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Tu M’aime which features some excellent finger-pickin’ by Atkins and a heartfelt vocal by the vastly underrated Vin Bruce. Though his stint with Columbia lasted a short three years, he did get to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, performed at Hank Williams’ second wedding in 1952 and later recorded for Swallow Records and continues to perform in Louisiana to this day, though he’s now in his eighties. There’s an informative booklet that not only details Vin Bruce’s life and career, but also includes photos from his early days in music. Essential. Alan Cackett

Wade Ray IDAHO RED Bear Family BCD 17219 AH HHHI Excellent up-tempo country and jazz- styled music from the 1950s Though he enjoyed a lengthy music

and showbiz career that lasted from the 1920s through to the early 1990s, Wade Ray was very much the forgotten man of country music. A skilled fiddle player, vocalist and band leader, he ran the gamut of the entertaining world from vaudeville, through travelling tent shows, to the radio barn dances, West Coast dance halls, Nashville country, western swing and hot jazz-styled music. To everything he touched he brought a professionalism and sense of musical virtuosity and adventures. This compilation is taken from the recordings he made for RCA between 1951 and 1957 with a couple of Fabor/ Dot releases recorded shortly after he left RCA in early 1957. The 30 tracks are mainly up-tempo, with the emphasis very much on some hot playing with such talented musicians as Jimmy Bryant, Speedy West, Billy Liebert, Chet Atkins, Noel Boggs, Owen Bradley and Tommy Allsup. A fast-paced collection the tempo hardly

lets up as he offers rhythmic numbers like Saturday Night, The Fiddlin’ Rag and I Need A Good Girl Bad. As this played I could picture a huge dance hall with couples gliding around the dancefloor on a Saturday night the cares of the working week briefly forgotten. There’s some hot pickin’ to be heard on the frantic Call Me Up with Billy Liebert’s piano tickling and Jimmy Bryant’s electric guitar virtually on fire. Though

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most of these tracks last little more than a couple of minutes, I would imagine that when they were played live the musicians were given free rein for extended solos. There’s a great version of Earl Hines’ Rosetta, Bill Bailey (Won’t You Please Come Home) with an opening verse I’ve never heard before, and Jenny Lou Carson’s anti-alcohol Let Me Go, Devil, which later became Let Me Go, Lover to become a huge pop and country hit for Joan Weber and Hank Snow respectively a couple of years later in 1955. Well worth investigating. Alan Cackett

Wynn Stewart COME ON Bear Family BCD 17252 AH HHHH Pioneering West Coast country circa 1950s-1960s Wynn Stewart has been unfairly

overlooked by country fans and scholars as the pioneer of the Bakersfield Sound. Way before Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, he developed a distinctive honky-tonk sound, relying on electric instruments, a driving beat and loud, energetic performances. Musicians like Ralph Mooney, Roy Nichols, Lewis Talley, Bobby Austin, Bobby Wayne, Dennis Hromek and even Merle Haggard himself, played in Wynn’s bands over the years. Though he was signed to Capitol in 1956, he failed to make much of an impression and for years he released a series of independent singles that performed respectably, yet failed to break him into the mainstream. Many of those recordings are included

on this compilation, which focuses mainly on his up-tempo material that would keep the California dance floors pulsating some fifty-odd years ago. Big, Big Love, Playboy, Wishful Thinking, Take It Or Leave It and Another Day, Another Dollar are typical of the Wynn Stewart sound. Possessor of a rich and vibrant baritone, he was a classy honky-tonk singer equally adept at ballads and up-tempo tunes. By the end of the 1960s he had modified his sound slightly, bringing himself closer to country-pop territory. The shift in style was successful, resulting in his lone number one hit single It’s Such a Pretty World Today in 1967, but Wynn Stewart always remained very much

Tommy Fleming THE PLATINUM COLLECTION TF Productions TFPCD007 HHH Handsome three disk collection of old-timey Irish ballads, from one of the Isle’s finest singers The first time I heard Tommy Fleming

sing was probably around 1996, when he was the latest recruit to the ranks of De Dannan. Of course, the lads kicked up a storm—as they always have— but it was Fleming’s operatic tones that truly astonished the audience. Unfortunately (to my shame) I did not catch up with him until recently, having by chance caught sight of his website whilst doing some research. In the intervening years, he has carved himself a reputation as one of Ireland’s finest singers and deservedly so if this handsome 3-CD set is anything to go by. With 20 years of recordings under his belt, he has a great wealth of songs to choose from and his own self selection shows he has no problem in exploiting commercially acceptable material, such as You Raise Me Up, The Isle Of Innisfree and The Rose, alongside standard favourites including Clare To Here, The Leaving Of Liverpool and even Danny Boy. In this case, it’s not only the singer that holds the recording together. Credit should also go to the duets and orchestral arranged numbers, making for radio friendly use and, at the same time, providing wider appeal to anyone who enjoys good music pure and simple. With 40 tracks to choose from, Fleming’s music will provide a great conversation piece for dinner parties, where folk music is more often than not talked about in hushed tones. On the other

in the shadows of the more successful Owens and Haggard. Even though he never received the accolades he deserved while he was alive, his early singles like Wishful Thinking and Big, Big Love clearly inspired contemporaries like Owens, Haggard and Waylon Jennings, as well as 1980s neo-traditionalists and alternative country musicians like Dwight Yoakam and k d lang. Discover one of country music’s great unsung heroes with this excellent collection. Alan Cackett

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