Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (1959), 7/10

Marty Robbins’ western themed Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs successfully captures the western feeling and motifs in its narrative, and while its immediate tone sounds straightforward or even plain at times, the album takes on a quality less of a daytime TV western and more of a Sergio Leone film. In the current state of affairs, it would be remise not to mention “Big Iron” and its seeming inseparability from Fallout: New Vegas but this is obviously a positive association for anyone who has experienced the game, myself included. It is also one of the two strongest songs both from a narrative and sonic perspective, alongside “El Paso” and its heart wrenching tale. The album flows in an interesting fashion, from the strong opener and its subsequent, appropriately balanced “Cool Water”, then comes “Billy the Kid” which sports an interesting albeit novelty characteristic of playing with major and minor keys based on narrative perspective. Then most of the remainder of the first side is filled with singalong tracks before “El Paso” erupts at the beginning of the second half. Then the rest of the second half acts much like the first, never dipping too low but never quite meeting the grandness of its two strongest stories. The Glaser Brothers’ vocals mesh fluidly with Robbins’ lead, accentuating a pleasantly intimate and technically expertly executed set of songs. As with most country records, however, you must buy into the overarching theme and all that it entails, singular songs and their stories carry the weight and momentum of the album. Apart from their individual merit in story and the occasional deviation from standard sound, there is not much that delineates them from one another apart from the two big singles that significantly stand apart. As with many great albums, however, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs is excellent for its ability to transport the listener to another time and place, and in this case one that is endearing and full of nostalgic charm. Stemming from the beloved American wild west and suitable in its place at just the end of the decade.