Tennessee Ernie Ford

The Ultimate Collection (1949-1965)

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As Rhino's excellent 16 Tons of Boogie compilation went out of print once Capitol was no longer their distributor, this 1997 40-track, two-disc collection takes its place and picks up the slack admirably. Covering the prime years of Ford's recording tenure with Capitol (1949-1965), it contains all of his biggest hits, including "Sixteen Tons," "Hicktown," "Tennessee Border," "Mule Train," and "Shotgun Boogie." Keeping things in a fairly chronological order (with the lone exception of a 1975 duet with Glen Campbell), it begins with a nice cross section of his early hillbilly boogie hits, including "Smokey Mountain Boogie" and "Blues Stay Away From Me," a duet with Merle Travis. Ford was also one of the first country artists to be mated with pop performers for country-crossover duet work, and his pairings with the brassy Kay Starr ("I'll Never Be Free" and "Ain't Nobody's Business but My Own"), the Dinning Sisters ("Rock City Boogie"), movie star Betty Hutton ("This Must Be the Place"), ragtime pianist Joe "Fingers" Carr ("Tailor Made Woman"), and big band singer Helen O'Connell ("Hey Good Lookin'") are largely successful for what he brings to the proceedings. The pop crossover years, starting with the 1950s success of "Sixteen Tons," is well-represented by tracks like "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry" (later a pop hit for the Caravelles), and his many fine gospel recordings from the early '60s also come in for a fine selection, with the Jordanaires featured on most tracks. Until a multi-disc box-set retrospective of Ford's complete Capitol recordings gets issued (and with 83 LPs and a pile of singles, this would be bordering on unwieldy), this is the best -- and most digestible -- cross section of his work available, accessible to both fans and historians alike.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:25
2 2:23
3 2:23
4 2:38
5 2:08
6
feat: Merle Travis
2:37
7 3:04
8 2:25
9 2:33
10 3:12
11
feat: Kay Starr
2:39
12
feat: Kay Starr
2:36
13 3:05
14 2:36
15 2:48
16 2:20
17 3:01
18 3:08
19 2:12
20 2:04

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:06
2 2:28
3 2:34
4
feat: Betty Hutton
1:56
5 2:31
6 2:53
7 2:36
8 2:36
9 2:12
10 2:47
11 2:58
12 2:49
13 2:52
14 3:03
15 2:54
16 3:09
17 2:37
18 2:45
19 2:13
20 2:55
blue highlight denotes track pick