Monday, September 15, 2008

Hank Snow - Big Country Hits: Songs I Hadn't Recorded Till Now (1960)

Hank Snow’s Big Country Hits: Songs I Hadn't Recorded Till Now belongs to that class of albums where a country artist records an assortment of hits made popular by other singers. I think these albums of cover songs were often released when an artist was under contractual obligations to release a new LP but did not have enough original songs—songs written by or for the artist—to justify a new recording. They were very popular in the 1960s when country singers were releasing multiple records per year, and Hank Snow’s Big Country Hits is an above average example.

The songs on Big Country Hits are mostly slow ballads that emphasize the distinctive vocal style of Hank Snow. The arrangements are about what you would expect for a 1961 RCA recording produced by Chet Atkins; the backup singers are prominent, and the overall feel of the music is smooth and polished with masterful guitar, steel guitar, piano, drum, and bass accompaniment. Hank’s unusual guitar playing and expressive singing is clear and up front in the mix, and the album features both country-crossover selections such as “A Legend in My Time” and “Return to Me” and traditional country standards such as “Mansion on the Hill.” I think that the two best songs on the album are probably “Bury Me Deep” and “Address Unknown,” which are both relatively obscure compared to the other offerings.

Though Big Country Hits is not one of his best recordings, I always enjoy listening to Hank Snow. Back when Hank was making music, each of the major country singers had a distinct vocal and instrumental style and you could recognize all of them instantly. I wish there were more diversity in today’s country music and I wish there was someone out there who played guitar in the unique Hank Snow style.

Side note: Despite the album title, Hank Snow previously recorded “Address Unknown” in the early 1950s. Perhaps the title of this album should have been Big Country Hits: Songs I Hadn’t Recorded Till Now (Except for One of Them).

AMG Rating: ***
My Rating: ***

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