Burl Ives

Blue Tail Fly

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Burl Ives' restrained, grandfatherly croon was perfect for taking the rough edges off ragged folk melodies and reintroducing them to the public, much as Bradley Kincaid had done in the era before him. If Ives' avuncular folk versions seem to fall to the quaint side of things, they were undeniably comfortable as an old shirt, easy to wear and free of subliminal politics (even though Ives was an ardent activist). This collection gathers over two dozen sides, all featuring Ives' comfortable, kindly uncle approach, a style that was both Ives' strength and his weakness, because after three or four songs, it all begins to blend together in a leisurely flow, and some of the wild, ragged edges of these folk songs are unfortunately washed away by Ives' smoothness. Still, songs like "Blue Tail Fly," his 1947 hit with the Andrews Sisters, were rescued from a lonely fate of being cited only in academic folk journals by his popularity, even if the sly and veiled stabs at the plantation South in the song were bleached away by Ives' approach. Ives continually strove to present folk music in the simplest light without ruffling feathers, and if that makes him seem less vital and hip than a Woody Guthrie or a Pete Seeger, he was still working toward the same ends along the exact same road.

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