The renowned German archival imprint Bear Family Records has been keeping the name William Orville Frizzell— lovingly nicknamed Lefty Frizzell after winning a fight in his youth—in the country-music conversation since 1984 when they reintroduced the honky-tonk icon to fans with the 14-LP box set His Life, His Music. Now over a quarter-century after the label’s 12-CD box set Life’s Like Poetry, the 1992 set has been generously expanded in the form of a 20 disc anthology that gathers every known official recording Lefty put to tape, chronicling the entirety of the singer’s quarter-century career in performance.
Discs 10-12 alone are worth the lofty price tag: a 73-track wealth of demos and home recordings that date back to the 1940s and ‘50s, while the third disc unveils rare radio recordings for the Armed Forces. It’s great to have the music from such choice titles as 1952’s Listen to Lefty , 1964’s Saginaw, Michigan and 1973’s underrated Mark of Time in one place, not to mention collaborations with longtime cohorts Wayne Raney, June Stearns and Abe Mulkey. Meanwhile, by the time you get to the ninth disc, you are hit with material from Frizzell’s masterful final LP, 1975’s Classic Style, best known for his thoughtful version of eternal Lefty acolyte Merle Haggard’s “Life’s Like Poetry,” the last song he’d sing before a massive stroke took his life on July 19th of that year at the age of 47. Amended by an eight-disc audiobook of I Love You a Thousand Ways: The Lefty Frizzell Story , the biography by Lefty’s brother, and a 264-page hardcover compendium packed with never-before-seen family photos, An Article From Life: The Complete Recordings is the final word on the man old Merle once said possessed “the soul of Hank Williams, the appeal of Johnny Cash and the charisma of Elvis Presley.”