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Ray Price

Time – 2002 (Audium)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Ray Price

Fans of Ray Price's classics hardcore honky-tonk recordings of the '50s' and '60s have been hoping for one last return to form for quite a few years now - decades, actually - from the man who more or less created the style. And in spite of Price's legendary stubbornness, that return has finally come. Backed by a group of Nashville A-team studio vets, Price has finally abandoned the orchestra this time out for a long-overdue collection of shuffles, western swing and ballads like few other can deliver.

The good news is that Price's voice is in terrific shape. "No One But You" is nothing less than the Ray Price of old. And listen closely for a guy named Vince Gill supplying backing vocals on "What If I Say Goodbye."

If there's a downside, it's that over the past few decades Price has tailored his voce for orchestras and large bands, rather than the stripped-down honky-tonk outfits of his youth. And it shows. It's not age - almost any vocalist a third his age isn't fit to carry his jock - but 25 years of experience (and a little overproduction from Fred Foster) - working against Price here.

Still, one almost feels guilty faulting Price for any shortcomings. The material is generally strong, he's playing honky tonk again, and he 's backed by the best country musicians alive. Buy it and enjoy while he feels inclined to revisit a genre that he almost single-handedly invented.