NORTH OF THE BORDER Bear Family Release Triple CDs From DICK DAMRON and GEORGE HAMILTON IV

NORTH OF THE BORDER
Bear Family Release Triple CDs From
DICK DAMRON and GEORGE HAMILTON IV
DICK DAMRON   More Than Countryfied (Early Recordings 1959-1976)
Bear Family BCD 16390 CH
Disc One: Gonna Have A Party • Rockin’ Baby • That’s What I Call Livin’ • Julie I Love You So • Black Maria • I Guess That’s Life • Little Sandy Nothin’ Else • The Same Old Thing Again • Times Like This • Pretty Moon • Hitch Hikin’ • Strangers Again • Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself • Hello Heartaches • Double Trouble • Reflections Of A Fool Autumn In Her Eyes • The Cumberland • The Night The Dice Grew Cold • A Thing Called Happiness • The Hard Knocks In Life • The Canadian Pioneers • This Big Land • Blood In The Morning Sun • The Little Log Church • The Golden Spike • Canada’s Golden West • The Land Of Davis Thompson • Cross Coun­try • The City Of Gold • The Ballad Of Louis Riel
Disc Two: A Whole Lot Different • Walk Out Of My World • My Heart Doesn’t Sing • Sentimental Memories • Countrified • No One Knows It Better Than A Clown • Rise ‘no Shine • When Our Love Was Young • The Long Green Line • Jackson Country • Going Home To The Country • Walk A Country Mile • Jimmy Justice • Somewhere There’s A Mountain • Lonesome City • Mirrors Of My Mind Sweet Dreams Of Yesterday • California Girl • Sharing The Good Life • The Final Hour • Cold Grey Winds Of Autumn • One More Pretty Girl • The End
Disc Three: The Prophet • All That I Was Living For • Bittersweet Songs • Things That Might Have Been • The Cowboy And The Lady • I Re­member Love • Knowing That She’s Leaven’ • Eastbound Highway • Goin’ Home Again • Mama Was A Christian Lady • Mother, Love And Country • Backstage Ladies • On The Road • Half A Jug Of Wine • Good Ole Fashion Memories • Soldier Of Fortune • Freedom And Time • After All • Lady-0 • One Night Stand • Waylon’ T-Shirt • North Country Blues • Susan Flowers • You Can’t Call It Country • Charing Cross Cowboys • Alberta Skyline • Country Wine • Just Another Old Rodeo Song • If You Need Me Lord One More Day Away
George Hamilton IV cited Dick Damron as Canada’s Willie Nelson” – a well apt description as he, in common with the Texas superstar, matches a varied longtime career with prolific songwriting output. And the songwriting credits couldn’t be any clearer as only five out of the 86 songs on this three cd set were not penned by him. Now Bear Family Records, in the first of two collections, turns the spotlight on the Bentley, Alberta born artist by presenting his earliest recordings covering the years 1959-1976.
After spending time as a rodeo rider and oil rigger, he turned to his first love music, assembled a group of musicians around him and, calling themselves The Musical Round-Up Gang, began being heard over the airwaves of radio station CKRD in Red Deer, Alberta. It was there that Dick Damron also made his debut recording. At that time rock ‘n’ roll was king and his debut single, released on the band’s own Laurel label, comprised two rockabilly originals, Gonna Have A Party and Rockin’ Baby. The single eventually caught the attention of Canada’s top notch Quality Records and two further rockabilly singles followed before the singer moved into hardcore country. At that time, wanting to match up to the recording standards set by the American  acts that he supported on their Canadian tours, he booked a custom session with Starday Studios in Nashville. The legendary Tommy Hill produced and A-team musicians (including Pete Drake, “Pig” Robbins, Jerry Shook and Junior Huskey) provided the back-up. A second Nashville session resulted in a deal with RCA-Canada, with all these tracks later appearing on a now much-sought album, The Nashville Sound of Dick Damron, released on Damron’s own Holiday label. Another of his own albums tied in with Canada’s centennial celebrations – 1867-1967: Canadiana Souvenir Celebrations, a collection of ten original themed songs with accompaniment from his own band.
Then, after a period of depression as his career seemed to be making no headway, producer Gary Buck picked Countryfied as a hit song. Although Damron refers to his recording as “acceptable but uninspired”, it was George Hamilton IV’s 1971 version that topped the Canadian charts. The recording also succeeded in putting the Damron name on the map as well opening doorways into the UK and Europe. At the same time another signature song emerged, The Long Green Line, which, like Countryfied, has endured the test of time and hardly a stage show goes by without him performing both.
After a three years hiatus, which saw the familiar Nashville country landscape develop into a “Outlaw Country” movement, he returned to the recording studios with a similar darker, harder appearance and attitude, resulting in the Toronto produced The Cowboy & The Lady album. This ten track collection provided a crucial stepping stone into the next phase of his career …. the Joe Bob Barnhill era. Although Damron had visited Nashville to pitch songs, producer Barnhill encouraged the writer to record the songs himself, uttering a sentence to the session musicians that the singer was “not as upfront and hard-driving as Waylon, and not quite as laid back as Don Williams”. It was the formula that would last Damron the rest of his career. The final tracks in this collection comprise The Cowboy And The Lady collection and the follow-up album Soldier Of Fortune – and featuring such originals as On The Road, Half A Jug Of Wine, Waylon’s T-Shirt, Country Wine, Alberta Skyline and Just Another Old Rodeo Song, all clearly proving just how well that formula worked.
The material on these three cds show the diversity of Dick Damron‘s music as he traveled through seventeen years of recordings while Deke Dickerson’s notes, interspersed with interview comments by the artist,  provides a truly revealing insight into the Damron career and personality. The 68 page booklet is completed with photographs and discography.
