The Easy Riders

Leave it to the Bear Family label to release a six-CD set by a folk act that isn't mentioned in any reference book in the field -- and, what's more, it's all good stuff (make that great if you like the Kingston Trio). And, since there isn't a single track by the Easy Riders available anywhere apart from this box set, anyone curious about their work is going to have to buy it (or dig up the original albums and singles -- good luck). Not only is the trio's complete recorded output here, but so is all of the earlier Decca Records work of the Miller/Dehr version of the Easy Riders, and all of Gilkyson's solo stuff for Decca as well. Disc One opens with the Easy Rider trio's first sessions from May 1956, revealing the group with its sound already fully formed, moving in an alternately gentle and lively manner through folk songs and traditional-sounding numbers, including the versions of "South Coast" (two versions) and "Everybody Loves Saturday Night," as well as numerous unreleased numbers, including their original "The Sweet Sugar Cane" and a cover of the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song "Tina." Disc Two is highlighted by various folk-blues-style numbers, as well as the trio's first approach to cowboy songs ("I Ride an Old Paint," etc.) and "I'm Gonna Leave You Now," awhich they cut with Guy Mitchell. Disc Three finishes the original trio's history and features the recordings by Gilkyson and Dehr following the split with Miller. Gilkyson's solo demos and the 12 songs cut by Frank Miller's Easy Riders, including their versions of "Marianne" and "Greenfields," anot to mention "Wabash Cannon Ball." Disc Five features all of Gilkyson's solo recordings for Decca from 1949 through 1951 (including "Cry of the Wild Goose" and an early version of "Fast Freight," awhich later entered the Kingston Trio's repertory), as well as his two collaborations with the Weavers in 1951 -- these include half a dozen songs that were unreleased until 1995, with the issue of this box. Finally, Disc Six has the complete work of the Miller/Dehr two-man Easy Riders, Dehr's solo demos, and Gilkyson's solo recordings from 1952 and 1953. The quality of the music is all very high, although Gilkyson's baritone singing has a more trained, dramatic, at times almost operatic approach than one is accustomed to in "folk" music, reminiscent more of Richard Dyer-Bennett (or even Paul Robeson) than to Woody Guthrie or Cisco Houston. The most extraordinary aspect of any of this is that the group has slipped entirely through the cracks of every music reference book in existence. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi


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