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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Yes, a bumper 50 hit songs spread over two cds. What amazing value this album is, as most all collections on Humphead are. As country music’s famed Storyteller’s music from the most prolific period in his recording career is jammed tighter than sardines in a can.
Starting with his 1967 hit ‘I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew’ right on through the years till he was all but forgotten by the Nashville major labels in the 1990s this is a mighty affair, and but for a period when he was on RCA virtually the best music he made.
It has been said he only wrote two melodies but in my eyes he was as good as they get; a true storyteller from his head down to then sole of his boots. Apart from a couple or so duets with Dave Dudley, Patti Page and Johnny Cash where non of them hold a candle to his solo work it is all Tom T and an amazing collection of story songs. Stories that cling to you like a burr, I can’t think of few better ways to spend and evening regards listening to music than to pull out an album of true classics from the Virginian-born and raised performer. Hall, though now enjoying life of near retirement he is still writing, mostly with his wife, Dixie Hall material directed at the bluegrass idiom he set the benchmark for songwriting. Of the many gems his songs ‘Homecoming’ about him returning there after working on the road and the old men in ‘The Year Clayton Delaney Died’ and ‘Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine’ are stand outs. Plus, there are the fabulous and simple odes ‘Tulsa Telephone Book’ and ‘Ravishing Ruby’ alongside the likes of ‘Faster Horses’and ‘A Week In A Country Jail’ are also songs I never tire of hearing no matter what!
There are also the likes of the heart-tugging ‘Second Hand Flowers’ and wryly penned ‘Don’t Forget The Coffee Billy Joe’ plus a cover of the Manfred Mann hit ‘Fox On The Run’. Done bluegrass fashion it takes on a new dimension. As it did when the Country Gentlemen recorded it. In fact it is bluegrass that sees to it that this Tom T collection bows out on a high as ‘Bill Monroe For Breakfast’ and melancholy ‘The Way I’ve Always Been’ (both from 1997) lift the standard after it had dipped, slightly.
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