14 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Elektra-Nonesuch’s “American Explorer Series” included new recordings from Boozoo Chavis, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Johnnie Johnson. To include Charlie Feathers in this company was to assert that raw Memphis rockabilly is a living form of American roots music equal to Texas country, Louisiana zydeco, and Chicago blues. For all its heroes, Memphis never produced a rockabilly star more authentic or authentically idiosyncratic than Feathers. At first he refused to participate in this project. He demanded twice the rate given to other performers and refused to work with James Van Eaton and Roland Janes. (Both were legendary Sun Records session men from the '50s, but they hadn’t played on Feathers’ records.) In the end it all came out in the wash, which is a good thing, because it turned out to be a great session. It’s obvious that whatever makes Feathers an irascible collaborator is also what lets him perform with trademark vigor and vulnerability. Listen closely to the best performances, and you’ll hear the cardboard-box drumming of Perry York, adding a little kitchen-sink charisma to the old Memphis formula.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Elektra-Nonesuch’s “American Explorer Series” included new recordings from Boozoo Chavis, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Johnnie Johnson. To include Charlie Feathers in this company was to assert that raw Memphis rockabilly is a living form of American roots music equal to Texas country, Louisiana zydeco, and Chicago blues. For all its heroes, Memphis never produced a rockabilly star more authentic or authentically idiosyncratic than Feathers. At first he refused to participate in this project. He demanded twice the rate given to other performers and refused to work with James Van Eaton and Roland Janes. (Both were legendary Sun Records session men from the '50s, but they hadn’t played on Feathers’ records.) In the end it all came out in the wash, which is a good thing, because it turned out to be a great session. It’s obvious that whatever makes Feathers an irascible collaborator is also what lets him perform with trademark vigor and vulnerability. Listen closely to the best performances, and you’ll hear the cardboard-box drumming of Perry York, adding a little kitchen-sink charisma to the old Memphis formula.

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