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TEENAGE BLUES - Primitive Rockabilly And Hillbilly Bop From The Starday Custom Series (3CD)

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FANTASTIC VOYAGE (FVTD174)

101 rare and obscure rockers from Buddy Livingston, Carl Tanner, Luke Gordon, Al Sims, Jesse Stevens, The Three Ramblers, Dickie Damron, The Hi-Bombs, Gene Terry, Romeo Sullivan, Alton Guyon and loads more...

An immensely impressive follow up to last year's Starday/Dixie Rockabilly compilation, It's Saturday Night 1955-1961 (FVTD145), this re-visits the archives of the label but this time from an altogether different, and fascinating, angle.

Like most labels at the time, Starday also ran, alongside its main recording activity, a custom record, or vanity, pressing service. Using this service,  young (maybe not-so-young) hopefuls without a recording contract could come along and record themselves on a limited print run, thereby creating a relatively cost-effective promotional tool to support their visits to local radio stations in the hope of getting themselves heard and signed. Not only did this provide a source of steady income for the label it also helped them spot and sign those whose records did seem to suggest some real merit - after all, this is how Elvis first came to Sam Phillips attention at Sun.

Well, while it is safe to say that there aren't any Elvis's hidden in this now unearthed archive, the overall standard of wanna-be, hope-to-be and shoulda-be on display here is tremendously high. And, to my mind, as there are few professional producers and engineers in attendance to smooth away the rough edges, the performances are substantially more eccentric, less stylised and personal than we are perhaps used to, and I for one like that.

So just how do I condense the 101 slices of rockabilly, country boogie and hillbilly bop available here into one easy to digest summary for you. The simple answer is of course I can't, but I can say that I am almost able to pick at random some highlights for you without fear of coming a cropper. How about Tommy Castle's wierdly evocative Wanderlust, a superb cowboy song with the same basic idea as Hank Williams' Ramblin' Man, or his equally unique I've Done More Accidentally, featuring the great line 'I'll have more fun accidentally than you'll ever have on purpose'. Or perhaps the magnificent hooks of Where There's A Will (There's A Way) by Carl Trantham And The All Stars. And No Bluebirds In The Sea by Jesse Stevens And The Big Sandy Boys really is as kooky as the song title suggests (but in a good way, of course).

I know it takes a leap of faith to believe that such a collection of near-amateur recordings is as consistently good, or at least enjoyable, as I suggest here. But I tell you, its true!

Review Date: August 2013

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