Saturday, 14 February 2009

Don Gibson - Don Rocks (Bear Family BCD 16991)

Don Gibson was an amazing songwriter who had a string of hits for RCA in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He bridged the gap between country and rock ‘n’ roll and although he sat with one and a half of his ass cheeks on the hillbilly side, he still had a flair for rockabilly. By no stretch of the imagination can he be called a rockabilly singer but there was a definite edge to his music. Not dissimilar to Roy Orbison, he excelled at taking the Nashville Sound outside the Music City city limits. It was too pop to be Charlie Feathers but it was also too rockin’ to put him on Bill Monroe’s Christmas card list.

Bear Family have served Don well over the years with the box-set treatment and the fabulous single CD, A Legend In My Time. As befits the title, and the series, this new one concentrates on the up-tempo sides and it’s stunning, from the music in the grooves to the packaging and sound quality. It covers the RCA years from 1957 to 1967 but doesn’t run chronologically, something that helps the CD run so smoothly.

The CD kicks of in cracking style with a trio of corkers. Sweet Sweet Girl is so beloved by us rockers thanks to Warren Smith’s great version, but Don’s is equally great. I’m sure everyone here is familiar with the big guns like Oh Lonesome Me, Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles and Blue Blue Day.

It shows the quality of the material he was producing in his prime for 1961’s I Sat Back And Let It Happen go unreleased for over twenty years. Where do you stop with the superlatives? Listen to Lonesome Number One – beautiful picking fromm Grady Martin, and great interplay with Cramer and the Jordannaires.

Sea of Heartbreak is one of those perfect pop songs with Floyd Cramer tinkling away as the Nashville A Team lay down a bouncy support for Don’s wonderful vocals. From April ’61, I just wish Bob Moore or one of those boys had persuaded Elvis to have a crack at it - you just know it would have been a killer, it was tailor made for the early 60’s Elvis treatment.

Of the covers, I thought his cover of Brook Benton’s Hurtin’ Inside was spot on and the gospel workout on Martha Carson’s Satisfied also works well. Hank Snow’s Movin’ On is slightly spoilt by the backing singers but the chicken picking guitar just about saves the day. Campdown Races is another that is perhaps not up to the standard of the rest. I love the funky arrangement of What’s The Reason I’m Not Pleasing You.

Basically, I could go on raving about this release but I’m sure you get my drift already. This is another stunning release from the king of the reissue market. Buy this with complete confidence, its another to Bear Family release that’ll you’ll need to keep close to the CD changer.

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