This is a neat selection which emphasises the changing nature of Country music and its reflection of changing times. The first track demonstrates the influence of blues, of a predominantly black music style on a predominantly white one. It's an excellent juxtaposition to follow this with Floyd Tillman's 'Slipping Around', a song about adultery and people trapped in marriage - this contrasts with the bulk of the tracks available on Volume 1 of these Country Classics, which are emphatically influenced by religion, church-attendance, and which promote an (apparently) unambiguous morality. Tillman's cold war message continues this theme of men feeling trapped and unhappy in a relationship - but this is soon followed by 'Room Full of Roses' and 'I Overlooked an Orchid', two wonderfully maudlin tracks. But then comes the ridiculous - a pair of tracks by Little Jimmy Dickens, who seems to have eaten a lot of potatoes. And so it goes on. There is a lot of ironic humour on this disc - the beat is waltz time, honky-tonk, or blues. There's not a female voice to be heard - which contrasts markedly with the contemporary country scene. And tales of woe and poverty predominate: it's a universal problem, trying to tell someone how much you love them, how much you need them - but for those who get the message across successfully, once that first flush of lust and romance has passed, then dreams of a long, happy marriage can quickly dissolve into the reality of a tedious, prolonged agony. Unlike the work of contemporary female songwriters, these songs are unsophisticated in their exploration of relationships, but maybe they're all the more poignant for that. Country music can be self-parodying and self-destructive at times, but there is an honesty and directness to it at its best. These are all solid songs, well written, well crafted - funny, tragic, gritty realism to the fore. Country, as an art form, proves that, though times and attitudes may change, songs with meaning will always remain alive and vibrant, regardless of their vintage.
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