Nashville's First Country-Rock Group
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Nashville Country Jamboree were a studio group formed by Johnny Elgin, a producer and songwriter who worked with Spar Records, a Nashville-based label that specialized in budget-priced, soundalike cover versions of popular country and rock & roll hits (primarily sold in grocery stores and discount shops) but also released a certain amount of original material. Elgin and Spar Records didn't skimp on their session musicians, and the Nashville Country Jamboree sessions featured some of the best pickers in town, including David Briggs, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Norbert Putnam, Hank Garland, Floyd Cramer, Wayne Moss, Pete Drake, Charlie McCoy, and Kenny Buttrey. Since they didn't always make their way to conventional record stores, many of the Nashville Country Jamboree releases escaped the notice of discriminating music fans, but Germany's SPV label has collected 20 tunes from the group's catalog for this retrospective release. The album is subtitled "Nashville's First Country-Rock Group," which is most certainly overstating the case; while most of these sides are admirably lively and dominated by upbeat melodies and sharp guitar work, this is hardly rock & roll even by the most liberal definitions of the term. Judging from the photos of the group (most of whom don't appear to have actually performed on the records), Spar was aiming for a more youthful and contemporary approach with their Nashville Country Jamboree records, and a few tunes like "Shove It Up Your Heart," "New City Limits," and "Fifth Wheel" live up to that billing, but old-fashioned country weepers dominate the set list, as well as a few covers that document the group's usual stock in trade (they do particularly well on their version of the Bobby Bare hit "We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds"). Nashville Country Jamboree is just good enough to confirm that Elgin's project deserved a more prestigious presentation back in they day and a better reputation all these years later, but this is well short of a lost classic, and certainly not a pioneering moment in the fusion of country and rock.