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CD Review: Big Rig Hits - Various Artists

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Reviewed by Jolene Downs

Big Rig Hits is an album that includes 20 classic truck-driving songs from various artists. These songs were recorded between 1939 and 1969. There is a good balance of slow and fast, funny and serious. When I think of truck driving songs, I think of something like "Six Days On The Road." While that song was included on this album, several of the songs had me rethinking what a truck driving song really is. In doing some research, I found that there are four men that are referred to as the "Four Horsemen of Trucking Music." They are Dave Dudley,

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Red Sovine, Red Simpson and Dick Curless. These are the men that sort of shaped the concept of truck driving music. While Red Sovine is not included in this collection, (I think he came on the scene a bit later) there are songs from the other three that are included. The Country Music Foundation and Diesel Only Records made the reissue of these songs possible.

Cliff Bruner & his boys recorded the first track, "Truck Driver's Blues," in 1939 and set the standard for the new era of trucking songs. Trucking songs often feature the lonely trucker with a girl and a hot pot of coffee at every stop. This particular song has the western swing feel.

"Truck Driver's Sweetheart" is by Karl & Harty and features a singing truck driver. It is the story of a group of truckers who like a particular stop because of the sweet girl that works there. Everyone tries to win her favor, but she says she will stay single and remain a sweetheart for all. It is a slow-tempo song.

"Truck Driver's Boogie" was recorded by the Milo Twins and is another swing-tempo song. He spends the song singing his own praises. He is "just a truck driving man - the best in the land." He has a sweetie waiting for him at home. He has a ring in his pocket and is on his way to give it to her.

"Truck Driver's Night Run Blues" is by Joe "Cannonball" Lewis and has a blue-grass flavor. You can hear the upright bass keeping time throughout the song. He is done with the night driving and is now ready for a day job. He shows off his yodeling skills throughout the song as well.

"Diesel Smoke (Dangerous Curves)" is one of the neater songs on the album and is recorded by Doye O'Dell. I think the neatest thing about this song, aside from the vocals, is the special sound effects done with the fiddle. Along with the sound of a running motor and the air horn, they use the fiddle to give the song a "dark" edge. He is negotiating hairpin curves and mountain terrain after doing too much partying the night before.

"Truck Driving Man," by Terry Fell & The Fellers, is an up-tempo song featuring heavy harmonica. Makes you want to tap your toes along to the beat.

"I'm Coming Home," by Johnny Horton, is another up-tempo song. It has the distinctive guitar beat heard in many of his songs. He is on his way home to his woman and nothing will stand in the way.

"Six Days On The Road" is probably THE song I think of when I hear the term "trucking song." It is recorded by Dave Dudley (one of the "Four Horsemen" of trucking music) and recently re-released by Sawyer Brown. It is truly a classic and a pleasure to listen to. The title pretty much describes what the song is about. He has been on the road and is looking forward to getting home tonight! Nothing will stand in his way.

I first heard the song "Girl On The Billboard" when I was still a kid. I thought it was hilarious. It is recorded by Del Reeves. There is a girl on a billboard wearing nothing but a smile and a towel in the picture on the billboard in the field near the big old highway. He spends the song wondering what would happen if someone took her towel away. The law enforcement in that area seems to feel he shouldn't slow down so much when he passes the sign. The guy that painted the sign told him the girl wasn't real and to get his (raspberry noise) on the way. It is a great song.

Kay Adams recorded "Little Pink Mack." It is the only song on the album by a woman. She is a woman trucker and her truck is a "little pink Mack" all decorated up with curtains in the sleeper and she stands all of 5'3". But she can take care of herself. I came to enjoy this song. It really grew on me. It has a very traditional country tempo. All the truckers are asking, "Who is the girl in the little pink Mack?"

"A Tombstone Every Mile" is by Dick Curless. He is another of the "Four Horsemen" of trucking music. It is another traditional country tempo song. It is the story of a stretch of woods in Maine. He says that if you buried all the truckers lost in those woods there would be a tombstone every mile. Of course you need to drive through those woods to get to "Boston Town."

Every old-time, traditional country album has to include a sad, ballad-type song. In the case of Big Rig Hits, "Widow Maker" fits that requirement nicely. It is the story of a trucker who gives his life to save many. He drove his truck off the road in order to save a group of kids. Jimmy Martin recorded this haunting song.

"Diesel On My Tail" is an up-beat, fun tune. It is the story from the perspective of someone in a small, foreign car that inadvertently cuts off a semi. The driver of the big rig is none too happy and is scaring the daylights out of this poor guy. It is a cute song. There is nothing quite like having a 16 wheeler on your tail when you are in a beetle.

"Roll, Truck, Roll" is the final track on this album. Red Simpson, who is another of the "Four Horsemen" of trucking music, records it. Throughout most of the song he is telling a story to the music softly playing in the background. It is the story of a man tired of life on the road. He wants to spend time with his wife and family. He says "roll, truck, roll just take me on home."

This is a wonderful album to pop in and take a trip down memory lane. It is from the time before electric instruments overpowered the vocal talents of the artists, and you can really appreciate the true musical talent without the benefit of today's "fix-it" technology. I really enjoy the songs where the vocals and instruments are used to produce special effects. It adds so much more dimension to the album.

Song List:

  1. Truck Driver Blues by Bruner, Cliff & His Boys
  2. Truck Drivers Coffee Shop by Reinhart, Dick & His Lone Star Boys
  3. I'm a Truck Driving Man by Art Gibson
  4. Truck Drivers Boogie by Milo Twins
  5. Truck Drivers Night Run Blues by Joe "Cannonball" Lewis
  6. Diesel Smoke by Doyle O'Dell
  7. Truck Driving Man by Fell, Terry & The Fellers
  8. I'm Coming Home by Johnny Horton
  9. Six Days on the Road by Dave Dudley
  10. Highway Man by Curtis Leach
  11. Girl on the Billboard by Del Reeves
  12. Little Pink Mack by Kay Adams
  13. Tombstone Every Mile by Dick Curless
  14. Diesel on My Tail by Virginia Boys
  15. Widow Maker by Jimmy Martin
  16. Gear Bustin' Sort of a Feller by Bobby Braddock
  17. Big Rig Rollin' Man by Johnny $ Dollar
  18. Roll, Truck, Roll by Red Simpson
  19. Truck Driver's Sweetheart by Karl & Harty
  20. Truck Drivin' Cat With Nine Lives by Jim Nesbitt

Sound clips courtesy of Barnes & Noble.
All graphics © Shelly Fabian, with the exception of the album cover, used with permission of Diesel Only Records.

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