The music contained on this disc is as compelling as the stories that are behind it. Both bear out the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has certain rules it has to obey, and it has to be "believable," while there are no constraints or regulations whatsoever on the truth. This music is from the seminal stages of rock & roll, and this group is straight from the Tennessee State Penitentiary system, thanks to a Governor who appreciated music. This group was not just released, but still incarcerated and having to go back there each night after the recording sessions, which for the most part were done at Sun Studios, the same studio where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and all those other pioneers made their starts. Rumor has it that Elvis and Johnny Bragg became a great admirer of the work the other was doing and often traded musical ideas. They did sing with each other at various state functions of the time. This is work that is reminiscent of some of the recordings of the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Mills Brothers, and yet at times has the raw energy of the early Elvis and Hank Williams. The fact that we have it is due to the forward thinking of the Governor of Tennessee at the time, Frank Clement (a story in his own right). The music comes from the harmonies of the gospel groups, the street corners, and all the music that was available on the radio at the time. Music that stretched the whole gamut, all the way from the groups previously mentioned to Perry Como, and all the pioneers at the Grand Ole Opry. The man who put it all together was Johnny Bragg, who never sang until he was falsely incarcerated for rape. Stories held in abeyance, this is music that should not be missed, and contained here is the original version of "Just Walkin' in the Rain," and this version is capable of bringing tears to your eyes. This is rock & roll at its most primal.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Bob Gottlieb