Tom T Hall is God

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Okay so make this a S&D and then expand it to a conversation on "country" singersongwriters .

anthony, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Wasn't he one of the few Nashville-establishment figures with a left- of-center (by Nashville standards) viewpoint in the 60s?

tarden, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Tom G. Warrior = betta. Thomas T. Tank-Engine = best.

mark s, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

He writes songs like loping self refrential short stories. Elegant, funny and angry. Noy overtly poltical but definte undertones.

anthony, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

tom t. was great but pretty goofy relative to merle haggard. "okie from muskogee", "fightin' side of me" and "working man's blues"... need I say more? I think there was debate at the time whether the songs were intended as satirical of country values or not, but merle turned out to be an openly potsmoking hippie in later years.

the first kris kristofferson record has a lot of good stuff on it, definitely left-of-centre too. "blame it on the stones" is satirical.

johnny cash's liner notes on "live at folsom prison" are Maoist by nashville standards.

sorry... is this thread about political country or just good nashville songwriters??

fritz, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I don't recall any particularly political Tom T. Hall songs, unless you consider "I like Beer" to be a political statement. An argument could be made...There's a real good tribute album called the Tom T. Hall Project. Worth a look.

other "country" singersongerwriters you might like include Townes Van Zandt (try "Rear View Mirror", which is a nice depressing live recording), Gillian Welch, maybe even Lyle Lovett. Steve Earle has some quite left political statements on his more recent records. I would Search either for "Train a' Comin" or "I Feel Alright". Destroy? oh, there's plenty of possibilities, lots and lots and lots of whiny singer songwriters who end up sounding like James Taylor or something. dunno even where to start on this.

pauls00, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I like beer, it makes me a jolly good fellow! I like beer, it helps me unwind, and sometimes it makes me feel mellow (makes him feeel melllllowwwww). Whiskey's too rough, champagne costs too much, and vodka puts my mouth in gear. This little refrain should help me explain, as a matter of fact I like beer.

This is virtually all I knew of Tom T. throughout the years until Real:The Tom T. Hall Project came out. Gotta say that I really liked the Ron Sexsmith and Kelly Willis songs on that album, though I haven't been overly compelled to get any Tom T. original source material just yet. Maybe someday.

Sean Carruthers, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Political Tom T. Hall song = "The Man Who Hated Freckles", where he calls the racist protagonist a "stupid son of a bitch" ! Well, actually, he says "stupid son of a ____", but still, dude, that was in mainstream Nashville in the early 70s ! The man has balls.

Patrick, Monday, 9 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

so were any of these hits where you lived in the '70s (if you lived in the '70s, i guess most people here didn't) - "I like beer", "I Love", "Old Dogs & children & watermelon wine". 'cause those were yr man's hits out here, which in terms of Nashville rad-ness put him at least as far left-field as John Denver. (But yeah I subsequently heard a buncha his other stuff & some of it's great - do you know a song called "The Homecoming"?)

duane, Thursday, 12 July 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

the amount of as-good-as-the-best-work-ofany-goddamn-songwriter-you-care-to-name numbers on the Storyteller, Poet, Philospher box is just ridiculous. I got into him when he was a kid because my mom liked him, whatever album had "Chattanooga Dog" on it (each song had a little photo representing its title on the cover; I loved that), have listened off and on ever since, but recently got this collection and it's like POW. Great, great, great.

J0hn D., Saturday, 16 August 2008 19:31 (eleven years ago) link

his 1971 concept LP In Search Of A Song is so amazing.

m coleman, Saturday, 16 August 2008 19:36 (eleven years ago) link

gr8080, Saturday, 16 August 2008 19:40 (eleven years ago) link

"That's How I Got to Memphis" is one of my favorite songs of all time

Jena, Saturday, 16 August 2008 20:21 (eleven years ago) link

oh man yeah. best version? is anything fucking w/ the bobby bare version?

tremendoid, Saturday, 16 August 2008 20:45 (eleven years ago) link

I love honest open smiles, kisses from a child, tomatoes on the vine, AND ONIONS

tremendoid, Saturday, 16 August 2008 20:50 (eleven years ago) link

I went to this dude's hometown a couple months ago - Olive Hill, KY. One of those depressing towns where everything's been dead for 40 years. On the way out we noticed someone had changed the sign to read "live ill."

