Ernest Tubb Record Shop

Ernest Tubb & The Texas Troubadors

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Ernest Tubb Record Shop Review

by Eugene Chadbourne

Is this the only album ever named after a record store? There really ought to be more, considering how important record stores are in the history of recordings. Of course, the fact that the artist owns the shop probably helped with the titling decision, a savvy bit of self-promotion from a guy who was pretty good at that sort of stuff. Cut during four sessions spread over about a week in the spring of 1960, this is a superbly produced session with the stamp of Owen Bradley all over it. The sound is luscious and fat, sporting exciting trademarks such as tandem lead guitars. Drumming by Murrey Herman could be considered a textbook example of fine country & western timekeeping. Hint to drummers: he uses brushes most of the time. Terrific piano playing by Floyd Cramer sends some of the tracks over the edge into the realm of the sublime. Bobby Garrett supplies the required country ambience on pedal steel, while the lead guitar duties are doubled up between Grady Martin and Buddy Emmons, the latter more famous as a pedal steel man but certainly not a lazybones on the smaller axe either. By this period in his career, Tubb was hardly writing songs anymore. Instead he would choose from stacks of material that was being offered to him, as well as putting together cover versions of hits. Here we actually have something of a concept album, in which he is supposedly performing songs by other artists that are best-sellers in his shop. This includes several numbers that have certainly received more than their share of cover versions, such as "He'll Have to Go" and the classic Hank Williams testament to powerlessness, "You Win Again." Tubb makes these numbers all his own, sometimes apparently effortlessly and sometimes by hitting a note nobody else can, such as the way he handles the line "I'll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low" in the former song. "Who Will Buy the Wine" by Billy Mize, a stinging portrait of a drunken floozy, is a classic honky tonk number. It is in some ways amazing that Tubb can deliver a tawdry number such as this so convincingly, while at the same time putting across such a wholesome personality. The Western swing shuffle beat gets a good workout on "Pick Me up on Your Way Down," and again if the "down" refers to musical pitches, one isn't going to find too many other singers to pick up hanging around in this basement part of the vocal range. There are records by this artist that are a bit more inspired and feature even better instrumental lineups. But this one really should satisfy any kind of fan of country music, and Tubb-thumpers will certainly want it for the cover alone, which features him posing in front of a record rack in his store. This illustration joins the interesting list of record jackets in which artists put albums by other performers on view, but a closer look in this case will reveal mercenary intentions. All the albums in the racks happen to be ones that are also on the Decca label.

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