Dedicated record heads will certainly recognize some of the names on the tracklist of Mid-Century Sounds: Deep Cuts From the Desert, a new 2xlp survey of southwestern sounds: country star Waylon Jennings, rockabilly king Sanford Clark, and Wrecking Crew guitarist Al Casey. But it’s the name “Floyd Ramsey” that serves as a thread connecting the disparate sounds of the compilation, tying the western shuffle of Joe Montgomery’s “Two Time Loser” to the loose R&B of Roosevelt Nettles’ Chess single “Drifting Heart” and binding the raw garage rocker “What’s Happening” by Phil and the Frantics to the strutting funk of Fat City. Ramsey owned Phoenix’s Audio Recorders studio — where Duane Eddy cut the famous “Rebel Rouser” with Lee Hazlewood and engineer Jack Miller — and headed a series of record labels, including Liberty Bell, Ramco, MCI, and Rev, responsible for issuing much of the material collected here. In short, a significant stretch of Arizona’s musical history is bound up in the personal history of Floyd Ramsey.
Shepherded by David Hilker and Jeff Freundlich of Phoenix’s Fervor Records, Deep Cuts from the Desert documents the fertile period from 1957-1973. The collection offers a wide-angled snapshot of Phoenix’s popular music scene from that time. Regional hits like Christopher Blue’s soft-pop 1970 single “Happy Just to Be Alive” and Judy Linn’s brass and string-laden 1961 lover’s lament “Old Enough to Have a Broken Heart” sit alongside nationally recognized fare like Al Casey’s “Cooking” and Ted Newman’s “Plaything,” which earned the singer a spot on the RCA Records roster in 1958. Featuring western ballads, sun-baked funk, garage rock, country, and sepia-toned pop, the album speaks to Ramsey’s wide taste and interest in diverse sounds.