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Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Hillbilly Music: 1950

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31/1/2011

Review

Germany's Bear Family is well known for its stellar box set reissues of country, rock, and rhythm & blues recordings, as well as for single titles by deserving if not necessarily remembered American artists. Their mastering, production, and packaging set the industry standard for excellence. The six-volume Dim Lights, Thick Smoke series was released on CD in December of 2008 and covered the years 1945-1950, a strange and wonderful time in country music history born from of the end of the War Department's restrictions on shellac and the end of the recording ban, all near the end of the second world war. These discs all contain either 27 or 28 tracks, and are lavishly annotated with historical essays and track by track annotation by the esteemed Colin Escott, and contain with photographs of performers and record sleeves where available. The final volume in the Dim Lights, Thick Smoke series covers the year 1950. As reflected in the track choices here, hillbilly boogie is in its full maturity, and the serious roots of hard honky tonk music are entering the jukebox and radio eras. There are some killer holdovers from the prime of Western swing, such as Moon Mullican and Bob Wills (whose classic "Faded Love" is included). But more the norm are performers like Hank Penny (with "Bloodshot Eyes"), Little Jimmy Dickens ("Hillbilly Fever"), Lefty Frizzell ("If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time") , Ernest Tubb ("Letters Have No Arms"), Jimmie Skinner("You Don't Know My Mind"), Carl Smith ("I Overlooked an Orchid While Looking for a Rose"), Hank Williams ("Long Gone Lonesome Blues"), and Webb Pierce. The latter's killer "Drifting Texas Sand" is one of the real high points here. Floyd Tillman's "I've Got the Craziest Feeling," and Red Foley's "Sugarfoot Rag" also lend to the overall wealth of this collection. But the true stellar moment is one of the earliest rock & roll tunes in Hardrock Gunter's "Birmingham Bounce,"(complete with a wah-wah sounding steel guitar!) that kicks the pants off Bill Haley's "Shake, Rattle & Roll," and predates Chuck Berry by a few years -- though to be fair, this sounds like a hillbilly version of the music played by Louis Jordan. In any case, this final volume is a fitting send-off to one of the most successfully curated of the bunch. ~ Thom Jurek
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy Red Foley 2:45
  3. 2 Blue Canadian Rockies Gene Autry 3:9
  4. 3 Sleepy Eyed John Ole Rasmussen 2:35
  5. 4 If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time Lefty Frizzell 2:55
  6. 5 Long Gone Lonesome Blues Hank Williams 2:35
  7. 6 I Overlooked an Orchid (While Searching for a Rose) Carl Smith 2:58
  8. 7 Hillbilly Fever Hank Williams 2:54
  9. 8 Faded Love Bob Wills 2:50
  10. 9 Sugarfoot Rag Red Foley 2:22
  11. 10 I've Got Five Dollars and It's Saturday Night Ted Daffan 2:58
  12. 11 I'll Never Be Free Tennessee Ernie Ford 2:34
  13. 12 Bloodshot Eyes Hank Penny 2:17
  14. 13 I Love You a Thousand Ways Lefty Frizzell 2:44
  15. 14 Birmingham Bounce Hardrock Gunter 2:45
  16. 15 Remember Me (I'm the One Who Loves You) Stuart Hamblen 2:57
  17. 16 I'll Sail My Ship Alone Hank Williams 2:54
  18. 17 Rag Mop Johnnie Lee Wills 2:47
  19. 18 Steppin' Out Billy Starr 2:59
  20. 19 The Tattooed Lady Skeets McDonald 2:46
  21. 20 Letters Have No Arms Ernest Tubb 3:3
  22. 21 Hot Rod Race Arkie Shibley 2:26
  23. 22 You Don't Know My Mind Jimmie Skinner 2:54
  24. 23 I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome Bill Monroe 2:44
  25. 24 Drifting Texas Sand Webb Pierce 2:45
  26. 25 I've Got the Craziest Feeling Floyd Tillman 2:54
  27. 26 I'm Movin' On Hank Snow 2:47
  28. 27 The Fields Have Turned Brown The Stanley Brothers 2:34
  29. 28 Foggy Mountain Breakdown Flatt & Scruggs 2:39

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