Monte Mills- Sings Old Favorites

Seem to be overdoing it slightly on the country early this month, but what the hey.  This looked like the small local/novelty/independent type record that this blog thrives on.  Plus it had a bunch of songs that I like, most notably “Mama Tried”.  It was only one dollar.

Much to my surprise, Monte Mills has a web page and still plays around 30 to 50 shows or so a year with the Lucky Horseshoe Band, including opening for the late Merle Haggard.  So many times, records like this are a one and done-er. Based in Central Coastal California,Mills has played for a wide variety of functions and people, including entertainers and politicians. He also has released a handful or records outside of this one.

Mills Web Page

Mills, at the time of this record (which I believe was his first) was a humble horse shoe-er by trade who sang both on the trail and in the shower. As the record as well as the web page states, singing is still a side gig to horse shoeing.  However, on one fateful day, while out on the trail for the Ranch Vistadores annual 7 day ride, held at Lake Cachuma between Santa Barbara ad Santa Ynez, Mills befriended a studio musician, one  Dusty Rhoads, encouraged Mills to come out to Hollywood and make a record.  Well, Mills took his advice and made this effort, featuring, Rhoads on bass, Harold Hensley on fiddle, Roy Lanham on guitar, the great Bud Isaacs on slide, and Art Anton on drums. Anyway, the same story is on the back of the record with more colloquialisms and venacular.

For a sample, I decided to go with “The Auctioneer”.

Satisfactory record,  I really liked this.  Good songs and great selection of tunes with numbers from Haggard, Hank Williams, and Bob Wills among others. Plus, I was really happy to see that Mills stuck with it rather than letting his talent fall to the wayside after one effort.

Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys- The Best Of

As I am doing theme’s this month on the blog, this is the one I have been waiting for.  Welcome to Hank Week.  A week of Hanks.  We are starting the week off with my second favorite of the Big Three; Waco’s own Hank Thompson.  This was $4.00.

Obviously, this is a greatest hits compilation released by Capitol Records in 1963, a bit more than 10 years after he burst on the scene with “The Wild Side Of Life”.  Other great numbers on this album include “Humpty Dumpty Heart”, “Six Pack To Go”, “Waiting in the Lobby of Your Heart”, “Hangover Tavern” and “Whoa Sailor”.

Despite the stars of this week being named Hank, a quick shout out should go to Thompson’s backup band, the Brazos Valley Boys. They were definite pioneers of Western Swing but whereas Bob Wills encouraged extended soloing, Thompson, well not so much.  Their musicianship supported Thompson’s vocals.

For a sample, I went with “Rub-A-Dub-Dub”, mainly because I used “Six Pack To Go” on my last Thompson post.  Curious?  Then go search for it on this blog’s handy search function.

Satisfactory record.

Hank Thompson- At The Golden Nugget

dscn5526This was $2.00.  Of course, I am going to jump on this.  It is the kind of country that I adore. Also, as this is one of the Hanks, I have been meaning to post one of Thompson’s records for some time.  I have posted multiple Snow’s and a few Williams in the past.  mi0003443989

Hank Thompson was born in Waco, Texas in 1925.  He had a honky tonk vocal style similar to Ernest Tubb.  His backing band, the Brazos Valley Band, had a western swing style similar to Bob Wills, minus the solos.  When the two came together, it made a sound all its own; a combination of western swing and honky tonk.  Thompson burst on the scene with “Whoa Sailor” and had his first big hit in 1952 with “Wild Side Of Life”.

From there he continued to be a popular act, recording and performing throughout his career.  Popularity would fade in later decades, but Thompson would remain a popular concert draw.  His last public performance was in 2007.  In the same year, Thompson would die from lung cancer at age 82.hank-thompson_brazos-vally

This was a live recording released in 1961 from the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas.  If Allmusic.com is right, this is one of the first live country albums.  It is also among Thompson’s best.

tumblr_ndjrjtkk9a1s0vozto1_1280It is a great album, indeed.  The Brazos Valley Boys are on fire with such tracks as “Orange Blossom Special” and “Steel Guitar Rag”.  The guitar is further bolstered by Merle Travis, who sits in with the band for this album. There are also a lot of good vocal songs such as “Honky Tonk Girl”, “She’s Just A Whole Lot Like You”, “John Henry” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”. Pretty good overall record.dscn5527

For a sample, I decided to go with three songs.  I noticed I have been posting multiple songs pretty much all this week.  Is it laziness on my part?  Maybe.  Or maybe the songs are all just that good.  Well, which ever one you choose to believe, we are starting this album with Thompson singing one of Merle Travis’s hit tunes, “Nine Pound Hammer”.  We are also going with one made famous by Hank Williams, “Lost Highway” (note that this song may reappear this month).  Finally, I am submitting the closing number which is one of Thompson’s more popular numbers, “Six Pack To Go” complete with an outro.

hank-ttTop Rated album.

