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Cold Heart of Steel

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Album Review

Joe Maphis is probably best known as an astonishingly skilled guitarist who recorded hot country and rockabilly music in the '50s, both as a sideman and featured artist. There's some of that here, but this 16-track compilation is devoted mostly to more sedate, vocal-oriented material he recorded with his wife, Rose Maphis. The slim annotation unfortunately fails to provide recording/release dates or even a range of same, but it can be assumed that most or all of this was cut sometime in the '50s, when hillbilly music was making its transition to something a little more pop-oriented. That's not to say the duo's ten vocal tracks here are commercial or slick; they're quality heartfelt, plaintive '50s hillbilly, spotlighting harmonies and tradeoffs that are moving and devoid of corniness, though Rose is certainly the more distinctive singer of the pair. There's not much more than a hint of Maphis' virtuoso guitar skills (and a good heaping of steel), placing the emphasis on the singing and pretty strong melodies that have some pop appeal while remaining country-soaked. Despite the disappointingly perfunctory packaging, this is quality mid-20th century country music that many fans have overlooked, even among those listeners who are aware of Maphis' more flamboyant and guitar-oriented recordings. Speaking of which, this CD's enhanced by five instrumental tracks grouped under the subheading "The Guitar Artistry of Joe Maphis" that do bring his abilities in that arena far more to the fore, including some gutsy rock & roll and an odd but attractive piece ("Del Rio") marrying Tex-Mex-flavored country to easy listening orchestration. Finishing the CD is a Rose Lee Maphis solo cut, "Country Girl Courtship," that's far more uptempo than her duets with Joe, though it's more country swing than rockabilly.

Cold Heart of Steel, Joe And Rose Lee Maphis
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  • €9.99
  • Genres: Country, Music
  • Released: 19 November 2009

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