1001 Albums:Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs



Artist: Marty Robbins

Album: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Year: 1959

Length: 44:44

Genre: Outlaw Country


“I fell in with an outlaw band, their names were known quite well
How many times we robbed and plundered, I could never tell
This kind of sinful living leads only to a fall
I learned that much and more the night I heard my Master call.”

I’m a little frustrated about something. This is something infuriating that has been happening with music, particularly old music. This idea that old albums are seemingly not good enough to stand on their own so they need to be re-released in a new way. You know what I’m talking about. The new revamped version of your favourite old album, with additional songs, demo versions of the same songs that appear throughout. How about a completely reorganized version of the original album with songs in different places giving you a brand new sequence to listen to? Deluxe editions are pretty cool, don’t get me wrong, especially if you’re a fan, but they should not be the version of the album that is the most easily accessible to the listener and should be reserved as a fun little extra for people who are just dying to hear that live version of that one particular song.

I got tricked by this one. Although I encountered deluxe versions of some of the other albums, I was usually able to realise early enough that it was and be able to seek out the original version. In this case I was duped, believing the version I heard to be the original and only finding out afterwards that the version I heard was the 1999 CD release of the album and not the original LP. Why would they do this? Why would they not keep the original version in tact as it’s own thing? Why did they resequence it? Why??? And why didn’t spotify make it clear to me that this wasn’t the original LP?

Ok, so it wasn’t far off from the original. Sure the songs were in a different order and some of the added songs were very enjoyable and probably ended up being my favourites (so the additions were well worth it I guess). But it takes away from the experience of listening to the original LP. Especially since I was framing my criticism around how this particular one sounded, only to be told, whoops it’s not really how it should be. As much as it doesn’t change much, it changes everything. The book specifically mentions the 1959 version and there must be good reason. Who knows maybe my opinion of the album would be very different if I had the original instead of the re-issue. Who KNOWS?! Maybe I’m overreacting here because the songs aren’t stylistically drastically different from one another and follow a pretty solid formula the whole way through, having it rearranged probably won’t give much of a different experience… except for maybe the storytelling. You know what? I will save this one for a re-visit one day (I think I’m up to three revisits, jesus and I’m only in the fifties, oh well). But for now, here’s what I have from this version.

This is Country. For those who know me know I hate country. I don’t just hate it, I hate it with a burning passion. Country and I don’t sit well. I can’t sit through any country songs without getting angry, upset, annoyed and just completely infuriated. It’s cheesy, badly goofy and the vocals make me want to punch something. Especially modern day pop-country, Garth Brooks can honestly just  SHUT. UP. I am very happy there is no Garth Brooks on this list or any pop country (that I’m aware of) either, so I am spared the torture.

That being said, this album is Country that I love. This is exactly what I want from a country album. It’s not cheesy (well for the most part, especially compared to lovey-dovey gooey-pooey country) and stylistically feels like it’s straight out of a western, which was always the country music I loved to hear. Lyrically it talks cowboy outlaw stories and more often than not paints a well-detailed moving picture for the listener. Almost like telling the story of a famed outlaw and his many adventures, was pretty exciting, I’m not going to lie. However, this album was a little deceptive to me. Right at the start it brought me in and kept me hooked. I was skeptical at first (see my hate for country up there) but that all went away the minute the first song started. Yes it was going to be that type of Country music, now I’m excited. and then… for the next batch of songs, although they were good and each told it’s own story… it suddenly became repetitive musically. (Yeah I know, me criticising something for being repetitive… ha).

Each song really is it’s own, it’s true, but musically… there wasn’t much happening from song to song, which was really disappointing to me, especially after the first song hooked me instantly. I didn’t think it would be practically the same song on repeat after the second one (I mean it wasn’t, but not much was really being done with the guitar or beat to separate it from the last). This went on for quite a few songs. I knew I was listening to a different song, it was telling a whole new story that was fascinating in its own way… but it just sounded like it was sung in the same tune and played in the same way as the last. It wasn’t until the Hanging Tree started that I felt I was finally listening to something that was truly it’s own.

Hard to say if that makes the album bad or not, because for the most part, I really enjoyed it and sure sound-wise it was repetitive, but it seemed to follow a formula that just worked for what it was… I guess. I’m currently at odds with this one… part of me wants to love it while the other part of me feels like it was a let down…

Maybe that’s the true feeling of the outlaw cowboy though. Is your experience right or wrong? Can I run away from the things I love because I feel that it might be wrong? Is it wrong to love things you deem to not be right? What is right and wrong anyway for anything? Can I ride my horse into the sun set while shooting my gun into the air, yodelling all the way through? If I walk into a village unannounced in a cool way, will the villagers harass me or leave me alone? Can I even ride a horse?

Ok, it seems the nyquil I took about an hour ago is starting to dictate for me and I’m speaking gibberish nonsense and Gobble-dee gook. Not a great mix at the moment, but at least I haven’t gone completely loopy… that I’m aware of at least.

Oh no…

Song of Choice: Big Iron


Photoshop Credit: Julian Branco



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