I need to check out his stuff, beyond "Turn It On, Turn It On, Turn It On."

clotpoll, Saturday, 16 August 2008 21:03 (eleven years ago) link

his first five or so LPs are stunning. they always have at least one total dud song on them, though.

amateurist, Saturday, 16 August 2008 21:17 (eleven years ago) link

Quite possibly my all-time favorite lyric:

It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines

The Iowa weather was 13 below
I had come to Des Moines for a radio show
I awoke in the evening from a traveler’s sleep
With notions of something to eat

The old elevator slid down past the floors
My head and my eyes said you should have slept more.
The man at the desk said the restaurant was closed
Outside it was 14 below

The lounge was still open and so I walked in
In place of my food I had two double gins
I looked ’round the room, as a tourist would do
That’s when I saw the girl in the booth

She sat there and cried in the smoky half-dark
The silent type crying that tears out your heart
Her clothes were not cut in the new modern way
And her suitcase had seen better days

Nobody asked her what caused her such pain
Nobody spoke up, yet no one complained
Without even asking, I knew why she cried
Life is just like that sometimes

The man at the desk said, it’s 15 below.
The bellhop said yeah man, that’s cold...that’s cold.
I went back to my room and I wrote down this song
Oh it sure can get cold in Des Moines

Kevin John Bozelka, Saturday, 16 August 2008 21:24 (eleven years ago) link

Tom T. Hall and John Prine were somewhat doing the same thing. Tom T. Hall is great but he was capable of some real monstrosities like anyone else; this afternoon I saw a film clip of him serenading Kitty Wells (in the '80s, I think) with his godawful song about her music as the queen of country music. Straight out of Altman. You gotta love him for that, and he is also kind of the Garrison Keillor of country music, backdated.

whisperineddhurt, Saturday, 16 August 2008 22:45 (eleven years ago) link

He's the Garrison Keillor of country in that they both have that kind of smug, wistful thing going that can be a bit...saccharine, I guess.

whisperineddhurt, Saturday, 16 August 2008 22:46 (eleven years ago) link

and, expanding as thread calls for, I would say that Tom T. Hall and Guy Clark are similar, as writers, and I already mentioned Prine. Who's the writer also from Kentucky who is well known for advocating going back to the land--a novelist and an essayist? Wendell Berry. Similar to him, too. And any number of liberal Baptists or Presbyterian apostates you have in the south. Tom T. Hall has that about him, especially in his scary film clips; he's like a frightening, just barely controlled uncle with weird views on things sitting at Sunday dinner. Uncle Tom has been, er, travelling, children, and has visited the death house in Kentucky and written a song about it. Tom, could I have a word with you in the kitchen, and Tom T. Hall puts out his cigarette in the mason jar of whiskey he's trying to hide from the dog who is also under the table.

And I would say a guy like John D. Loudermilk--writer of "Break My Mind" and "Tobacco Road" and other class-conscious classix, is a precursor to Tom T. Hall. You could draw a line from the Box Tops doing "Break My Mind" to Gram Parsons doing Hall's "I Can't Dance."

whisperineddhurt, Saturday, 16 August 2008 22:52 (eleven years ago) link

Muttered this over on my blog a while back but check out two recent songs he's got up on his Myspace site:

"One of Those Days" and "A Hero In Harlan." (At least I hope they're still there -- the design on the site is a bit ugly...)

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 16 August 2008 23:03 (eleven years ago) link

At the same time, it seems as if Tom T. Hall is pre-hippie. He was eccentric, yet still a part of another culture and time. He wasn't a "head" like Prine and Clark.

I'm fascinated by those songwriters who built the bridge from Roger Miller to Kristofferson, Prine, Clark, etc. Here I'm talking about Hall, as well as Mickey Newbury and John Hartford.

