The Local Voice

Record of the Issue: Marty Robbins’ Greatest Hits (TLV #153)


by Nature Humphries

I’ve only recently gotten back into vinyl. When I was a little kid my dad bought me a 45 rpm phonograph and I had a stack of singles I’d bought with my allowance from the Disc Jockey in the mall. Mom and Dad had the greatest collection of old records dating back to their own teenage years, and to this day I can’t resist pillaging through their stash when I visit on holidays. There’s just something about vinyl that incites nostalgia.

Despite having been instilled with an early appreciation for the superior sound of vinyls, I pretty much ignored them for the majority of my adult life—until now. Having stolen a handful of classics from my parents’ closet and acquiring a cheap rig a few years ago, I was thrilled when the news broke about the new record store in Oxford.

Thrilled—and intimidated. I have a thing about record stores (also applies to book stores); if I don’t have a clear idea of what I’m after, I get anxious. I’m not good at browsing. Some people have a knack for retail that eludes me. I like to enter a store equipped with a list, mental or otherwise, so I don’t get lost.

When I walked into The End of All Music for the first time, I was on a mission. I made a beeline for the country section because I decided that rather than a specific album, I was after a certain song.

Old country classics are a natural for vinyl because of the nostalgia factor, but also because they’re so prolific. With that in mind, I shuffled through until I found my jam: Marty Robbins‘ Greatest Hits. More specifically, “El Paso,” the first song on Side A. You know this one: “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl…”

It’s one of those old songs my grandparents used to sing on road trips through the West, to Carlsbad Caverns or White Sands, after Grandpa got tired of talking about golf. In fact, Grandma was still singing it when we visited her in Albuquerque last November.

You can’t beat a good story, and that song has it all—romance, a bar brawl, twirling maidens. With his coyote-like drawl, Robbins sings of the wild West Texas wind, and listening to it on my record player, with its pops and sizzles, I feel like I’m back there on the dusty road with Grandma.

As a bonus, when I looked at the track list on the record, I found one of my favorite lullabies, sung to me by my other granny on hot Claiborne County nights way back then. “Red River Valley” is a ballad that hundreds of artists have recorded. No one knows for sure its origin, but I was so happy that I could tie in both sides of my family in one album, and rediscover the origins of my own love for cowboy songs.

This article was published in The Local Voice #153 (April 5-19, 2012).

Click here to download the PDF of issue #153.

Record Store Day April 21 at The End of All Music in Oxford, Mississippi
Record Of The Issue (TLV #152, by Joe Doolittle)
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