Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Roy Acuff

The Essential Roy Acuff (1936 - 1949)

Pre-recorded cassettes were always a poor relative. In the LP era, people bought them, presumably, because they were convenient. You could play them in your car, and, when the Walkman became ubiquitous, in your Walkman. But the sound quality tended to be poor, and they didn’t always last.

But there was this one brief span of time, towards the end of the vinyl era, and the beginning of the CD era, when there appeared various series of small collections that were available on cassette only. They typically had 8 or 9 tracks, and sold for a discounted price.

That’s how I first picked up Roy Acuff. It was a Capital cassette, called The Best Of Roy Acuff and it had exactly 9 tracks. And I still have the cover. And in fact I still have the actual physical tape. But the music that was on it has been replaced by tracks from The Essential Roy Acuff (1936 – 1949), a box set which I picked up at the West Kildonan Library.

It appears that Acuff never recorded for Capital. I’m not sure what label the Capital recordings were originally issue on, but dollars to doughnuts they are re-recordings of tracks he’d done earlier. And so I have to genuine article here. I don’t have every track though. It’s a distillation I made to suit my own very idiosyncratic purposes.

And the picture on the cover, it shows Acuff playing fiddle. He did play fiddle, apparently, but it wasn’t his forte, which was singing, writing, publishing, and making money.

And the music, well many of the songs are standards. I don’t know how many versions of “The Wabash Cannonball” I have, I can think of Little Jimmy Dickens, and Charlie McCoy offhand, and Acuff’s own remake with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Others show up here and there, like “Fireball Mail” (Duane Eddy), “Jole Blon” (Doug Kershaw), “Tennessee Waltz” (Patti Page, of course, and Les Paul & Mary Ford and Otis Redding (!)), and “Freight Train Blues” (Bob Dylan). And I’m betting that’s Roy himself playing fiddle on “Black Mountain Rag.”

I didn’t hear nobody pray dear brother
I didn’t hear nobody pray
I heard the wreck on the highway
But I didn’t hear nobody pray

Roy Acuff:

  • Great Speckled Bird
  • Just To Ease My Worried Mind
  • The Precious Jewel
  • It Won't Be Long (Till I'll Be Leaving)
  • Wreck On The Highway
  • Fireball Mail
  • Night Train To Memphis
  • The Prodigal Son
  • Not A Word From Home
  • I'll Forgive You, But I Can't Forget You
  • Freight Train Blues
  • Wabash Cannonball
  • Jole Blon
  • A Sinner's Death (I'm Dyin')
  • Tennessee Waltz
  • Black Mountain Rag

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