Album Reviews: Omnivore Recordings’ Black Friday Releases

Juli Thanki | December 4th, 2012

Merle-COVER

If you were sleeping off a pie binge or waiting in line for the chance to buy a discounted flatscreen, you might have missed the release of Omnivore Recordings’ Black Friday country records, available at independent record stores. The four 10″ EPs, featuring “rarities” recorded by Merle Haggard, Wanda Jackson, George Jones, and Buck Owens, preview material that will be available on full-length CDs in 2013; until then, these records are a tasty appetizer.

Much of the material, like Owens’ four Eagles covers (recorded for Hee Haw), is previously unreleased. There are alternate takes, like “Someone GeorgeJonesCOVERTold My Story” and the two versions of “I Threw Away the Rose,” one recorded in Nashville, the other in Los Angeles, found on Haggard’s Capitol Rarities, and originally unissued outtakes such as Wanda Jackson’s mid-‘50s weeper, “Step By Step.” All are a treat to hear—and, released on thick slabs of 180 gram vinyl with gorgeous picture sleeves, they’re a treat to handle–but the best songs of the bunch are two George Jones duets with Melba Montgomery from his time with United Artists: the Louvin Brothers song, “Alabama,” and an unissued take of “Will There Ever Be Another,” a toetapper with banjo and fiddle flourishes found on the duo’s 1964 album, Bluegrass Hootenanny.

BuckOwensCOVERUnfortunately, only one of the records—Owens’—comes with a code to download MP3 versions of the songs, so those who listen to most of their music on vinyl-hostile daily commutes will have to wait a while longer to hear the majority of these gems. Nevertheless, these four records are a pleasure to spin, and the strength of the EPs bodes well for the upcoming full-length albums.

4.5 Stars

 

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