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Various Artists

The Guys of the Big 'D' Jamboree – 2002 (Dragon Street)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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The third in Dragon Street's fine series of Dallas country music of the '50s follows much the same formula as last year's "Gals of the Big 'D' Jamboree," mixing archival live material from the long-running Big 'D' Jamboree radio show with rare studio cuts by Dallas-area country artists of that era.

Perhaps of greatest interest will be two rare Lefty Frizzell demos from 1950; "Steppin' Out" and "Always In Love," both purportedly co-written by Hank Williams and Dallas musician Jimmy Fields (known to have been a close friend of Williams'). Frizzell is in fine voice even on these simply recorded early demos, displaying the unique phrasing that would soon make him one of the top country stars of his era.

Interestingly enough, even on material co-written by Williams, Lefty still sounds like Lefty, which is more than can be said for several other artists here. Indeed, the general impression left by singers like Jimmy Fields, Joe Price and Joe Bill D'Angelo is that Hank Williams had certainly woven a spell over much of Dallas' country music community during the period.

Though some would also lump Gene O'Quin in with Dallas' other Hank Williams doppelgangers, O'Quin was far too distinctive for that. Still a teenager when his two tracks here were recorded, O'Quin's enthusiastic performances stand out; his piercing tenor nearly indistinguishable from records being made by Wayne Hancock more than 40 years later. Though killed in a car wreck in 1978, O'Quin is now something of a cult figure with fans of proto-rockabilly hillbilly music and the '50's Capitol sound; deservedly so, and the chance to hear the teenaged O'Quin - already a local star - is worth the price of admission by itself. Also of interest is the western swing of the Texas Stompers' "Pineapple Push," Frankie Miller's "Black Land Farmer," Sid King & the Five Strings' "You're Always Breaking Hearts," and the rockabilly of Billy Jack Hale's "I Take My Hat Off to the Blues."

All in all, another winner from Dragon Street; perhaps not as distinctive as its feminine predecessor from last year or as thrilling as the first volume, but for a close-up look at the Dallas country music scene of the '50s, it's hard to beat.