In commercial terms, Vernon Oxford was a marginal figure during the 1960s when he recorded for the RCA label, but to fans of real-deal honktonk music, he's a cherished secret, one of those guys -- like Ernest Tubb or Hank Locklin -- with a notably imperfect voice who sings with such conviction and simplicity that he brings each song alive. One of my personal honky-tonk heroes, Oxford is an artist you really should acquaint yourself with... Here's a quick look at his work.

Discography - Best-Ofs

Vernon Oxford "Keeper Of The Flame" (Bear Family, 1995)
This stunning 5-CD set is probably a bit much for the casual country fan, but it certainly does justice to the legacy of this underrated hard-country crooner. This set spans 1965-82, gathering material from his RCA years right on through his tenure on the independent Rounder label, with plenty of other harder-to-find songs on there as well. To hear a more modest sampling of his RCA years, you could track down a copy of the single-disc best-of listed below, but the Rounder albums are still out of print and as for the other material... well, forget it: this is the only place you'll find it, outside of a long, exhaustive eBay binge. Oxford's vocals are an acquired taste, but once you get the bug, you'll be a fan.

Vernon Oxford "Let Me Sing You A Song" (Westside, 2000)
A generously programmed single-disc set collecting some of the best (and rarest!) material Oxford recorded for the RCA label, back in the 1960s... There are some wildly catchy, raspy hillbilly tunes and a few others that may be a little harder to get into... Overall, though, this disc of obscure, underrated material will be a real eye opener for country fans who are looking for cool new oldies to dig into. While some may lament the absence of his later RCA work from the 1970s (which was more commercially successful), these early honkytonk gems all fit together and are of a piece. Oxford's penchant for hard-hitting, soul-crushing cheating songs and barroom weepers makes this one fine little record... Recommended!

Discography - Albums

Vernon Oxford "Woman, Let Me Sing You A Song" (RCA, 1966) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Ferguson)

Vernon Oxford "If I Had My Wife To Love Over" (Rounder, 1979) (LP)

Vernon Oxford "His And Hers" (Rounder, 1980)
(Produced by Bob Ferguson)

One of Oxford's later albums, cut for Rounder in the early 'Eighties, with a slew of Nashville studio cats (Pete Drake, Weldon Myrick, Pig Robbins, Buddy Spicher, et al.) signed on as backup musicians. Even with all the heavyweight hired guns on board, Oxford keeps it country, with a simple, understated set of pure, sweet honkytonk. It's not flashy or powerful, but it'll win you over with its understated approach, and Oxford's ability to really believe in what he's singing. Not a dazzler, but a gem nonetheless.

Vernon Oxford "I Love To Sing" (Bear Family, 1980)

Vernon Oxford "A Better Way Of Life" (Rounder, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Ferguson)

An outstanding country gospel album, with a hard, honkytonk edge that so precious few of these modern Christian country records are able to hold onto. Oxford sings from the heart, and the band plays with conviction and bite. The songs are mainly standards -- "Dust On The Bible," "An Unclouded Day," etc. -- but there are also several fine new songs as well, such as the title track (written by Oxford himself) and "Lord, I've Tried Everything But You," which starts the album off on a very high note. Whether you're a religious-minded or a secular country fan, this one is worth checking out.

Vernon Oxford "Keepin' It Country" (Rounder, 1982)

Vernon Oxford "The Oxford Touch" (Rutabaga, 1986) (LP)
This is a reissue of the 1980 album, I Love To Sing.

Vernon Oxford "The Shadows Of My Mind" (Classic, 1996)

Vernon Oxford "...Sings Gospel, Country & Bluegrass" (Oxford-Corbin Records, 2006)


Hick Music Index

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