Asleep At The Wheel- Comin’ Right At Ya

dscn5390Even at the higher end of the spectrum ($4), this was a good deal.  1024x1024

Asleep At the Wheel are purveyors of that Texas Swing at a time when country was moving rapidly away from that sound.  Formed in West Virginia by Ray Benson and Lucky O Gosfield, the band has released over 25 albums including last years tribute to one of their biggest influences, Bob Wills”.  The band is also still touring, although they are playing The Woodlands rather than Houston this year (on New Years). They will also be playing at The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Dec 21.  The group is based out of Austin.  They relocated there in 1974 on the request of Willie Nelson.

The band’s webpage.

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Before that move, they released this, their first album in 1973.  They were living in Oakland at the time, on the request of Commander Cody.  This was their only album for United Artists and would lay down the sound which future releases would follow.  It is a great starting point for the band with original tunes as well as good covers, including Wills’ “Take Me Back To Tulsa” as well as Moon Mullican’s “Cherokee Boogie” and the oft covered “I’ve Been Everywhere”.  The band is joined by fiddle players Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, and Andy Stein.  What makes this album more remarkable to me is to think where country music was going at the time.  To put out a record that unashamedly went back to its roots was pretty remarkable.

Allmusic review of the album because I am lazy today

For a sample, I went with one of my favorite Ernest Tubb songs (and probably the underlining reason I bought this album), “Driving Nails In My Coffin”.asleep-at-the-wheel-press-pic

Satisfactory record.

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen- Tales From The Ozone

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This was a dollar.  Had decent songs on it and  I knew I think or two but not much more about the Commander before buying this.Commander-Cody-1972-3

Commander Cody, (also known as George Frayne) is a singer/ pianist, who formed his band, The Lost Planet Airmen, in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They had a country rock sound that was more influenced by Ray Price and Ernst Tubb rather than folk and bluegrass. After playing a few years in local bars, the band emigrated to San Francisco  where they were signed by Paramount. Known for their eclectic mix of rock, country, jazz, blues, boogie, and what ever else you can name, they released their first album in 1971 and had decent success with the single “Hot Rod Lincoln”.

Known for their epic live shows, the group recorded a several albums in to the late seventies including perhaps, their pinnacle, Live From Deep In The Heart Of Texas, recorded live in Austin at the Armadillo World Headquarters in 1973.

lwsm_b334-16_codyc_4798 The band would break up around 1977 with Frayne keeping the name of Commander Cody and releasing output sporadically over the years. I am sure there is some nuances I am overlooking so check out the Commander’s webpage for more in depth details.lwsm_b339-24_codyc_2070

Commander Cody’s Web Page

This album was released two years after Live From Deep In The Heart of Texas and was their second (and last studio) release for Warner Brothers.  According the sources, Warner Brothers wanted to market the band as a soft country rock group like the Eagles.  The band, however, was unwilling to loose its raw sound.  Another problem was the limitations of studio albums as far as bring able to capture the crew’s live energy.  I am sure both issues were a factor in the group’s demise as well as their disastrous experience with Warner Brothers.DSCN5068 (1024x1000)

This record, produced by Hoyt Axton, luckily does not disappoint.  It is filled with straight ahead hard rolling western swing with rock edges.  It starts with Cab Calloway’s classic “Minnie the Moocher”.  It contains a good mix of western swing classics as well as originals.  Highlights include their single of the record, “It’s Gonna Be One Of Those Nights”, “I’ve Been To Georgia On A Fast Train”, “Lightin-Bar Blues”, “Tina Louise”, and Hank Williams’ “Cajun Baby”.  But really this is a good album all the way. It should also be noted that Tower of Power provided the horns for this.100_5589

For a sample, I went with a song written by Mel McDaniel and covered by Axton, “Roll Your Own”.960

This is a quite excellent album, especially for $1.  Top Rated.