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Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music
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  • Bear Family continues its stellar series of honky tonk classics, Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music, with an overview of 1957. Colin Escott is the series' reissue producer, and he introduces the set with an excellent liner essay; painstakingly researched discographical information is provided by Richard Weize and his staff. The packaging, a single disc with 29 cuts packed in a hardback bound digipack with 72 pages of text and photos including interviews, studio reminiscences, and more, is outdone only by the music itself. The '50s in general were great years for country music, but the mid- to late entries in the decade were especially remarkable as traditional country gave way to hillbilly boogie, rockabilly, hard-edged honky tonk, and meddled with pop. While it's true that serious collectors of country music have virtually everything here, that doesn't mean they possess these excellent tracks in one place, and this is the value of such a collection. 1957 gave us timeless classics such as Bobby Helms' "Fraulein" and "My Special Angel," the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love," Webb Pierce's "Honky Tonk Song," Ferlin Husky's "Gone," Bonnie Guitar's "Dark Moon," Porter Wagoner's "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name," Marty Robbins' --with Ray Conniff-- "White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)," and Patsy Cline's "Walkin After Midnight." If you guessed from the aforementioned song titles that 1957 was a year big on love songs both celebratory and brokenhearted, you'd be right. There is a terrific dark horse selection in the set closer in Chet Atkins' "Walk, Don't Run." however. This series is encyclopedic for those who wish to collect most of the major moments from the '40s and '50s, but the latter decade's offerings are simply essential for any fan of the genre. ~ Thom Jurek
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