Heartbreak Streetby Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper
On purely musical grounds, there's little to criticize about this anthology of recordings by this country duo. The running time is generous for a single-disc compilation, including 25 tracks. The cuts cover the territory from the most traditional of country music to honky tonk, though even the most honky tonking numbers are about as traditional leaning as honky tonk gets. Though billed as a duo, and though they do sometimes harmonize, it's really the plaintive but strong singing of Wilma Lee Cooper, which verges but doesn't quite cross over into a keening wail, that will imprint itself on most listeners. In comparison, Stoney Cooper's presence is relatively unobtrusive; he doesn't sing at all on some cuts, though presumably that's him handling the narration on the funereal "The Story of the Three Nails," which is nothing more than spoken word and organ. There's nothing slick about the production; it's more modern than early hillbilly but sticks to basic instrumentation that really lets Wilma Lee's vocals fly. There's a gospel/spiritual streak, especially on the more devout material, but it's not so strong that it will put off secular-minded listeners. So where's the problem? Well, the packaging reveals little about the precise origins of the recordings, other than to note that they were done for the Hickory label, for which the pair recorded in the 1950s and '60s (without specifying whether all these tracks were done in the '50s and '60s). Such basic annotation crosses the line between what will offend the specialist and what will bug the more typical general fan. The Coopers aren't all that well known, and virtually anyone interested enough to check out a compilation of their music will want to know when it was made and at least something about how it fits into the context of their careers.
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