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The Heart and Soul of Ray Price

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Album Review

If you're a country artist who had a handful of hits in the '50s and '60s, there's an excellent chance someone has persuaded you to re-record your hits for another label so you can earn a new payday from the old material, and the new label has a proven commodity in their catalog. Ray Price is only one of the dozens of noteworthy acts who've taken the bait and re-cut their hits, and The Classic Songs of Ray Price features 18 tunes, most major hits for Price in the past, that the Cherokee Cowboy has recorded anew with a band of Nashville session cats anchored by the great pedal steel player Buddy Emmons and fiddler Buddy Spicher. The players generally echo the mood and approach of the original hit versions of the tunes, if not the letter of the arrangements, so honky tonk numbers like "Crazy Arms" and "City Lights" maintain their barroom 2-step feel, while the slicker, string-laden numbers like "For the Good Times" and "I Won't Mention It Again" remain polished and heavily orchestrated. If the production here lacks a bit of the detail and panache of the original recordings of these tunes, these sessions have still been put together with care and love for the material, and most importantly of all, Ray Price is on hand to sing these songs. Price's voice on these re-cuts shows a bit more wear than it did on the hit versions, but his instrument is still in impressive shape, and he can still kick up some dust on the honky tonk sides, while he actually sounds more soulful and heartfelt on the more measured numbers. Price's orchestral sides have sometimes been given short shrift by fans as countrypolitan sellout stuff, but the depth of feeling and skillful phrasing he displays on these sessions is enough to convince most listeners just how compelling an artist Price can be regardless of his surroundings. The Classic Songs of Ray Price is no substitute for a good collection of his superb recordings for Columbia (try The Essential Ray Price), but it does find Price still working magic in the studio, and fans who give it a listen won't be disappointed.


Born: 12 January 1926 in Perryville, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Ray Price covered -- and kicked up -- as much musical turf as any country singer of the postwar era. He was lionized as the man who saved hard country when Nashville went pop, and vilified as the man who went pop when hard country was starting to call its own name with pride. Actually, he was no more than a musically ambitious singer, always looking for the next challenge for a voice that could bring down roadhouse walls. Circa 1949, Price cut his first record for Bullet in Dallas. In 1951, he was...
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