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Charlie Feathers - Honky Tonk Kind LP


Norton Records

Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" is as singular a performance as exists in the history of country music, but when you hear Charlie Feathers tear into it in the unreleased take that appears on the disc Honky Tonk Kind, it's hard not to imagine that Feathers either never heard Cash's record or he was able to dig into it so deep that he turned it into something entirely his own -- the manic rockabilly blues of Feathers' intense vocal treatment makes Cash sound polite by comparison, and Feathers fills the songs with an almost hallucinatory dread. It's just one of many remarkable moments on Honky Tonk Kind, the second in a series of collections of rare Feathers recordings from Norton Records. In these scraps from the late singer's tape archive, we're treated to weird and spectral folk ballads ("Dinky John"), fiery rockabilly ("One Good Gal"), honky tonk country sides ("If You Were Mine to Lose"), hypnotic acoustic blues workouts ("Feel Good Again," cut with Junior Kimbrough) and solo songwriting demos ("Give Me Back All the Love You Gave") that time and again confirm that while Feathers may be best remembered as a short-lived rockabilly star in the 1950s, he was capable of a lot more than that. Honky Tonk Kind is a loving tribute to a worthy artist that collects some fine music well worth hearing, but the disc doesn't offer much in the way of information on when or where Feathers recorded this stuff (or who was helping), though there's a fine biographical essay from Michael Hurtt, and the frequent jump from studio-quality masters to lo-fi homemade tapes is more than a bit jarring. Honky Tonk Kind is a bit rough around the edges, which isn't inappropriate for Charlie Feathers, but the music certainly does right by this underappreciated Memphis legend.