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Ray Price

Night Life – 1996 (Koch)

Reviewed by Roy Kasten

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CDs by Ray Price

These 11 songs, originally released by Columbia in 1963, are some of Price's finest, and the lushest honky tonk you'll ever hear. Although he'd been making great country through the '50's, Price clearly loved the sultry moods of jazz - his tone and phrasing sharing much with Sinatra and Bennett - and his post 60's work veered in that direction, often ending in disasters complete with 20-piece orchestras. Price knew he was taking chances.

On this record's intro he says of the Nelson-penned "Night Life," "It's a little different from what we normally do...." Indeed: the song has a beautifully slumberous pace, like a thick, drunk haze coming on, a cigarette burning forgotten on a bar. Price's tenor always works as a vibrant emotional center for these songs of neon melancholy. With the enveloping intimacy of Buddy Emmon's pedal steel, Buddy Harmon's drum kick, and some elegant, literate material, Price creates magic.

And Koch has done a flawless job reissuing this classic: the original cover is here, as are the original liner notes, and complete session dates and performers are listed. In a year filled with wonderful reissues, this is one of the very best.