Although jazz had flirted with country long before Satchmo released Louis ˝Country & Western˝ Armstrong, this recording is essential.
It stands in the middle somewhere between Bob Wills’ legendary country swing (aka Texas swing) of the thirties and the forties and Willie Nelson’s country-jazz crossover records in the early eighties.
C&W Armstrong has been virtually ignored, now out of print and and never even available on CD.
The record itself is nowhere near as groundbreaking as the work released by Wills, Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Bill Frisell or bluegrass-jazz innovators Bela Fleck and Alison Brown.
In fact, Armstrong doesn’t even play his trumpet on the record, but his trademark raspy vocal chops are at work.
The record is filled out with Nashville’s session men Jack Eubanks (lead guitar), Stu Basore (steel guitar), Willie Ackerman (skins), Hank Strzelecki (bass), Larry Butler (piano) and Billie Grammer (rhythm guitar).
What is rather strange to lying on the side one is his contemporary pop take on hippie folk-rockers The Youngbloods’s ˝Get Together.˝
Yet hearing Satchmo laying his legendary chops over country classics such as ’Miller’s Cave’ (a hit for Hank Snow), ’Almost Persuaded’ (David Houston), and ’Crazy Arms’ (Ray Price) makes this worth seeking out.
The record has much in common with Ray Charles’ legendary Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.
New Sounds was the definitive crossover album by Charles that helped to create the sub-genre known as country soul.
Ray built a section of his career on this sound without ever taking on the full extent of country music.
Yet Charles’s cover of Don Gibson’s ˝I Can’t Stop Loving You˝ and Johnny Cash’s ˝Busted˝ are R&B classics.
Yet no one in the jazz community ever tackled Country with such zeal.
While some may cast this record as a novelty, one play of this record proves that certainly isn’t so.
While contemporaries such as Miles was fusing rock and funk into jazz, Louis took on a music he enjoyed as well.
With this record Louis proved that country was an original American icon that deserved the same amount of fervor given to jazz.
His amazing phrasing and tenderness on the ballads proved he loved this music.
It’s unfortunate that the record hasn’t gotten that much attention.
At least when Coltrane released Ballads or Bird put out Charlie Parker with Strings there was controversy about ˝selling out.’ There is no sell out here, either. Why would there be? This is a record that captures a man singing songs he truly liked for an audience that was rather fickle about the chosen genre.