The second volume of Bear Family's riotous 2014 series The Hillbillies: They Tried to Rock is every bit as good as its companion, possibly because it has many of the same players as the first disc. Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, George Jones, Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce, and Marvin Rainwater didn't cut just one jumping rock & roll single, they cut several and the best of these appear on this 31-track delight. Although there are a few exceptions here, nearly everything on this collection dates from 1956 through 1958, when it was still possible that rock & roll was just another dance fad and not a cultural revolution. Certainly, Bob Wills' "So Let's Rock" suggests just as much, with the Texas Playboys playing rock & roll as a variation on Western swing. It's a novelty, as are a few other cuts here -- Skeets McDonald's heavily recycled "You Oughta See Grandma Rock" and Carson Robison's "Rockin' and Rollin' with Grandmaw (On a Saturday Night)" take the cake -- but this is heavier on heavy-hitters than Vol. 1, containing one stone-cold standard in Moon Mullican's "Seven Nights to Rock," Bill Haley's early raver "Crazy Man Crazy," the wild twang of Johnny Horton's "Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor," Patsy Cline's stompin' "Stop Look and Listen," and Buck Owens' credible Elvis homage "Sweet Thing," which winds up overshadowed by George Jones' outright imitation on a cover of "Heartbreak Hotel." Sure, there are a few stumbles, usually arriving in the form of stiff covers or artists who just have no business singing rock & roll, but there are also some delightful surprises like Hank Thompson tearing into "Rockin' in the Congo," Wilf Carter's oddity "The Yodelin' Song," Red Foley's swinging "Crazy Little Guitar Man," and Don Reno & Red Smiley's "Country Boy Rock 'n' Roll," which doesn't rock in the slightest but the bluegrass duo was sharp enough to try to ride the wave. Such sly, silly details makes The Hillbillies: They Tried to Rock, Vol. 2 intoxicating fun.
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