The Drag 'Em Off The Interstate, Sock It To 'Em Hits
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The Baron of Country Music's burly baritone was forceful enough to rattle your walls yet agile enough to scale them. Dick Curless is best remembered for his pulsating trucker hits, many of which are included here, but it's his incredible versatility that raises him to the next level. Classic blues, rich ballads, and pop standards all found a way into his repertoire, and each style showcased a different aspect of Curless's voice, which possessed a rare blend of girth, nuance, and dexterity. If that wasn't enough to make you take notice, his delivery was effortless, relaxed, and graceful. --Marc Greilsamer
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Curless gave the faddish 1960s trucker song legitimacy through Capitol/Tower production values and his innate musical intelligence, but he was a wider artist (call him a country "transportation singer") than those novelties might suggest. He is the only singer, to my knowledge, to popularize Maine potato ranching ("Tombstone every mile" and "Tater raisin' man") or Bible Belt "rack jobbers"--does this job description still exist in the music biz?--("Juke box man"). Curless' transportation songs typically cover big chunks of American geography with maplike accuracy, and in his rack jobber persona Dick is universally popular in a Kentucky-Georgia-Alabama-Tennessee ambit. Beyond the diverse and atypical, off-kilter, subject matter, Curless was a superlative bluesman, emphasized here in "Snap your fingers" (definitive), "Loser's cocktail" and "Stonin' around," plus really astonishing live versions of "Evil-hearted me" and "I'm gonna move to the outskirts of town."
Curless' legacy abides in Canada, where the transportation big-rig song never quite lost its vogue. You may hear Dick Curless' resonance in Ian Tyson's occasional trucking songs, or in Stompin' Tom Connors, and more recently from Corb Lund and Tim Hus ("Hurtin' Albertan"). Hus, especially, channels the bonhomie, the listenability, of this amiable and amazing Curless guy.