The Essential Marty Robbins
This collection takes me back to 1959, when I was a 5-year-old kid riding in the back of the family station wagon down a dirt road to the ranch with the radio playing Marty Robbins’ No. 1 hit, “El Paso.” The song’s simple Spanish-guitar melody and Robbins’ dramatic narrative about the consequences of a fatal gunfight between romantic rivals really stirred my youthful imagination. It was like watching a movie, only better. The heroic “Big Iron,” about the deadly encounter of the outlaw Texas Red and “the Ranger with the big iron on his hip,” was even better. But those gunfighter ballads, brilliant and essential as they are to American musical history, are only a part of the Robbins legacy. His smooth, broad-ranged voice could inform a song like Gordon Lightfoot’s emotionally poetic “Ribbon of Darkness” with a tragic romanticism that still sends shivers up my spine. This two-CD set brings all Robbins’ hits together with some less familiar songs that illuminate a career worth commemorating.