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Wild Side of Life: Rare and Unissued Recordings Vol. 1

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Album Review

If you're an obsessive rockabilly fans, chances are good that you regard Charlie Feathers as one of the great maverick talents of the first era of rock & roll — and if you're not a rockabilly fan, you've probably never heard of him at all. Charlie Feathers never got within spitting distance of stardom, and his habit of claiming he taught Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sam Phillips everything they knew didn't help much, but a listen to the man's best music reveals he was one of the singular stylists to come out of the genre — he could sing with a horny vocal hiccup that would put nearly anyone to shame, but he also handled hard country ballads with a heart-tugging skill and took his honky tonk music into strange and unexpected places few other folks would have ever dared to venture. Wild Side of Life is the first in a series of three collections of rare and unreleased Feathers material from Norton Records, and while it's clearly the work of dedicated fans, it's also flawed by a lack of thematic focus — this disc jumps back and forth between latter-day live recordings, solo acoustic demos, hard to find singles and unreleased studio sessions without offering any information on where and when this stuff was committed to tape, and the music swings from the hillbilly boogie of "Frankie and Johnny" and the slow blues-tinged lament of "Mound of Clay" to the chugging rockabilly of "Wild Side of Life" and the raw, off-kilter rock of "Cockroach." Of course, the unfocused eclecticism of this collection is also one of its greatest virtues — in a genre where so many artists could do one thing well, Charlie Feathers was an artist who refused to allow himself to be constrained by the limits of any one style, and his skills as a vocalist and arranger are clearly evident on every cut (and he also wrote some of the best songs here). Wild Side of Life is full of good music from a man who was a true American original, but one can't help but think a more coherent sequence (and notes on the origins of the tracks) would make this an even greatest testament to Feathers' genius.


Born: 12 June 1932 in Holly Springs, MS

Genre: Rock

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

Charlie Feathers was many things to many fans of rock and country music. To some, he was a superb country stylist who could take almost any piece of material and stamp it with the full force of his personality. To others, he was one of rockabilly's great pioneers, there at the dawn of Sun Records. And Feathers' stubborn insistence on combining elements of country, raw blues, and bluegrass to make his own version of the rockabilly experience showed him to be one of the genre's most original and enduring...
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Wild Side of Life: Rare and Unissued Recordings Vol. 1, Charlie Feathers
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