Hi, there! This page is part of an opinionated guide to what I call "hard country" music -- the real stuff -- with a bunch of record reviews and recommendations by me, Joe Sixpack. Naturally, it's a work in progress, and will hopefully be expanded on quite a bit, as time allows.
This is the first page covering the letter "S"
Doug Sahm -- see artist discography
Mack Sanders "...And His Swing Band" (Mercury, 1964)
Bandleader Mack Sanders, who also recorded under the name Johnny Bozeman, was a deejay from Kansas who cut a few singles in the '50s, and a couple of LPs in the '60s. Working at a variety of stations, Sanders was a pioneering figure in Midwestern country music broadcasting, establishing Wichita's first full-time country station. With country star Webb Pierce as a business partner, Sanders purchased a string of radio stations throughout the Midwest, as well as a foothold in Nashville. He was married to singer Sherry Bryce, up until his death in 2003. This album features vocals from Sanders as well as Gene McCoy and Jeanie Person, a female singer with a very rough, rugged vocal style. The music is a nice mix of easygoing honkytonk and country swing, similar to the Hank Thompson sound. It's not top flight, but it is pretty good -- the fiddle and steel guitar are particularly nice. Definitely worth a spin!
Tommy Scott -- see artist profile
Billy Joe Shaver - see artist discography
The Shelton Brothers "Down On The Farm" (Binge Disc, 2001)
The East Texas-based Shelton Brothers had a great, jovial style -- a prototypical hard country sound where novelty songs nestle side by side with lightly-delivered, bluesy weepers. Although the band's sound is a little rickety and sparse, not dazzling or muscular, or overly soulful, they still pioneered the guitar solo in country music, and had a clear influence on Ernest Tubb and other early honkytonkers. This is a great set of oldies from the late 1937-41, rare 78s from the Decca label, way back in its infancy... Moon Mullican and Gene Sullivan are among the musicians, though the stars are Joe and Bob Shelton, who had a wonderful and and completely infectious sense of humor. Highly recommended, and well worth tracking down!
The Shelton Brothers "A Hillbilly And Western Swing Legend" (Binge Disc, 2002)
This second set of Shelton Brothers oldies has the advantage of English-language liner notes, which explain the history of this popular Depression-era brother act, their dual identity as "the Sunshine Boys" (when recording for Victor, or performing on the KWHK Louisiana Barn Ride), and their long professional association with country star (and Louisiana governor) Jimmie Davis. As with the first album, this disc is packed with sentimental oldies and lightly raucous takes on old tunes such as "Deep Elem Blues" and "Mamma Don't 'Low." Unfortunately, neither CD includes their original version of "Just Because" (later a hit for Elvis Presley), although this volume does include their 1937 remake. More great stuff; highly recommended.
The Shelton Brothers "Rompin' And Stompin' Around" (BACM, 2005)
Another great set from the Shelton Brothers which, amazingly, does not overlap with the two Binge Disc collections listed above. If you're into these guys, then snap this one up! (Available through the British Archive of Country Music website.)
Glen Sherley "Live At Vacaville, California" (Mega, 1971)
California convict Glen Sherley came into Johnny Cash's sphere of influence when Cash staged his legendary 1968 Folsom Prison concert -- someone had passed Cash a demo of Sherley's prison ballad, "Greystone Chapel," which he sang in front of an enthusiastic audience, with an unsuspecting and dumbfounded Sherley sitting in the front row. The song made it onto the album and Cash became Sherley's champion in Nashville, helping get this live album produced -- it was recorded while Sherley was still in prison, and his live version of "Greystone Chapel" was a modest hit. Cash pushed for Sherley's parole later the same year and he gave him a job, too, as a staff writer in his "House of Cash" company, along with Sherley's friend Harlan Sanders, who was also a convict in the California system. The mix of freedom and fame was apparently too much for Sherley -- his antisocial behavior forced Cash to fire him, and he quickly fell off the radar. Years later, in 1978, Glen Sherley committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, having been unable to hang onto his music career, one of the more tragic figures in the '70s country scene.
