Scena's latest volume shines a welcome light across the final five years of The Singing Fisherman's life. Beginning with 1956's "Honky Tonk Man" (Johnny Horton's first chart success) and running through the historical songs with which he etched his lasting memory, Horton's performances seamlessly fuse folk's storytelling with honky-tonk's twang and rockabilly's drive. Horton is revealed as a masterful, driving performer who could hold an audience with a knowing pause, or rev them up with a driving beat and spirited vocal.
Horton's performances of "Honky Tonk Man" and the follow-up, "One Woman Man," combine the honky-tonk delivery of Hank Williams with the propulsive beat of rockabilly. His cover of Williams' "Jambalaya" is very much his own, as are revved up readings of "John Henry" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole In It." Horton's second wind of chart smashes is fully represented, including spirited performances of "Johnny Reb," "Battle of New Orleans," "When It's Springtime in Alaska" and "Sink the Bismarck." His mastery of folk singing turns these from novelties into showpieces.
Those familiar with Horton's work will treasure the opportunity to hear his songs amplified by an adoring crowd; those who only know the hits will be amazed by Horton's one-of-a-kind folk-rockabilly-country fusion. This may be the best disc yet in what's becoming one of the industry's brightest archival series.