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Handsome Ned

The Name Is Ned – 2000 (EMI Music Canada)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Handsome Ned

Handsome Ned Masyk was a Canadian music phenomenon who, before his untimely death in 1987, was more-or-less responsible for the development of what would now be labeled an alternative country scene in Toronto. He left little behind by way of recorded output: a single and a handful of studio tracks with the Sidewinders, a band with a straight-ahead, vintage Sun-era rockabilly sound (an orientation attested to by one of the band's tunes, "Sun Rockin'"); a single by his subsequent outfit, The Handsome Neds, which moved more in a country direction, although the two tracks they recorded were basically an extension of the Sidewinders' sound; and a lone, unreleased recording by the next incarnation of hisband, The New Neds.

Nonetheless, this sparse legacy manifests an undeniable - if still rough - talent and presence. Most of these tracks first saw the light of day on a 1989 Virgin LP. They're on this compilation as well, but are far outnumbered by live radio, concert and club recordings that include a few Handsome Ned originals but are mainly covers of the likes of Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard and Don Gibson.

The driving force behind this compilation - as he was for the earlier Handsome Ned album - was Ned's brother, Jim Masyk. Unfortunately, reluctant as one may be to criticize brotherly love, one wishes that in this case it had been tempered by an editor's discretion. Rather than letting live performances of varying sonic and musical quality predominate, it would have been a better tribute and introduction to the man to have taken the cream of those performances - tracks like the powerful rendition of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," and Ned's own highballing "That'll Be the Love" - and combined them with the studio recordings on a single disc.