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Various Artists

The Gals of the Big "D" Jamboree – 2001 (Dragon Street)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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This sequel to last year's two-disc collection of recordings from Dallas' old Big "D" Jamboree picks up where the first volume left off, expanding the formula a little in the process. While a few of the names here are familiar to fans of '50's country and rockabilly - Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin and Charline Arthur - the vast majority will be new to all but the most devoted students of '50's Texas country music.

The collection's biggest surprise has to be Helen Hall, a versatile singer/songwriter represented here by 9 tracks recorded in the '50's and early '70's. Though Hall appears to have mainly recorded as a country singer, 4 1957 numbers on which Hall is backed by Arthur and her husband show that Hall was capable of rocking with the best of 'em.

The same applies to Sherry Davis, best known up to this point for recording the original version of "Bop City" (included here), later covered by Kim Lenz on her debut EP. Perhaps of greatest interest to rockabilly historians is "Broken Promises," a rare number on which Davis is backed by Buddy Holly and members of The Crickets.

As was the case in the '50's, though, it's Arthur (who passed away in 1987) who steals the show. Arthur has developed something of a cult following in recent years, based on her powerful vocal style and an image that was years ahead of its time. Though four of her six numbers here have previously surfaced on other collections, the remaining songs - including a live version of "I'm Having a Party All By Myself" recorded in the late '70's - prove that Arthur was still in top form relatively late in her life.

Another winner for David Dennard's Dragon Street label and a worthy companion to last year's Big "D" set and the label's 1998 collection of unreleased Gene Vincent material.