It’s a story filled with strange twists and turns, of collapsed lungs due to cleaning recording equipment without adequate ventilation, a record label named Dude, Hillbilly music, and the notion that Nashville could’ve actually been Dallas. Confused? That’s just the liner notes from this 32 track collection of hillbilly blues from the Columbia records vaults between 1948 – 1958. Hillbilly music was big business during the 20’s and 30’s and by the fifties it was well established money spinner for the major labels.
There’s a real mash of blues and country here, that varies from the genius to the derivative and then the really wrong and nasty, such as Ugly and Slouchy from the Maddox Brothers, in which they profess their love for unattractive women. “ugly and slouchy, that’s the way I like em, there’ll never be no fear of her loving someone else,” they sing. There’s the quirky, like Grand Ol Opry regular crooner George Morgan with kooky sound effects, on Shot in The Dark (no not the Mancini version) which sounds exactly how you’d imagine Dean Martin would if he went country. The title track, is an upbeat fiddle jig from the obscure Rocky Porter, best known for penning songs for Johnny Cash and Porter Wagner and is actually the highlight of this collection, a weary ode to remaining true to your woman. “When you start roaming you lose from the start,” he sings with a knowing voice, “because a world is a monster it’s food is mans heart.” This isn’t just music it’s philosophy. Yet if you’re going to live a life as hard as many of these folks it’s always good to come back with a little advice for your trouble and heartache. The remainder of these pieces feature every kind of jig you can imagine, some of the craziest drawls and wails you’ve ever heard and all manner of fiddling. There’s some really classic, slightly hysterical music here, titles include, railroad daddy, beer bottle mamma, pistol packin mamma laid her pistol down and of course, there’s a bottle where she used to be. There’s earnestness and cheekiness in equal measure, cockiness and despair of lives and loves lost and found. But then again that’s what we’ve come to expect from Omni, a label dedicated to unearthing the gold and weirdness lurking in the outer fringes of the Nashville sound.
Bob Baker Fish