Jean Shepard - see artist discography
Mervin Shiner "Steppin' Out" (BACM, 2005)
Gene Simmons "Drinkin' Wine: The Sun Years, Plus" (Bear Family, 2006)
Luke Simmons "I Like My Music Country Style" (BACM, 2005)
Luke Simmons "Pure Down Home Raw 1950s Country Singin' & Pickin'" (Jasmine, 2012)
A nice reissue release profiling Canadian honky-tonker Luke Simmons... Some rare old material that shows Canuck country at its finest.
Red Simpson -- see artist discography
Daryle Singletary -- see artist discography
Margie Singleton -- see artist discography
Jimmie Skinner "From The Beginning To Fame" (Binge Discs, 1997)
One of the great overlooked Jimmie Rodgers-derived honkytonkers of the 1950s, Skinner's best stuff is still sadly unavailable here in the States. He had some fair-sized hits on Mercury Records during the 1950s, but sank out of sight in the early '60s. Some of his oldies, such as "I Found My Girl In The Good Old USA", are present on the Highland CD, but sadly they are not in their original form -- these seem to be re-recordings with dubious sound quality. Thank goodness for the German label, Binge Discs, which has put together a killer collection of Skinner's best stuff, recorded between 1949-1961. The hits aren't on here (presumably to avoid a lawsuit), but the slew of lesser-known tracks is just as great, if not greater, to listen to. The debt to Ernest Tubb is obvious, although Skinner, with a voice that often clumsily breaks out of his blusier phrases, has an endearing quality all his own. Plus, the material is just great. The early songs include a lot of snappy, hard luck and cold-hearted lyrics as well as sappy heartsongs galore. Later on, as country adapted to the rock era, Skinner's stuff took on a bouncy lope, as on tracks like "Don't Let Your Love Get You Down." The major labels aren't likely to reissue much of Skinner's work anytime soon, so this import disc is definitely worth looking for.
Jimmie Skinner "Doin' My Time" (Bear Family, 2003)
Well, leave it to Bear Family...! Here's a mega-delic, 6-CD box set, with Skinner's best work from 1947-62, including previously unreleased takes and rare bluegrass recordings that were pretty far off the radar... The sixth disc is made up of spoken word recordings drawn from Skinner's autobiography (oh, well...) Still, what a treasure trove of groovy, true-blue all-American hillbilly music, from one of the great, long-lost country artists of yesteryear.
Jimmie Skinner "One Dead Man Ago (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)" (Bear Family, 2008)
A great classic country release from one of the best reissue labels in the world. Plaintive honkytonker Jimmie Skinner is a personal favorite -- little known and little remembered, be had a lot of the same laconic, nasal sound as Ernest Tubb, but with a bluesier, rawer style, that was closer in many ways to their mutual idol, Jimmie Rodgers. Skinner had a few hits in the 1950s, and later put an extra little bounce into his music, in an attempt to keep up with the rock/rockabilly invasion. That suits this disc just fine -- like the rest of the records in the Shake This Shack series, this tilts towards upbeat material, and is a more modest, single-disc version of a more massive Bear Family box set (in Skinner's case, a 6-CD set). This should be just about right for most retro-twang fans. If you want to check out one of the most distinctive artists of honky-tonk's golden era, this is a great introduction to his work.
Jimmie Skinner "22 Greatest Hits" (Highland Music, 1997)
Jimmie Skinner "Jimmie Skinner Sings Bluegrass" (Crosscut Records, 2001)
Jimmie Skinner "Too Hot To Handle" (BACM, 2005)
More old-school country gems... These are his more obscure recordings, but one noteworthy inclusion is his original version of "You Don't Know My Mind," which became a country and bluegrass standard. Great stuff! (Available through the British Archive of Country Music website.)
Hick Music Index