Audio Mixer: Bill Inglot.
Liner Note Author: Kevin Coffey.
Illustrators: Reinhard Pietsch; R.A. Andreas; Mohns Mohnssen.
Photographers: Reinhard Pietsch; R.A. Andreas; Mohns Mohnssen.
Picking up the story where Bear Family's 2011 collection A Real Cool Cat: The Starday Recordings left off, 2015's The Devil's Disciple chronicles the '60s recordings of the neglected honky tonk singer. After cutting a single for TNT in 1959, Burns joined his Starday producer Pappy Daily at his new home at United Artists in 1961 and the pair spent the next two years trying to have a hit to no avail. The singer cut four sides for MGM in 1968 but those sat unreleased until The Devil's Disciple. They lead off the proceedings, giving an incorrect impression that the disc will consist of warm, lived-in, slightly polished jukebox fodder existing somewhere between hardcore and progressive country, but pretty soon that suspicion is dispelled and the compilation serves up song after song of strong, pure country. Burns starts out as a Hank disciple along the lines of George Jones but he, like Possum, eventually had Pappy sweeten his music with background singers and sugary pianos -- all the accouterments of early-'60s Nashville. He handles these turns with aplomb, never sounding any less country as his surroundings get a little fancier. Then again, Burns' sides aren't as lush as much of what made the charts in the early '60s; it's a bit of light flair that allows Burns to remain recognizably Texan. If these cuts often sound like plain cousins to Jones' UA sides, that's no knock on Burns: he may have gotten the leftovers, but he treated them with care and his welcoming, warm barroom croon. This easy touch -- which is especially apparent on the richly produced MGM rejects -- is why The Devil's Disciple is satisfying: it's straight-ahead '60s country that captures much of the charm of its time. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine