Friday, 17 April 2009

Webb Pierce - High Geared Daddy (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)

Bear Family's Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series seems tailor made for guys like me whose main love is rockabilly, but also have the good grace to enjoy their country music, especially of the uptempo variety. I like a good country ballad, but can't stand a singer just whining away. If anyone is going to fit that category, it's Webb Pierce. I find most of his ballads hard to digest but love the hillbilly boogie he was so good at. That makes this CD an absolute treat, with 32 performances covering his golden era from 1949-'59 on Four Star, Pacemaker and Decca. What is striking is how little the music changed over such a long period. If you look at virtually any rock 'n' rollers music over such a period, you can bet it would go from either hillbilly or blues to rock 'n' roll back to country, blues or soul. About the only thing that changed with Webb was the introduction of poppier backing vocals for a brief period in the late 50's. On a couple of these tracks he comes over like Marty Robbins or Sonny James.

Webb owned the country charts during the 50', amassing an astonishing 96 hit singles, more than half of which went into the top 10 including thirteen number 1's. There's reason he did so well is because his beat was so damn infectious, an must have sounded great on every hillbilly jukebox from the Dairy Queen's to the boozy honky tonk bar-rooms. The biggies are here like Honky Tonk Song, Tupelo County Jail, In the Jailhouse Now and I Ain't Never, but there's also some great moments with less heard numbers like I'm Tired and later version of New Panhandle Rag. From the earlier days the highlights have to be a trio of songs that will surely be on the big jukebox when we get to hillbilly heaven, Hayride Boogie, Drifting Texas Sand and California Blues. Hayride Boogie was adapted half a decade later as Teenage Boogie and rightly awarded cult status.

The boogie is relentless throughout - it's a white man's Lightnin' Hopkins or John Lee Hooker. This is a stunning release that rockers and hicks alike can buy with confidence.

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