QuantumNoise, Saturday, 16 August 2008 23:05 (eleven years ago) link

One of my all-time favorites, too. (Somewhere around here I have the 3000 or so words I wrote on his 2-LP Essential set for the Boston Phoenix in the late '80s.) In Search Of A Song was always my favorite. "Salute to a Switchblade" is the best song that will ever be written about being a soldier stationed in Germany. And I'm not sure whether you'd call it "political" (well, it's about a guy who wouldn't fight in WWII), but "Turn It On, Turn It On, Turn It On" is the best song ever written about capital punishment. And yeah, I cosign whoever recommended "Homecoming" way up above too.

xhuxk, Sunday, 17 August 2008 00:18 (eleven years ago) link

What I wrote about his not-bad 2007 album for Billboard:

In general, I'd say he's leaned a bit too much toward his more mawkish tendencies in his later years (i.e., the past three decades or so), but if anybody sees a copy of 1983's Everything From Jesus To Jack Daniels around for a couple bucks, I'd suggest they pick it up.

xhuxk, Sunday, 17 August 2008 01:04 (eleven years ago) link

they played ravishing ruby on the college radio station today.

jaxon, Sunday, 17 August 2008 06:13 (eleven years ago) link

Have you read any good telephone books lately?
If you ain't then let me recommend one
I've already read that Tulsa telephone book through 13 times
If you don't know any last names it ain't much fun

I was in Tulsa and didn't have anything going
She was in Tulsa and didn't have anything on
She said my name is Shirley I said my name is T
When I woke up the next morning she was gone

Reading that Tulsa telephone book will drive a man insane
Especially when the girl you're looking for has no last name
I got to find and tell her I don't want our love to end
So I'm reading that Tulsa telephone book again

All of the Tulsa operators know my voice now
They must know how long I've been alone
If you meet a girl named Shirley with some ribbons in her hair
Tell her that she's wanted on the phone

Reading that Tulsa telephone book will drive a man insane
Especially when the girl you're looking for has no last name
I got to find and tell her I don't want our love to end
So I'm reading that Tulsa telephone book again

m coleman, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 22:43 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

I really can not get enough.

retrovaporized nebulizer (╓abies), Saturday, 12 December 2009 01:47 (ten years ago) link

yes, tom t. hall is god:

Tossed and turned the night before in some old motel
Subconsciously recalling some old sinful things I done
My buddy drove the car and those big coal trucks shook us up
As we drove on into Hyden in the early morning sun.

Passed the hound dogs and some dominique chickens
Temporary looking houses with their lean and bashful kids
Every hundred yards a sign proclaimed the Christ was coming soon
And I thought oh man he'd sure be disappointed if he did.

On the way we talked about the forty miners
Of the thirty nine who died and one who lived to tell the tale
We stopped for beans and corn bread at the Ed 'n' Lois Cafe
Then we went to see the sheriff at the Leslie County jail.

They took us to the scene of that disaster
I was so susrprised to not find any sign of death at all
Just another country hillside with some mud holes and some junk
The mines were deadly silent like a rat home in the wall.

It was just like being right inside of a shotgun
The old man coughed and lit a cigarette that he had rolled
Back in town I bought a heavy jacket from the store
It was sunny down in Hyden but somehow the town was cold.

The old man introduced the undertaker
Who seemed refreshed despite the kind of work I knew he did
We talked about the pretty lady from the Grand Ole Opry
We talked about the money she was raising for the kids.

Well, I guess the old man thought we were reporters
He kept reminding me of how his simple name was spelled
Some lady said they worth more money now than when they's a livin'
And I'll leave it there cause I suppose she told it pretty well...

figuratively, but in a very real way (amateurist), Saturday, 12 December 2009 02:27 (ten years ago) link

Xpost I fucking love that song

retrovaporized nebulizer (╓abies), Saturday, 12 December 2009 02:28 (ten years ago) link

six months pass...

Pay No Attention To Alice is one of the most creepy, disturbing songs I've ever heard.

kornrulez6969, Sunday, 27 June 2010 02:40 (ten years ago) link

ha, i was just listening to that song/record like 30 minutes ago.

tru oyster kvlt (arby's), Sunday, 27 June 2010 02:58 (ten years ago) link

i was actually making a big TTH mix of my favs and was gonna be really obnoxious and make ppl on facebook ysi it from me but now i am falling asleep

tru oyster kvlt (arby's), Sunday, 27 June 2010 03:00 (ten years ago) link

LOVE 'pay no attention to alice'

imo the best part is -- alice put your ashes in that ashtray / i swear woman ... you'll burn down the house.

also, she made that apple pie from a memory iirc.

ian, Sunday, 27 June 2010 03:09 (ten years ago) link

or the bit where she trashed tom's/narrator's car and was like 'nah man be cool i know this guy'

tru oyster kvlt (arby's), Sunday, 27 June 2010 03:11 (ten years ago) link

You mean Ben down at the Shell station?

