Press - Lefty Frizzell - Life's Like Poetry 12-CD-Box - New Musical Express 04-18-1992

I Life's Like Poetry (Bear Family boxed-CD set)
IT WAS Merle Haggard who averred in his song 'That's The Way It Was In '51' that Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell jointly ruled the jukeboxes back in that era. In truth, Frizzell, Haggard's major influence, had nudged ahead in the popularity stakes. A Texan, possessing a slurring, highly individual vocal style, he'd cut a demo of 'If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time' during 1950. Columbia issued the disc in its original form and then sat back and counted the dollars as it sold several hundred thousand in a matter of weeks. He was a phenomenon and the Dallas Sound (Frizzell initially recorded at the city's Beck Studios) became as much hailed as that of Sun a few years later. The rise of rock 'n' roll coincided with the singer's fall from favour.

Major hits like 'Cigarettes And Coffee Blues' and 'The Long -c5 Black Veil' kept the Frizzell name  c in view, but there was no 7) automatic guarantee of success A for his records anymore and, 5 between '59 and '63, Lefty 0 proved non-existent on the c charts. Like Hank Williams, he was unpredictable and often spent more time making it home from the local bar than travelling to pre-booked gigs and recording dates. A Number One with 'Saginaw, Michigan' during '64, heartened fans, but the relaxed swing of the early recordings had gone. Onstage, things were often little better—while 'Saginaw' was still a chart-topper, he announced to one audience that he couldn't perform it because he didn't know the words! The end came in 1975, when Lefty, aged 47, ran out of time and his body finally refused to take the treatment habitually meted out to it. These days, whenever you hear Merle Haggard, Randy Travis and (oddly enough) Hank Williams Jr, you're listening to someone who learnt a lot from Lefty Frizzell.

And even now his influence continues to grow and help shape Country music. Which is why this breathtaking, 152-page book accompanied, all-encompassing 12 CD edition will be universally acclaimed as the Country release of the year. (8)

Fred Dellar

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