GEORGE HAMILTON IV   My North Country Home
Bear Family BCD 17146 CH
Disc One: Did She Mention My Name Early Morning Rain Steel Rail Blues (That’s What You Get) For Lovin’ Me I’m Not Sayin’ Go Go Round Ballad Of The Yarmouth.Castle The Canadian Railroad Trilogy Song For A Winter’s Night Home From The Forest Long Thin Dawn I’m Not Sayin’ 10 Degrees & Getting Colder Alberta Bound Christian Island (Georgian Bay) Mountains And Maryann Second Cup Of Coffee Did She Mention My Name Go Go Round ‘The Canadian Railroad Trilogy Something Special To Me Canadian Pacific North Country You Wanted Me To Tell You Like it Is My Rocky Mountain Home Four Strong Winds Summer Wages
Disc Two: Urge For Going The Circle Game Both Sides Now Take My Hand For Awhile Fm Gonna Be A Country Boy Again Suzanne Sisters Of Mercy Together Alone Goin’ Down The Road The Child’s Song The Farmers Song Dirty Old Man Time’s Run Out On You Put Your Hand in The Hand Just Bidin’ My Time The Cali Snowbird The isle Of St. Jean Shake The Dust It’s All Over • Countryfied • Moody ‘Manitoba Morning • If You’ve Been Wondering • Nothing Changes But The Seasons • Love Is Still Around Williams Lake Stampede Where Would I Be Now The Circle Game Suzanne
Disc Three: Pictou County Jail My Canadian Maid Back To Down East Country Old Bill Jones • Into The Mountains Lismore Lady T. C. Carry Me My North Country Home My Nova Scotia Home Prince Edward Island Is Heaven To Me Apple Blossom Time In Annapolis Valley • Maritime Farewell Take Me Back To Old New Brunswick Ghost Of Bras D’or • Squid Jiggin’ Ground At­lantic Lullaby Isle Of Newfoundland Farewell To Nova Scotia Saskatchewan The Calgary Song • Cape Breton Lullaby Fiddler’s Green Where The Blue Waters Foam The Little Boats Of Newfoundland Peter Amberley Shores Of Prince Edward Island
As many country music fans will know, George Hamilton IV enjoyed a longtime association with the Canadian music scene, having recorded six albums and headlined several tv series north of the 49th Parallel. It was such an association, alongside numerous visits to the UK and groundbreaking work behind the Iron Curtain, that Billboard magazine bestowed him the title of International Ambassador of Country Music in 1974.
Although having first arrived on the scene as a “pop” idol, he quickly moved on to achieve success in country music, securely establishing his reputation with Abilene. But George IV always possessed an enquiring musical mind and, eager to seek out new songs and songwriters, became a prominent figure in the folk-country movement of the mid 1960s, recording – as he described it – “country-style but songs that had story lines, painted pictures and, most importantly, songs that said something”.  And Canada was to become a rich source for such material, with Gordon Lightfoot being the singer/songwriter that initially fired his enthusiasm. He recalls: “At that time, Nashville country music was really about booze, broads and partying, and I felt that I didn’t fit into that mould too well. When I heard this Gordon Lightfoot song [I’m Not Sayin’] on the radio, I thought to myself, this is interesting. It’s a mixture of folk and country. It’s different”.  He recorded the already well covered Early Mornin’ Rain in January 1966 but became the first artist to take a Lightfoot song into the American country music charts. Subsequently, over the years, Hamilton has recorded sixteen Lightfoot songs, more than any other artist in history, resulting in the 1970 album Lightfoot Country. (Chronologically, though, the first Canadian artist that he covered was Ray Griff, recording Something Special To Me in 1965, though not released until two years later as the flipside of Break My Mind. But, at the time, Griff was well established in Nashville circles and, to be fair, would not be considered the beginning of the singer’s Canadian folk-country sound).
Besides getting to know Gordon Lightfoot, the latter also provided the introduction to Ian Tyson, the third Canadian artist that George IV would record. Before commencing his solo recording career, Tyson was well known as one half of the folk duo Ian & Sylvia, their greatest song being Four Strong Winds. Among the other Canadian songwriters set to have songs covered by the Nashville artist included Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bruce Cockburn, Gene MacLellan (whose Snowbird became a massive international hit) and Dick Damron. And this period of Canadiana obsession wouldn’t have been complete without a song from the nation’s most famous country singer (and Hamilton’s hero), Hank Snow. The song was My Nova Scotia Home, one of the titles that appeared on his 1969 Canadian Pacific collection. This was the first of Hamilton’s Canadian-themed albums and recorded in Nashville while the second, North Country, was recorded in Toronto with Canadian musicians, including Bruce Cockburn and Lenny Breau.
When George Hamilton IV began his long-running tv series in 1972, he also signed a three years contract with RCA Canada resulting in a further three albums – Down East Country, Out West Country and Back To Down East Country. In all, he recorded 82 songs during his RCA tenure and, for first time ever, they are now released together in this three cd set. “The folk-country music gave me a different career path, and for that I will always be grateful to the people of Canada, and the singers and songwriters up there. The songs that they wrote were more identifiable for people in the country music markets outside the USA. People who never would have listened to country music have discovered it through these songs.”

The cds provide the music ….. the accompanying 68 page booklet provides the insight into the singer’s relationship with Canada, its songs and songwriters, with Deke Dickerson’s text further enhanced by interviews, many previously unpublished photographs and discography.

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