Grandpa Jones

Grandpa Jones Sings Real Folk Songs

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In mid-1963, amid the interregnum between the first rock & roll era and the British Invasion, folk music was sweeping not only college campuses but the airwaves as well. Fred Foster at Monument Records didn't mind that Grandpa Jones wanted to do a folk song album, though his intentions were not strictly commercial -- Jones, an older and very conservative member of the country music community (he campaigned full-time against Senator Albert Gore Sr.'s re-election in 1970), resented the songs that he'd played for decades being co-opted and commercialized by college-educated and increasingly leftist-oriented singers from the Northeast, and he wanted to "answer" the folk song revival with his own, more authentic versions. The result was Grandpa Jones Sings Real Folk Songs, a pleasant but only intermittently uninspired body of music -- the playing is impeccable throughout, and the singing on "Fatal Wedding," "What Does the Deep Sea Say," and "Tragic Romance" is beautiful, but as a concept the album lacked the consistency of the albums that preceded it; only in a few places, such as "Kickin' Mule," "Liza's Up the 'Simmon Tree," and "Methodist Pie," did one get the feeling of excitement that one wanted from a Grandpa Jones album. It wasn't a good seller at the time, missing most of the collegiate audience -- who would've been appalled at "Goin' from the Cotton Fields," the chosen "answer song" to Leadbelly's "Cotton Fields" (which had been a hit for the Limeliters), with its sentimental view of the plantation -- and ignored by Jones' country listeners, though the songs vastly broadened his recorded legacy, and even the offending word was an honest expression of his way of thinking.