22. Marty Robbins — Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs (1959)
- Something about me: I have a hard time completing lengthy projects once I lose momentum. If I start a book, or a 20-hour game, or a six-season TV show, and I don’t burn straight through it, it’s tough for me to return to. The same happens with personal creative projects. The same happened here, when my wife and I went on a lengthy European vacation last fall. I thought often of returning here, but never really took action. There’s always work. Or a new show. Or hanging out with friends.
Then Coronavirus happened. And here I am, at home, withno further excuses. The goal was one album a day for three years. I can get back on track with this.
- It’s truly odd listening to an album like Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs in the midst of the Corona crisis. The tunes are not hopeful or optimistic for the most part, but the feeling of listening to these warm campfire tunes is nostalgic for a more hopeful time, when the villains were simple (and human), the stories easy to follow, the problems invented or retold and not lived. It’s…kind of comforting.
- “El Paso” on this record is evidently the first Country song to win a Grammy, and it’s well deserved. A beautifully tragic story filling its space with rich details of Rose’s Cantina, the beautiful Fellina’s eyes, the slow fade of death. It soars, a perfect classic country song.
- Robbins as a songwriter is responsible for the real gems here — “El Paso,” but also “Big Iron,” which kicks the album off on a strong note. “The Master’s Call” later is another strong contribution. But the remainder of the more traditional country ballads or tunes here are well presented by Robbins and his band, who evidently cut the full album in a single day.
- General note: here’s another case of an album being muddled up in a later re-release. I’m a big believer in the power of a clearly-defined album, a curated selection of songs meant to be played in order, so I don’t really understand the impetus behind re-ordering an album, especially posthumously. Anyhow, I used the original listing for this, as that’s what’s packaged in 1001 Albums To Hear Before You Die, and I suggest doing the same yourself.
One Essential Song: “El Paso”
Listen on Spotify (this is the re-ordered re-issue):