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Marty Robbins

Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs – 1999 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Marty Robbins

Marty Robbins didn't invent the cowboy song, but this 1959 album made him one of its best-known and most loved exponents. His original tales and classic covers weave spellbinding images of the West that match the cinematic grandeur of Ford, Fonda, Rogers and Autry.

The mythical themes of "El Paso," "Big Iron" and "The Master's Call" are lovingly rendered by Robbins, producer Don Law and a superb backing band. Bob Moore's acoustic bass and Louis Dunn's drums tap out trail rhythms, beautifully embroidered by Grady Martin's Mexicali-flavored guitar. The Glaser Brothers background harmonies float like a warm wind upon which Robbins rides. Amazingly, the original 12 tracks were recorded in a single day. Sony's reissue adds three bonus tracks, including "The Hanging Tree," recorded for a Gary Cooper film, and the full-length version of "El Paso." The latter is likely to be more familiar than the single edit (also included), as radio stations made the unusual choice to play the entire 4-minutes and 39-seconds.

Forty years after its initial release, Robbins' masterpiece is every bit as fresh and compelling as the day it was recorded.