There's some real weird things going on in that song. The bit about the war, how he was a coward. And doesn't the husband seem about as bad as Alice?

kornrulez6969, Sunday, 27 June 2010 03:23 (ten years ago) link

^love things like that, these mysterious passing details i think could have been expanded into whole other songs and just leave you to your imagination. maybe someone not tangled by their own limited capacity to describe it knows what i'm trying to say and could do better to praise this one, but anywa that was the bit that sealed alice as a perfect song for me.

tru oyster kvlt (arby's), Sunday, 27 June 2010 21:44 (ten years ago) link

three months pass...

Been on a big Tom T. kick lately and just marvel at the economy of his storytelling. Song after song, three minutes of America, time after time.

His last country #1 deserves a modern cover.

EZ Snappin, Tuesday, 5 October 2010 18:14 (nine years ago) link

seven months pass...

this dude writes the same melody over and over. and it's an awesome melody.

by another name (amateurist), Sunday, 22 May 2011 22:40 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...

next band i piece together i'm getting everyone to the first practice locking all the doors and windows and demanding at knife point EVERY MUSICIAN PLAY SOMETHING PHENOMENAL ALL AT ONCE. every instrument ever built is recorded on this one jam did u know that

arby's, Saturday, 16 June 2012 01:52 (eight years ago) link

maybe this blongs in the drunk thread

arby's, Saturday, 16 June 2012 01:52 (eight years ago) link

Pay no attention to Alice..........

kornrulez6969, Saturday, 16 June 2012 03:44 (eight years ago) link

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 16 June 2012 03:58 (eight years ago) link

eleven months pass...


i guess i'd just rather listen to canned heat? (ian), Saturday, 25 May 2013 16:56 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...

homecoming is such a sad, heavy song, and so brilliant

marcos, Monday, 8 December 2014 19:35 (five years ago) link

very different approach on this version of Homecoming, by Joe Henry. I really like it, but I heard this version before the original. I can imagine that others might not dig it.

pauls00, Tuesday, 9 December 2014 00:04 (five years ago) link

Yeah I also heard it before the original. I like it, too. But I do think the original hits harder -- it's such a personal song that it's hard to match what you can hear in Hall's voice.

something of an astrological coup (tipsy mothra), Tuesday, 9 December 2014 01:41 (five years ago) link

It's not on youtube, but the Sir Douglas Quintet version of "The Homecoming" (from their odds'n'sods set Rough Edges) is great--Sahm misses a couple lyrics but the performance really has that "arriving somewhere at 4 AM" feel fit for the song.

Don A Henley And Get Over It (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 9 December 2014 03:41 (five years ago) link

five years pass...

Really want to POLL various versions of “That’s How I Got to Memphis.”

Barry "Fatha" Hines (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 24 June 2020 20:01 (two weeks ago) link

I don't know that much of his stuff, but i'm such a sap that "Pay No Attention to Alice" is instant waterworks for me. The way he draws out certain lines like "she maaaaaaade that apple piiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee from a memory", delaying the payoff, is just incredible.

The whole song is 3:15 and it paints such a distinctive portrait of a 70s view of "normalized" alcoholism. The realization in the third verse that perhaps Alice is not the only alcoholic is crushing. And it is all done so clear-eyed and closely observed.

Night of the Living Crustheads (PBKR), Wednesday, 24 June 2020 20:47 (two weeks ago) link

Great comments all through this thread---xxpost Sir Doug's version of "The Homecoming" is a bonus track on Acacia's import remaster of Mendocino (beware of the live thing also with that title). And--hate to pimp-ho for Amazon---it's also on The Complete Mercury Masters, in their Digital Store for 35 bucks and change (OOP CD is $399).

dow, Wednesday, 24 June 2020 23:41 (two weeks ago) link

The SDQ Mercury Masters set is also on Spotify, as is Hall's Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher box from '95.

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 24 June 2020 23:54 (two weeks ago) link

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