various artists,
I Love: Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow
(Red Beet/CMF, 2011)

In 1974 Tom T. Hall, then a major star of country music, released Songs of Fox Hollow (For Children of All Ages) featuring a couple of chart-toppers, "I Love" and "I Care," along with self-penned songs about animals, nature and conservation. The newly issued CD I Love reprises that album with a whole new set of artists assembled by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper, country-folk performers and committed Hall fans. The principal qualification for inclusion, they report, was that the others love Hall's songs as much as they do.

The artists include longtime Hall pals such as Bobby Bare and Tommy Cash, along with younger admirers Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Elizabeth Cook & Tim Carroll, Jim Lauderdale, and Brace & Cooper. Legendary rock 'n' roll guitarist Duane Eddy and Country Hall of Fame steel player Lloyd Green also offer their services. There's one new song, Tom T. & Dixie Hall's "I Made a Friend of a Flower Today," sung by Fayssoux Starling McLean and Tom T.

I don't know what little kids listen to these days. It's been a long time since I lived under a roof with them, though I do recall that mine used to complain that my own musical tastes -- running to the likes of Hank Williams and Roscoe Holcomb -- reminded them of "ghosts singing." I grew up hearing "Old Chisholm Trail" and "Arkansas Traveler," probably explaining my preferences even now. Hall's songs, especially though hardly exclusively the children's ones, have the uncomplicated structure of folk songs and ballads. The difference is that traditional songs are gloriously amoral, while Hall's are morally centered. They use warmth and humor to teach lessons in kindness to each other and to urge care for the natural world and all that inhabit it.

Once upon a time Tom T. recorded a song ("Famous in Missouri") that I co-wrote with Robin & Linda Williams. That was a great honor, needless to say, but even if that had never happened, I'd be deeply fond of Hall's -- and the Halls' -- songs, which continue to flow to this day, if anything in greater abundance than ever. Mostly, Tom T. and Dixie write for bluegrass bands, producing one magnificent storytelling saga after another. Anytime you see their by-line on a song, believe me, you'll want to hear it.

I am not a kid by a long shot, but I like this record, which is very nicely accomplished with loving vocals and solid production. Besides, if kids who hear it grow up with the values it advocates, they'd make happy the sorry old world we grown-ups find ourselves in.

music review by
Jerome Clark

28 May 2011

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