Friday Night Music Byte
Lynnrockets recently watched the film Julie & Julia about a thirty year old New Yorker who decided to cook every dish in one of Julia Childs’ cookbooks and to blog about it. It was a novel idea so we decided to copy it. No, we will not be cooking in the usual sense (that could start a fire). Rather, we will adapt the recipe a day concept to our nightly music bytes. From now to infinity (didn’t somebody else coin that phrase?) we will post a music video and brief description of the artist or song in a sort of alphabetical order as culled from Tom Moon’s wonderful reference book, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die (A Listener’s Life List). The book describes both whole albums (remember those) and individual songs from all music genres that are essential listening. Do yourselves a favor and purchase this book. Where the book deals with an individual song, we will post that song, but when an entire album is the subject, we will exercise judicial discretion and post a single song therefrom. So what do you say, let’s get cooking…
Tom T. Hall In Search Of A Song – “The Little Lady Preacher” (1971)
By the time Tom T. Hall began making records in the 60’s, most of the basic themes of country songs – cheating hearts and brawls and sad girls left alone at the bar – had been well explored. This did not deter the sharp-eyed singer, songwriter and guitarist who grew up in Olive Hill, Kentucky. First he wrote about morality and manners – his best-known song is the Jeannie C. Riley hit about hypocrites, “Harper Valley PTA”. Then, after a few years of mid-level success, Hall set out on long solo drives, searching for the truths known only to residents of small town America. He found characters and song ideas by the bushel, and these he harvested for several years, earning the moniker “The Storyteller”.
This album plays like a rambler’s road diary, or a novel filled with larger than life characters. It begins with “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”, a portrait of Hall’s childhood hero Floyd Carter, a hard-drinking musician. Then come tales of love in vain (“Tulsa Telephone Book”) and journalistic accounts of tragedies (“Trip To Hyden” visits the scene of a mining accident).
Every now and then Hall, who’s straight forward singing style is bolstered by equally unaffected arrangements, shares his own experiences. “Kentucky, February 27, 1971” is his account of a pilgrimage he made to a wise and weary farmer. He was, as the album title implies, in search of a song. Instead, he gets an earful about why kids don’t hang around the unforgiving hills, and then an apology from the farmer: “Guess there ain’t no song here after all”.
Another gem, “The Little Lady Preacher”, sounds as if it might be autobiographical; it finds the narrator, a drifter who fits Hall’s general profile, playing bass for a weekly religious radio show. Hall describes the guitarist next to him as a good musician with a penchant for drink and reckless living, and over several verses describes how the guitarist and the pious lady preacher become friendly. One week Hall shows up for work and they’ve vanished. together. Stunned because he’s unemployed, and because he will miss that attractive preacher, he can’t help but wonder “who it was converted whom”. They just don’t write ’em like that anymore.