My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was recorded and released in 1959 by Columbia Records. “El Paso” was a #1 hit on both the Pop and Country Charts and won the Grammy for best Country and Western Recording in 1960.
What I liked: I was really excited to hear this album, and was not let down. With a voice that reminds me of a cross between The Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins creates a world that a is filled with good and evil. It’s not like real life where we are all shades of grey… you are either one or the other. The good guys always win (“Big Iron”) and some times the good guys go bad (“They’re Hanging Me Tonight” and “Billy The Kid”), at the same time the bad guys sometimes realize the err of their ways and repent for their sins (“The Hanging Tree”). The important part is that you know when the bad guys are bad and you know the good guys are good and everybody scratches their kills into the side of their revolver.
What I Didn’t Like: I loved every minute of this album, no complaints from me.
My Overall Thoughts: This album made me really consider the time it was recorded. It was the end of the McCarthy era, and it seems really important to me that this music make clear to the audience knew who the bad guys were. In real life it wasn’t so clear (the hysteria was that shady Communists were hiding in the shadows right?). It’s also interesting to me that these songs don’t get the respect that the blues or folk songs of the time do. True, they are sort of jingoistic, but for a group of people they served the same function…. to give them a sense of who they are in the world and to make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? I agree this should be in the list. These are some great songs that are not given the credit they deserve simply because they are in the Country and Western genre.
Rating (Out of 5): 4
Amazon Review (Out of 5):5
Is this my first time hearing this album? Yes (21/25)
Percentage of Albums that are new to me: 84%