoys the lush, relaxed sound of Music City in the early '60s. But since it is generic, it's also best to sample it on this relatively concise collection, not on the big Bear Family box.

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