Sunday, 5 September 2010

Hal Harris - Gold Star Guitar

Hal Harris - Gold Star Guitar
El Toro Records - ETCD1033

1. Carroll County Boogie
2. I Have Lived, Loved & Learned
3. Flying Eagle Blues
4. I've Loved, I've Laughed, I've Cried
5. Poor Boy Rag
6. Boy Crazy Jane
7. Twin Hearts & Twin Guitars
8. Guilty Heart
9. Taggin' Along
10. I Don't Know When
11. Duck Tail
12. Rock It
13. Gonna Be Better Times
14. Tu-La-Lou
15. No Fault Of Mine
16. Sixteen Chicks
17. Doggone It
18. Won't Tell You Her Name
19. How Come It
20. Slippin' Out & Sneakin' In
21. I Can't Find The Door Knob
22. Somebody's Knockin'
23. Lonesome
24. That Ain't It
25. Trucker From Tennessee
26. I'm Through
27. You Gotta Pay
28. Can't Play Hookey
29. Little Rock Rock
30. Don't Be Long Gone
31. Goodby Goodbye
32. Jitterbop Baby
33. I'm Comin' Home
34. Please Pass The Biscuits

As Dave Penny points out in his sleevenotes, Hal Harris was “one of the most celebrated of the early rockabilly guitarists of the 1950s” whose “chaotic and spine-chillingly bluesy solos on his Fender Stratocaster for Starday Records in Houston were as distinctive (and valuable) as Roland Janes' in Memphis, Grady Martin's in Nashville or Joe Maphis' in Hollywood.” He’s undoubtedly not as celebrated as the others but this excellent compilation from El Toro will surely help address the injustice.

It features the 1950s recordings issued under his own name as well as a selection of his session work for a bunch of Texas artists whose work was enhanced by Harris’ guitar, whether it be on a hillbilly or a rockabilly session. The country stuff stuff is fine and very much of the day and location, but it’s the rockabilly cuts that really stand him apart for me.

There’s a string of rockin’ classics as he served as the house guitarist for Pappy Daily's stable of labels, Starday, Dixie and D Records. The majority of them were issued at the time to little fanfare, but became classics across many a European household during the rockabilly revival of the 1970s and 80s. The names trip of the tongue - Joe Clay, George Thumper Jones, Sleepy La Beef, Link Davis, Rock Rogers and Benny Barnes. Picking favourites is irrelevant as they nearly all hit the spot. If pushed I’d have to go for Al Urban’s Gonna Be Better Times and Jimmie & Johnny’s Can’t Find The Door Knob.

Top prove he could have been much more than a session man, he did recorded a couple of rockers himself. It was actually one of these, Jitterbug Baby, that first made me aware of him on a 20 Great Rockabilly Hits of the 50’s (Cascade Records) in the mid 80’s. It was reportedly cut at the end of a 1957 George Jones session, along with another hot rockabilly number, I Don't Know When. That pairing, together with this cracking CD will forever keep Hal Fuzzy Harris in my heart and in my ears. Buy this release with confidence, it’s a peach.

Check out the clip below to hear Jitterbop Baby. I bet like me you've got nearly all the albums shown in the clip.

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