by Nature Humphries
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.
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…”
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.