Various Artists

Real: The Tom T. Hall Project

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Real: The Tom T. Hall Project Review

by Steve Huey

Real: The Tom T. Hall Project assembles a wide variety of Nashville denizens, alt-country enthusiasts, and folky singer/songwriter types to pay tribute to the songs of Tom T. Hall. The result is that rare tribute album which sums up the strengths of its subject while introducing a fair number of legitimate interpretations of that artist's work. Not everything here hits the mark, but much of it does, and it handsomely illustrates the depth of Hall's writing and the versatility of his music. The performers vary widely not only in their preferred musical style, but also in their tactics of interpretation: Some strip the songs down to the barest musical bone in order to emphasize the lyrics, while others take new approaches to reinventing the songs, placing them in musical backdrops which reveal additional emotional facets behind the lyrics. Highlights include Johnny Cash's "I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew," Iris DeMent's "I Miss a Lot of Trains," Syd Straw's "Harper Valley P.T.A.," Ralph Stanley's "The Water Lily," Kelly Willis' "That's How I Got to Memphis," Whiskeytown's "I Hope It Rains at My Funeral," Mark Olson's "It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines" (featuring Victoria Williams), and Joe Henry's "Homecoming."

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