Friday, September 2, 2011

Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Marty Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was one of my purchases during 2011’s Record Store Day. I was concerned that this 50 year old piece of vinyl would surely show signs of wear and tear, but the thing looked like it did right out of the plastic wrap and, for ten measly bucks I couldn’t pass up this landmark country release. I could see the smile on my face in the grooves of the record as I was mesmerized by the old-school Columbia Records red label that listed the song titles.

Gunfighter Ballads is one of those records that transcended its genre when first released. Not only did it reach the upper eschelon of the country charts when it was released, it reached the top 10 pop charts, largely due to the success of its single, “El Paso.”

That cut, if you’re keeping score hit number 1 in both the country and pop charts.
They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, and the music found within Gunfighter Ballads is no exception either. The story goes that Robbins was residing in Nashville and became homesick for his Arizona roots. Recalling the old west and campfire songs of his youth, Marty began composing a series of ballads which later became the bulk of this album.

The album was recording in its entirety one afternoon and became the full length that he is probably best known for.

And for good reason, both the originals and the covers seem to be coming from the depth of the man’s soul. The sparce arrangement of Mr. Robbins’ trio is perfect for the material presented. It is a concept album before there was even a name for “concept album,” and the entire package has the uncanny ability to take you to a place you’ve only seen in western movies.

For me, I can close my eyes with Gunfighter Ballads playing an immediately become transported to an old west campfire, where hard-riding cowboys reach the end of the day with a bit of lonesome reflection on the trails that led them there.
Robbins’ voice is perfect, disregarding the vocal techniques of typical country singers and replacing it with a sensitive baritone that’s irreplaceable. Each song paints a story, but it’s Robbins’ immaculate voice that makes them come to life.

Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs is a vital piece of America’s music during the last century and deserves a place in every music lover’s collection. Even if you’ve never been west of the Mississippi or been a fan of old west memorabilia, the album is so genuine that it will take you directly to the feeling that Robbins perfectly creates within its grooves.

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