Lee Hazlewood ‘Fools, Rebel Rousers and Girls on Death Row: The Lee Hazlewood Story 1955-1962’ (Jasmine) 4/5

Better known for his later solo work and now enjoying a well-earned retrospective, Lee Hazlewood was just twenty-six years of age when the story on this album began and his own idiosyncratic brand of what, according to Thurston Moore, came to be termed country exotica. He had served as a DJ for the military in South Korea until 1953 when he returned to the United States and started a career as a DJ in Phoenix, Arizona as well as setting up his own label and publishing company. It is from those early productions that this compilation is sourced and covers an eight year period from the mid-1950s through to 1962. The template for his later distinctive style is already illustrated here with the darker lyrics and deep vocal delivery in evidence on the country-blues of ‘The Fool’. Guitarist Duane Eddy features on select numbers including the excellent instrumental, ‘Rebel Rouser’, and Hazelwood began to create his own highly individualistic production sound which was achieved by using a grain tank for an echo chamber effect. In fact, Hazlewood was influenced by other musicians and producers, most notably John Barry and Phil Spector. Among other singers, Sanford Clark and Al Casey are showcased, but in truth this is really all about Lee Hazlewood and how he pioneered his own musical vision. Post-1962, Hazlewood came into his own, creating the LHI label, producing the ‘Safe At Home’ album by the International Submarine Band that featured one Gram Parsons. Of course, major international success beckoned when he penned the 1966 pop hit, ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, for Nancy Sinatra.

Informative sleeve notes come courtesy of Roger Dopson. Well worth searching out if you already have the key solo albums, but are looking to complete the picture on Lee Hazlewood’s musical activity with other artists.

Tim Stenhouse