- Released: March 28, 2006
- Originally Released: 2006
- Label: Time Life Records
Liner Note Author: Charles McCardell.
Modern country really began in the early '50s, which saw the country music genre increasingly centered in Nashville, where a ready pool of skilled session musicians and songwriters soon gathered. By understanding the pop charts (but not necessarily emulating pop itself -- that would come early in the next decade) and fighting off rock & roll by absorbing its key elements, the purveyors of the emerging modern country sound ended up crafting a true golden age of classic releases, several of which are assembled here. Like all Time Life collections, this one features the original hit single versions and not re-recorded facsimiles, which is a definite plus, and even a bit of a revelation, since several of these hits were quite strikingly recorded. Included are Hank Snow's versatile shuffle "I'm Moving On" from 1950, Hank Williams' timeless "Cold, Cold Heart" from 1951, Kitty Wells' astute "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" from 1952, Tennessee Ernie Ford's hit version of Merle Travis' "Sixteen Tons" (complete with finger snaps and horns) from 1955, Don Gibson's haunting and stoic "Oh Lonesome Me" from 1958, and Johnny Horton's spirited take on a reconfigured old fiddle tune, "The Battle of New Orleans," from 1959. Also included here are a pair of songs generally considered to be central to the advent of rock & roll, Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" from 1956 and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" from 1958, both of which show how closely allied modern country and rock & roll actually were in the beginning. A solid set of timeless standards, Best of Classic Country: '50s doesn't miss the target once through 17 tracks. ~ Steve Leggett