Ed McCurdy

Sin Songs, Pro and Con

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At the outset of his career, Ed McCurdy was part of the cutting edge of folk music, with his own take on the repertory -- in contrast to Burl Ives' focus on gentle children's songs (which McCurdy also performed) or the Weavers' concentration on political consciousness-raising (which McCurdy did too), he most enjoyed singing about the pleasures of the flesh. On Sin Songs, the first of his successes in this vein, he dealt with an enjoyment of alcohol and tobacco as well the opposite sex. McCurdy's singing is honest and unembellished, without the kind of sweetening that younger performers tended to provide -- he lets the words' meanings sink in without artifice, which can make these songs seem a little plain at first. "The Gambler's Song" borrows a tune more familiar to most of us as "The Crawdad Hole," with some playful lyrics that work their charms very quietly, and a beguilingly quiet vocal version of "Good Old Mountain Dew," a song better known in a more extroverted version by Grandpa Jones, among others; and a version of the Tex Ritter standard "Rye Whiskey" that is positively reflective in its gentleness. Many of these songs seem to run short, because none are extended with instrumental breaks in the manner of the later pop-folk movement; whatever was handed down is what you get, nothing more.