CD Reviews for 12/03/04 (Little Darlin’ Records reissues) by Dan Ferguson

This week is the second installment of what is planned as a multi-part roundup of country reissues. Last week the focus was on Coxsackie, New York-based reissue house Sundazed Music and its new “Truckstops, Broken Hearts & Honky Tonk Heroes” series. This week, Nashville-based Koch Records is in the spotlight and in particular, the recently hatched “Little Darlin’ Sound” reissue series which finds Koch introducing for the first time on CD some of the great back-catalogue material from the one time Music City indie. The first two releases in the series each of which were profiled in this space last summer were some fabulous circa-1960s country & western honky tonk material from Johnny Paycheck and country pop crooner Bobby Helms. The most recent entries in the series are equally worthwhile, particularly for those connoisseurs of the real-deal when it comes to country. In keeping with the holiday season, the Koch folks have also tossed in a couple of Little Darlin’ Christmas collections. Let’s dig in.

Little Darlin’ Sounds

Koch Records-Nashville continues its reissue series of classic, vintage country music with the latest releases in what can be deemed a giant coup for connoisseurs of circa-1960s honky tonk, that being the purchase of the catalogue of Little Darlin’ Records. Based out of Nashville and the brainchild of record executive Aubrey Mayhew, Little Darlin’ Records began in earnest in 1966 as an outlet for the early hard country sides of Johnny Paycheck. As mentioned, this past Spring saw the two inaugural releases of the “Little Darlin’ Sounds” series focus on early sides from Mr. Paycheck as well as country/pop crooner Bobby Helms. The third and fourth releases in what is planned to be an ongoing series hit the streets late last summer and focus on the innovative sounds of pedal steel guitar greet Lloyd Green and stone country honky tonker Stonewall Jackson.
For pedal steel enthusiasts, it rarely gets any better than the prime, 1960s work of maestro Lloyd Green. In particular, Mr. Green’s work supporting the aforementioned Paycheck as a member of the esteemed Little Darlin’ Records “house” band. To this day one of the kingpins of the steel scene in Nashville and still releasing records on his own, Green during his 1960s time with Little Darlin’ Records released several solo albums. The superb collection The Little Darlin’ Sounds of Lloyd Green (Koch KOC-CD-9801) gathers some 20 tracks from two solo albums made for the label in 1966 and 1967, respectively. Hailing form Mobile, Alabama, Green got his start in Nashville the old-fashioned way by knocking on doors up and down Music Row with steel in hand. Listen to Paycheck’s early Little Darlin’ sides and Green’s inventive and always swirling fills and rolls on the pedal steel is flat-out jaw-dropping stuff. The highly recommended Little Darlin’ Sounds of Lloyd Green is chock full of swell stuff just like that.

Stonewall Country

He’s known as the architect behind such late 1950s and early ‘60s smashes as “Life To Go”, “Waterloo”, “Don’t Be Angry”, and “A Wound Time Can’t Erase”. Stonewall Jackson is his name and for a large part of the 1960s, he was one of the cream of the crop of the Nashville country ranks relying on a dry, straightahead, no frills, singing style form-fit for honky tonk. Signing with Columbia Records in 1958, Jackson had some significant chart success with the label where he’d remain through 1973. After parting ways with Columbia, Jackson would move to a new suitor in MGM Records where he’d score his final charting hit. By the latter part of the decade, he was label-less once again. Not that it had anything to do with Jackson who could still dish out the hardcore, traditional stuff as good as anyone. The real problem was more Music Row itself which was moving away from the down-home brand of the genre on which Jackson had hung his artistic hat. What with the Outlaw movement in country music then making plenty of waves what with Waylon and Willie and all, Little Darlin’ Records decided to enter the fray fashioning the Grand Ol’ Opry star Jackson as their entry into the outlaw sweepstakes. On the image side, the makeover would include black Western duds and cowboy hat and of course, the perpetual three-day whisker growth. The mix of songs Jackson would record for the label would sway between outlaw-styled material (“Jesus Took the Outlaw Out of Me”, “I Can’t Sing a Love Song”), hardcore honky tonk (“Pint of No Return”, “Alcohol of Fame”), and remakes of some of the best of his Columbia years including “Waterloo” and “B.J. the D.J.”. The sum total of his turn with the label is collected on The Little Darlin’ Sounds of Stonewall Jackson (KOC-CD-9817). It offers up a grand total of 20 tracks from Jackson’s short-lived days with Little Darlin’. Despite the brief stay, hard country fans and particularly lovers of Jackson’s work with Columbia will find plenty to their liking on The Little Darlin’ Sounds of Stonewall Jackson.

Groovy Joe

His name alone was enough of a calling card to gather attention: “Groovy” Joe Poovey. Born in Dallas, he began his career on the Dallas equivalent of the Grand Ol’ Opry, a program called The Big D Jamboree. It was there at the very innocent age of 12 that he’d initially be known as Jumping Joe Poovey fronting his own country band called the Hillbilly Boys. A scant four years later he’d make a racket in rockabilly circles with the gem of a release “Move Around” which to this day is still revered by lovers of the style. Poovey would go on to make his mark as both a rockabilly and country artist, the latter under the alias Johnny Dallas where the single “Heart Full of Love” would have minor chart success. The Little Darlin’ Sounds of “Groovy” Joe Poovey: The Late Great Me (KOC-CD-9828) is a solid collection that gathers 20 tracks covering each side of the Poovey persona. It begins with a 1958 recording of “Move Around” recorded live at the Big D Jamboree and moves through rockabilly tracks ala “Rock This Joint” and “Bopping the Blues”, country material from the Johnny Dallas days, and even a few doses of garage rock!

Little Darlin’ Holidays

In the spirit of the holidays are two new Christmas-flavored releases in Koch’s Little Darlin’ series. The 16-track A Little Darlin’ Christmas (KOC-CD-9812) features holiday tunes from both Bobby Helms and Johnny Paycheck the latter of whom is represented by four seasonal numbers never before released on CD. The other release is the five-track EP Jingle Bell Rock! (KOC-CD-9838) which features four different versions of the Helms classic to go with the tune “I Want to Go to Santa Claus Land”. (Koch Records, 1709 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 3721…