Marty Robbins – All Around Cowboy / Everything I’ve Always Wanted (Cherry Red Records)
This two album set presents late Country singer Marty Robbins’All Around Cowboy and Everything I’ve Always Wanted on CD for the first time, and at first the coupling may seem an odd choice, although when listening throws an interesting light on the dichotomy of Robbins’ career with in the Country music realm.
All Around Cowboy was the last of Robbins’ western-themed albums, and presents all of the tropes of his renowned cowboy ballads: Mexican style intricate nylon-stringed picking, mariachi fanfares, and above all, stories of the outlaw west.
It’s a strange listen in 2016 to these stories that presents Marty inhabiting a protagonist that’s always an outlaw falling in love with and saving the Mexican girl in some way, such as on ‘SanAngelo’, which gave Robbins’ one of his last chart entries with his cowboy songs, ending, of course, in a heroic gun fight.
It’s all very melodramatic, and Marty’s voice is compelling for the storytelling – if not the most immediate. Perhaps the diction and phrasing Marty sings with betrays the characters he inhabits in these songs, however his long-time friends and band members on this record support him well. Instrumentation lifts sections in which Robbins’ holds notes like scaffolding, with horns rising up to add to the drama, and gently lowering him down dynamically to get the narratives across.
Everything I’ve Always Wanted coming just two years later in 1981 sees a change in the instrumentation however, as Marty swaps out the somewhat pastiche Mexican sounds for more standard electric slide guitars and incorporating piano.
However the subject matter is much the same – love, loss, memory, and duty too. Generally more upbeat tempo wise, but just as melancholic, the album is more traditional, reviving Eddy Arnold’s classic ‘There’s No Wings On My Angel‘ and Robbins’ own chat debut ‘I’ll Go Alone‘.
‘My Greatest Memory‘ is a soaring ballad which reaches country music heights, up there with George Jones’ best as a beautifully rueful and disarming song that only this genre could deliver.
On both albums, though aiming for very differing ends of the spectrum of country music, show Robbins’ as one of the greatest Country & Western storytellers and entertainers. He portrays characters within a macho world to still have a tenderness in the warbling of his voice, and these albums being commuted to CD for the first time, whilst not being the output containing the tracks he will most be remembered for (a certain ending to a recent US hit TV show cementing this) it’s only right that his deeper cuts be brought back to attention.
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