Johnny Paycheck

The Outlaw

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No surprise that the Little Darlin' folks would have wanted to cash in on Johnny Paycheck's Top Ten status during 1978, so they slapped out this item, barely half the length of a normal LP and sporting a photo of Paycheck about ten years older, and ten times more the outlaw, than he was when he recorded the tracks herein, which are plucked from his 1966-1968 recording period. But what is here is fantastic country music from the honky tonk tradition yet strangely influenced by '60s rock as well as Cajun and blues. What gives it all that special edge is that Paycheck is willing to go just a bit further in his stories and portraits than other country artists. The supreme example of this could be the infamous "I've Got Someone to Kill," one of three tracks here chosen in 1996 for the Country Music Foundation's The Real Mr. Heartache Paycheck retrospective. Just as good is "The Johnsons of Turkey Ridge," mistakenly written in the possessive in the credits, an ironic mistake since the song has to do with feudin' and fightin' over land ownership up in the hills and has to be in the running for the honor of country song with the highest body count. "The Ballad of Frisco Bay" is a unique and marvelous prison escape ballad, while "California Dreams" is wonderfully '60s influenced, telling the tale of a galoot on the roam while the pickers come up with various sitar and fuzz box style riffs. Plus, there are also the "Bayou Bum," "The Loser," and the morose character quick to admit "I'm a Coward."

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