Hi, there! This page is part of an opinionated guide to what I call "hard country" music -- the real stuff -- with a bunch of record reviews and recommendations by me, Joe Sixpack. Naturally, it's a work in progress, and will hopefully be expanded on quite a bit, as time allows.
This is the first page covering the letter "N"
One of the most unusual-sounding albums in the Arhoolie catalog (and that's saying a lot!) This CD is an expanded version of a 1974 LP made by an obscure white Texas country/blues picker who plays a basically acoustic style, though amplified in a rather remarkable way. The overall effect is spooky and unnerving, which, as it turns out, is perfectly suited to the intense, unsettling nature of the songs themselves. Neely, a lifelong devotee of the legendary Depression-era country pioneer, Jimmie Rodgers, dwells in the darker areas of the country blues tradition, with stream-of-consciousness tunes about jail time and street crimes. Particularly striking are the preachy-but-raw religious tune "Satan's Burning Hell" and the previously unreleased "Skid Row," which detailed the seaminess of life in the lower rungs of big city life. I thought this album was particularly compelling, and certainly worth checking out. Just the kind of record that only Arhoolie could put out.
Bill Neely "Austin's Original Singer-Songwriter" (Lost Art, 2003)
Willie Nelson - see artist discography
Bill Nettles "Shake It And Take it" (Binge Disc, 2001)
Raunchy, wild, genuinely ribald country-stringband swing novelty songs recorded between 1937-47, packed with sly vocals, sweet fiddle and crisp pickin'. Bill Nettles started out in the Jimmie Rodgers-Cliff Carlisle blue yodel style, but pumped it up with a thumping, swinging beat, and definitely made the music his own. This is a great collection that captures his band at its best, with toe-tapping numbers such as "I Miss The Girl (That Misses Me)," "Hungry," "Why Do The Men Love The Women?" and Ernest Tubb-styled proto-honkytonk numbers like "Too Many Blues" and "You're Breaking My Broken Heart." Nettles wrote almost all of his material, which makes this collection even that much more impressive... All in all, an awesome set of classic country music that time forgot... Plus, there's very little overlap between this disc and the equally excellent Hadacol Boogie collection reviewed below... Both are real must-have albums!
This sure is one fun record. Bill Nettles was a verteran of the sentimental "brother act" fad of the 1930s, but when he turned his hand to the rowdier stles of honkytonk, hokum and country boogie, he sure found his calling. These 1940s-ish recordings, drawn from his tears on the Bullet, Imperial and Mercury labels, feature one great novelty song after another, with stories of hopheads, heartbreakers, layabouts and ne-er-do-wells, the kind of good-natured country comedy that hardly anyone sings "seriously" anymore. Most of all, it's great music, a lot of fun to listen to, sung with a sense humor that'll never let you down. For my money, this is one of the best country reissues of the year!
Bob Newman "Hangover Boogie" (The Hound, 1996)
An awesome set of pumped-up hillbilly boogie and raunchy novelty material, mostly recorded for King Records in the early 1950s. There are trucker tunes, sleepin'-in-the-doghouse ditties, a lot of songs about partying (the title track, a Newman original featured here in two different versions, is a funny, fiery number with great lyrics) and some surprisingly frank sexuality (as on "Baby Take Me Home With You.") As with other artists of the era, the novelty-themed boogie numbers are kind of hit-or-miss, although Newman's robust vocals are consistently appealing. Folks who treasure postwar hillbilly music as a precursor of rockabilly and rock will definitely want to track this European-pressed disc down... Hopefully more of Newman's work will see the light of day soon! (PS - Hee-Haw fans will also be interested to hear Newman's 1952 version of "Phfft! You Were Gone," one of the all-time great songs from the show's glory years...)
Roy Newman & His Boys "Dust Off That Old Piano" (Binge Disc, 2002)
Somewhat genteel western swing from the late 1930s... Although this Texas band could play hot stringband swing, they mostly played it pretty sweet, and dipped liberally into the jazz-swing canon of Tin Pan Alley tunes and sweet band sentiment. Newman's Dallas-based band had close ties to western swing legend Bob Boyd (Boyd's brother Jim sang with the group early on, and they performed alongside Boyd on regular radio shows...) and several well-known country players moved through the Newman band's frequently-changing lineup. Anyway, if you like sweet stuff, you might wanna check this out... They seldom cut loose and played hot, but that mode sounded nice, too!
John McEuen and pals host the ultimate bluegrass/country revival album of the early '70s. With guest such as Merle Travis, Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter and Jimmy Martin, there's no way this album could fail. And it doesn't. A beautiful 3-LP set which hasn't lost any of its charm over the years. Recommended!
The 'Eighties update was another roots music lovefest, with guests this time around including Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, John Hiatt, John Prine, Chet Atkins, and a slew of bluegrassers from the last couple of decades -- Jimmy Martin returns, along with the New Grass Revival, fiddle whiz Mark O'Connor, dobro king Jerry Douglas, etc. Some folks find this album a bit too slick and studio-y, but with a talent pool like this, it's are certainly worth checking out.
Third time's a charm (although the last two weren't so bad either... The post-millennial, 30th-anniversary entry into this series includes rootsy young'uns such as Iris DeMent, Alison Krauss and Dwight Yoakum, alongside a slew of new- and truegrassers (Del McCoury, Sam Bush, various Dillardses and Scruggses, and others) as well as some of the Nashville and roots country elite, many making repeat appearances from previous volumes: Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Matraca Berg.
Hick Music Index