Collin Raye, John Hartford CDs Lead New Albums

Collin Raye ’s final album for Sony Music Nashville, a new collection of out-takes from the late John Hartford ’s pivotal Aereo-Plain and the debut work from a young Texas honky-tonk star highlight new country releases this week.

Raye and Sony Music’s Epic Records have parted ways, but the company is proceeding with the release of his new album, Can’t Back Down. During his years with Epic, Raye had hits such as “Little Rock,” “One Boy, One Girl,” “I Look at You” and “My Kind of Girl.”

Raye co-wrote “Young as We’re Ever Gonna Be” on the new album with his brother, Scott Wray. (Collin’s real name is Floyd Collin Wray; he and Scott started as the Wray Brothers Band and had considerable success in the 1980s.) Other cuts come from songwriters such as Michael McDonald, Billy Montana, Rivers Rutherford, Karen Taylor-Good, Kim Carnes, Brent Maher and Thom Schuyler.

Hartford produced Aereo-Plain in 1971, and it has gone on to become his most acclaimed album. He recorded the amalgamation of old fiddle tunes, bluegrass standards and new Hartford compositions and wordplay with the Aereoplane Band — fiddler Vassar Clements, guitarist and mandolin player Norman Blake and Dobro player Tut Taylor, with bassist Randy Scruggs on some songs.

Long-lost tapes from the Aereo-Plain recording sessions surfaced last year, and the result is Steam Powered Aereo-Takes (Rounder). The 18 songs include “The Vamp From the Goodle Days” (a variation on “Goodle Days” on the original album), “Bad Music (Is Better Than No Music at All),” “Keep on Truckin'” “Emanuel Cant” and “Presbyterian Guitar.”

Rodney Hayden is a 21-year-old Texas honky-tonk singer with years of dancehall experience already under his belt. A singer and writer in the rough-hewn Texas singer-songwriter tradition of Billy Joe Shaver , Dale Watson and Robert Earl Keen, Hayden gathered up a collection of his work and sent a tape to Keen. The latter proceeded to sign him to his company, Rosetta Management, and the result is Hayden’s debut work, The Real Thing (Rosetta).

George Strait ’s producer, Tony Brown, was impressed enough by word-of-mouth to fly to Texas, see Hayden perform at Austin’s Broken Spoke and produce several of the album tracks, including the Chip Taylor-penned title track and first single. That song, “The Real Thing,” also appears on Strait’s current The Road Less Traveled. Hayden wrote seven of the 11 songs on the album and also includes a cover version of Shaver’s interracial romance song “Black Rose.” The album will be introduced at a free beer party Saturday (Jan. 26) at the Saengerhalle in New Braunfels, Texas.

This week’s crop of releases also includes re-issues from Western swing legends Bob Wills and Tex Williams . Wills is represented by The Original Columbia Recordings, Volume II: Stay a Little Longer (Rounder). Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded for Columbia Records in their prime years in the late 1930s and 1940s. This 16-track set covers the period 1935-41 and includes “Time Changes Everything,” “Steel Guitar Rag” and “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”

Williams and his Texas Caravan were popular in California in the 1940s and early 1950s. His biggest hit, included on That’s What I Like About the West (ASV), was the Merle Travis -penned “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette.” Also included are titles such as “Don’t Telephone, Don’t Telegraph, Tell a Woman,” and “Life Gets Teejus Don’t It.”