A new cd reissue series called Vinyl Wastelands has recently been showing up on eBay and on the website of vendors like No Hit Records in the UK. These discs caught my eye only a few weeks back and somehow there are already available six incredible volumes of (mostly) country music oddities that alternate between the pleasantly bizarre and the truly disturbing. I should point out that they're not 100% country; Volume 2 is devoted to rock & roll songs and pop sounds surface on various volumes. Volume 5, for example, (Last Kiss Of The Drunken Driver) rounds up a heady mix of tragic teen pop and country songs about suicide, drunk driving and gruesome highway accidents.
Another standout effort is Volume Three: Beatin' On The Bars, which consists of thirty or so dispatches about life in the joint, kicking off with the Travelin' Texans title track, an ode to jailbait.
In fact, they're all superb, but the one that's completely knocked my hat in the creek is Volume Four: Hippie In A Blunder. As you might imagine, it rounds up scathing country anti-hippie diatribes, some of which are so obscure I've never even heard of 'em. Maybe I'm being a little delusional, but I kind of like to think of myself as something of an expert when it comes to this stuff.
In addition to songs that mock and gripe about hippies, the disc also features a generous sampling of obscure drug scare tunes like The Needle by Harry Snyder and Marijuana, The Devil Flower by Johnny Cash sound-a-like Johnny Price. And perhaps best of all, the compilers have dug up a label shot of the frequently comped but truly elusive California Hippie Murders by Red River Dave, a 45 rpm disc that is so rare I know people who've been looking for their own copy for decades with no luck. And now, thanks to Vinyl Wastelands Volume Four, we see that the insanely psychotic record was released by the Reveal label, a Madison Avenue concern! Twenty-something years ago, when I first heard Autry Inman's Ballad of Two Brothers, an over the top story of campus protests and battlefield valor, I would've given practically anything for a disc like this. If you like this kind of material you probably already have at least a few of the records featured here, but it's a real treat to have so many of them rounded up in one convenient place.
And you should really check out the amazing front cover photo (above) which captures irate and seething southerners in all out protest mode at the very idea of living alongside people who don't have cracker haircuts. This is really an outstanding series and I'm looking forward to seeing future releases.
And while we're on the topic, I should probably mention that there's a rumor that WFMU's Rex hit a rich vein of wobbly country oddities last weekend at the Allentown Record Show (45s and 78s only), so tune in to Fool's Paradise this Saturday to get an earful.