Tom T. Hall

Ol T's in Town

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Back in 1979, during the height of drugstore, er, Urban Cowboy mania, there were some artists who were beginning to be forgotten by the public due to the media's obsession with the glamour of the moment. It's a shame, because a number of country artists -- such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe, Mickey Gilley, Tammy Wynette, Gail Davies, and the man whose name is on this album -- were making some of the best records of their careers. Ol T's in Town is a hard country album recorded during a time when country music was beginning to forget where it came from. Pedal steel, honky tonk pianos, fiddles, banjos, and acoustic guitars saturate the upfront production of Roy Dea (he died shortly after finishing the recording). In addition, some of Hall's most memorable songs are here, including "Jesus on the Radio (Daddy on the Phone)," "The Old Side of Town," "I Left You Some Kisses on the Door," and "You Show Me Your Heart (I'll Show You Mine)." Hall is a storyteller, and in a mix this clean and simple, the power of his pastoral images comes across with immediacy and majesty. As an album, this acts like a collection of songs laid out in a grid. The opener, "The Last Country Song," is the first in a series of songs that reflect on the innocence of earlier times ("The Old Side of Town," "Old Habits Die Hard") and as warnings against a future of rampant opportunism ("Greed Kills More People Than Whiskey"). Once the societal concerns are out of the way the topic turns to love -- newly discovered, mature ("The Different Feeling"), broken, and resolved ("I Left You Some Kisses on the Door"). The entire album is a journey through the tradition of country music, as well as through the emotional terrain of a songwriter who is at a crossroads when the music he loves is changing, and he's also observing the lives of the people he has spent his career writing about as they change. Ol T's in Town is brilliant and an essential building block in Hall's collection.

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