Tom T. Hall is boundless in his artistry as a storyteller. The title of this project was inspired by a quote Steve Earle gave in an interview with No Depression magazine, where he stated that no categorization is necessary when you're dealing with real music. Because of the diversity of artists, this project bypasses the mundane that most tributes display. Containing folk to rock to country and bluegrass artists, Real serves to reinforce the notion that Tom T. Hall has influenced the many genres of American music. There are many highlights on this double-length album, beginning with the incomparable Johnny Cash and his acoustic rendition of "I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew." Calexico performs a dour Tex-Mex version of "Tulsa Telephone Book," giving an uncommon edge that captures the solitude of the original Hall composition. Richard Buckner emotes the sadness of "When Love Is Gone," in his stark reading, and legendary bluegrass great Ralph Stanley and his son Ralph Jr. resurrect of "The Water Lily." Also, the Mary Janes' cover of "I'm Not Ready Yet" would set comfortably on any country jukebox, and Syd Straw turns in a humorous tongue-in-cheek twist on the multi-million seller "Harper Valley, P.T.A.," while being backed spiritedly by the Skeletons. While this record has a dark aura that defies Hall's distinctively cheerful image, it works extremely well. A worthy tribute, that not only fulfills its sincere intentions, but also spotlights the innovative songwriting talent that is Tom T. Hall.
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