Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Country Legend: Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson's Greatest Hits sung alongside a host of Country Legends

In the late 1980s, people began discovering, or actually rediscovering, traditional country music. Singers like George Strait, Randy Travis, and Alan Jackson awakened large numbers of people to country music and drew huge crowds who fell in love with their traditional country sounds and styles of singing.

With the popularity of the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2001, once again people rediscovered traditional music. Periodically, when these rediscoveries take place, the music listening public seems astounded by the new music, featuring acoustic guitars, fiddles, and steel guitars. The songs, emphasizing loves lost and loves found, heartbreak and happiness, and cheating and fidelity capture the range of human emotions and experiences. The emotions of the songs resonate with the souls of people. Even people who have never lived in the country or in the south and who do not have ties to a little country church, music on the front porch, or falling in love with the girl next door find themselves attracted to the music.

So, no matter what trends come and go, no matter what extravagances occur in the music industry, and no matter whatever harmful actions are taken by music producers, traditional music will survive. It will periodically re-emerge and appeal to whole new crowds of people.

There are, however, some singers who have always sung traditional country music. Before Elvis and after Elvis, before the Beatles and after the Beatles, and before the advent of the orchestrated, violin dominated Nashville sound and after that, some folks stuck to singing traditional country music. In fact, it is something of an oxymoron to call it “traditional country music.” If it is, in fact, country music, it is traditional.

Saying this is not to criticize other music genres, artists, and tastes. Beethoven was great, but he wasn’t country. And it is true country music that we speak of here.

Stonewall Jackson is a true country singer. Of course, with a name like Stonewall Jackson, a man would have to be tied to the deepest rooted parts of southern life. Jackson began singing in the 1950s. He was quite a popular country star during much of the time from the 1960s to 1980s.

The whole period from the 1950s through the 1980s was a golden age for country music. That time period encompasses the careers of the greatest of country singers. The art of the music was defined by the combination of technology—records and radio—and ideology, by which we mean defining beliefs about the music. The temptation to change the style of the music was always there, and the pressure of trying to appeal to newer, younger audiences was always present. But the heart of country music was middle class, hardworking folks who had grown up in a time when entertainment largely consisted in picking up WSM’s Grand Ole Opry on a Saturday night.

Country fans were loyal and solid. When they heard an artist sing, they politely applauded the new songs, but they expected to hear the old songs. If a number one hit from 1963, sung a thousand times by a singer was not sung, the country loyalist felt cheated.

These were people who listened to country music on the radio, who watched the Saturday afternoon country music shows, and who made a pilgrimage or two to the Opry at the old Ryman auditorium in Nashville. Because these kind of people were the bedrock country fans, they never grew tied of the traditional country sounds.

The vast majority of those country artists are now gone. I can remember hearing Tex Ritter sing “I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven” on the Opry. All of that generation that included Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and Ernest Tubb are now dead. In the past several several years, we have lost Porter Waggoner, Billy Walker, Charlie Walker, Hank Snow, and (quite recently) Hank Locklin.

Thankfully, we still have some legends around, like Ray Price (who in his eighties is still performing), George Jones, and Stonewall Jackson.

This CD collection of Stonewall Jackson’s hits sung by him with is friends is a gem. Over a dozen of the artists who appear on these songs have died since these songs were recorded. This collection is a virtual “who’s who” of real, roots country music.

Great Jackson hits like “Don’t Be Angry” (which every husband needs to sing to his wife every day), “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water,” and “That’s Why I’m Walkin’” are all here. And yes, of course, his great hit “Waterloo” is the concluding work where he is accompanied by a vast throng of singers.

These selections may not often be heard on the radio and this CD may not be found in your local stores, but it is worth getting hold of. If you never have heard of Stonewall Jackson the singer, or if you, like me, have been a fan for many decades, you will enjoy this collection of music.

"Stonewall Jackson and Super Friends" can be ordered from
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop .

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