Although the Prisonaires are remembered for the song "Just Walkin in the Rain," this collection proves that they were a fine pop/gospel group. Johnny Bragg was a huge fan of the Ink Spots and their lead singer, Bill Kenny, and it's no wonder that much of the material on this disc has that smooth crooning style favored by pre-rock & roll vocal groups.
Anyone with the slightest appreciation for Louis Prima's incredible Vegas shows of the '50s and '60s will instantly recognize Butera's name … and his hard-driving, don't-tell-'em-it's rock 'n' roll sound. Butera, with his band The Witnesses, backed Prima for the better part of 20 years, but had an equally interesting career before the Vegas run. Here Bear Family collects the whole of the four sessions Butera cut for RCA in 1953/54 19 tracks including gems like Chicken Scratch and Easy Rockin', 6 previously unreleased sides and two unheard alternate versions, all featuring his sweet-and-greasy, strip-joint-in-New Orleans sax.
After 35 years and the release of over 2800 contemporary blues tracks, it's safe to say that Bruce Iglauer's Alligator Records is the world's premier blues label, particularly if sheer numbers are factored in, and while the label's releases tend to sound mind-numbingly similar sometimes, this two-disc overview of Alligator's history shows how much raw vitality the blues still has in its tank. Alligator Records 35X35, arranged chronologically and featuring a selection drawn from each of the artist's debut albums with Alligator, gets rolling right where it all began, with Hound Dog Taylor's "She's Gone" from 1971, and marches through to 2004, closing the second disc with a stunning version of "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (here called "A Dying Man's Plea") by the great Mavis Staples, who makes clear the deep affinity of gospel to the blues, or vice versa, since the two forms philosophically complete each other, the way Saturday marches straight into Sunday.
The double-disc set Molly O'Day & the Cumberland Mountain Folks contains all 36 tracks that O'Day recorded for Columbia Records between 1946 and 1951. O'Day was one of the most important female country singers of the '40s, but she never attained the stardom she deserved because she retired from the business in 1951. Nevertheless, her music has come to be regarded as some of the finest of her era, especially considering how she could make traditional mountain music, both sacred and secular, come alive. Molly O'Day & the Cumberland Mountain Folks preserves her classic sides in a classy fashion, and any musicologist or dedicated fan of string bands needs the compilation in their collection.
Eddie Noack had a rough '50s, working hard and never scoring a hit, but that's nothing compared to his '60s. After he was dropped by Mercury, the singer wound up drifting to Allstar, a fly-by-night Nashville indie that specialized in "song poems" – suckers would send in lyrics and pro musicians would set them to music, for a fee – and found space for Noack, a songwriter who had success, but a singer who had none. At Allstar, he was usually able to record his own songs, but Noack wound up chasing trends instead of setting them. Specifically, he wound up cutting several singles in the style of Buck Owens & the Buckaroos, sides that may not have charted but illustrated Noack was a pro, capable of following shifting fashions and delivering upon them ably, even appealingly.
In May 1956, the Texan label Starday issued a wild rockabilly single by Thumper Jones. Its top side, the kinetic “Rock It”, was primal, uncontrolled and wild. The flip, “How Come It”, was less frenzied but still driving and infectious. Original pressings of the two-sided pounder in either its 45 or 78 form now fetch at least Ј200. This is not your usual rockabilly rarity though. The record’s label credited the songs to a Geo. Jones. Thumper Jones was a pseudonymous George Jones (1931–2013), who was cashing in a hip style: the only time he did so with rockabilly.