Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970
Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970 (CMF Records / Lost Highway)
Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., May 7, 2004
Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945-1970(CMF Records/Lost Highway) When most people think of Tennessee and R&B, their minds go straight to Memphis. But thanks to, of all people, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the state capital gets its due on this 2-CD set spanning 25 years, 35 songs, and curiosities like Little Richard raving about how all the girls are "really gone" on Royal Crown Hair Dressing in a spot for local station WLAC. Etta James and Ruth Brown, who appear on disc two for cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof "What'd I Say" and "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean" may be the only two real superstars on Night Train, but also present are several No. 1 R&B hits (Joe Simon's "The Chokin' Kind") and long gone local lights like Christine Kittrell, whose "L&N Special" puts her in a class with Brown, James, and LaVern Baker. One song no one will have trouble recognizing is "Baby Let's Play House," done here by Arthur Gunter the same year Elvis cut it for Sun (after hearing Gunter's version). The collection is also remarkable for its range of styles: hopped-up jump-blues on Lil Hank [Crawford] & the Rhythm Kings' "Christene," Esquerita's riotous boogie-woogie "Rockin' the Joint," the near-Motown sweetness of the Hytones' "Bigger and Better," the Avons' "Since I Met You Baby," and the Bill Withers-like soul of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny." There's plenty of virtuosic vocal turns, like Larry Birdsong's from-the-gut "Somebody Somewhere" and Shy Guy Douglas' sensuous swamp romp "Monkey Doin' Woman." The borders of R&B and country begin to blur "The Chokin' Kind" was written by Harlan Howard as Joe Henderson's "Snap Your Fingers" and Joe Tex's "I Want to Do Everything for You" aren't far removed from Roger Miller and Conway Twitty. By then, Night Train has convincingly demonstrated there's a lot more to Music City than the Grand Ole Opry.