Black Music Matters Festival

Johnny Horton

Honky Tonk Man: The Essential Johnny Horton 1956-1960 – 1996 (Columbia/Legacy)

Reviewed by Don Yates

When most of Nashville was running scared from the wild sounds of rockabilly rebellion, Johnny Horton was one of the few to embrace the feral new music as the logical extension of a hell-bent honky tonk sensibility. As the title of this 2-CD set implies, it focuses on Horton's rockin' honky tonk side, while including some of his more famous historical songs and a few ballads. It also features some nice rarities, including the class-conscious "Take Me Like I Am," which has never before been released in the U.S., along with some songs he cut for a promo-only album. Still, some omissions are troubling. Where's the haunting "Whispering Pines"? Or the lascivious "I'm Ready, If You're Willing?" Brief but authoritative notes are provided by Colin Escott, and song dates, original release numbers and song producers are listed, but not session personnel. The set does a fine job of summing up the genius of Johnny Horton, but it could've been even better. Nevertheless, like the other Columbia/Legacy reissues, it's selling at a budget price, and considering the music it contains, it's a bargain.