18 Songs, 53 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Wild Side of Life is further evidence that the Memphis-based Feathers was at once rockabilly’s most esteemed practitioner and its most idiosyncratic. The program here functions like a scrapbook, skipping across eras and settings. What comes across isn't so much a static portrait of a single period but Feathers' constant creativity. A hopped-up cover of Hank Thompson’s honky-tonk standard “Wild Side of Life” epitomizes Feathers’ classic early tenures at Sun and King. This version is amazing: a slice of rockabilly that's as swift as a hawk and as free as a westbound boxcar. The guts of the collection are the grimy acoustic demos that Feathers recorded later in his life, when he didn’t have a solid record contract and was trying to make ends meet as a songwriter. On these songs, his voice gets slower and stickier as the aura of exquisite despair grows thicker. Some guys simply play the song; Feathers played his soul. The crown jewel is “Release Me,” a 1969 demo cut with Junior Kimbrough, the North Mississippi trance-blues king who had taught Feathers guitar way back in the early '50s.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Wild Side of Life is further evidence that the Memphis-based Feathers was at once rockabilly’s most esteemed practitioner and its most idiosyncratic. The program here functions like a scrapbook, skipping across eras and settings. What comes across isn't so much a static portrait of a single period but Feathers' constant creativity. A hopped-up cover of Hank Thompson’s honky-tonk standard “Wild Side of Life” epitomizes Feathers’ classic early tenures at Sun and King. This version is amazing: a slice of rockabilly that's as swift as a hawk and as free as a westbound boxcar. The guts of the collection are the grimy acoustic demos that Feathers recorded later in his life, when he didn’t have a solid record contract and was trying to make ends meet as a songwriter. On these songs, his voice gets slower and stickier as the aura of exquisite despair grows thicker. Some guys simply play the song; Feathers played his soul. The crown jewel is “Release Me,” a 1969 demo cut with Junior Kimbrough, the North Mississippi trance-blues king who had taught Feathers guitar way back in the early '50s.

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