Harry McClintock

Hallelujah I'm a Bum

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This delightful collection gets off on a good foot with "Hallelujah I'm a Bum," a song all good citizens should know by heart. The recording artist known as Haywire Mac, Radio Mac, and sometimes just plain Mac was above all Harry McClintock, who recorded for Victor for about three years, beginning in 1928. He also had a successful radio career, but couldn't have been less of a normal professional musician, if there is such a creature. He built up his repertoire of folk songs and original variations through years of hard knocking as a hobo, seaman, sheep herder, railroader, cowboy, muleskinner, newspaper reporter, and probably toughest of all, poet. These antique recordings come with a bristle of surface noise which sometimes rises to a snap and pop level that would please certain cereal elves. McClintock's singing is like a reassuring voice of reason, patiently reminding the listener of historical certainties or sometimes just telling a story. He gets treated to a variety of different accompaniments on these productions. Sometimes the scenario is sparse, with minimal, mostly bass-run guitar lines or a bit of fiddle. Other tracks are more elaborate, with something like a half a dozen musicians flailing away under the menacing name of the Haywire Orchestra and breaking into comedy material during "Fireman, Save My Child." The female singer, Doroty Ellen Cole, does an even funnier turn as a prim and proper matron who turns away a homeless, hungry hobo. A fascinating aspect of these recordings is the way the melodies of some of the well-known folk songs as sung by McClintock have been altered over the years by schoolteachers, choir directors, and songbook publishers. "Git Along, Little Doggies" is a perfect example. The melody on this recording has major differences from the way a grade school class would be taught to sing this cowboy chestnut. McClintock's version isn't haywire, it just contains intervals that sound more like music from Eastern Europe, unlike the wholesome Westernized version. Needless to say, McClintock's is the superior version. Listeners who feel pressured by the manic pace of modern society will most likely like the bum material, not only the well-known title song, but the lazily titled "The Bum Song" and "The Bum Song No. #2." Those who associate folk music with the sanitized dribblings of Peter, Paul & Mary should really check out the real deal -- stuff like this. The original release came with the killer Haywire Mac souvenir booklet, including articles and letters written by the man himself, song lyrics, and other informative material.

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