50 Greatest Hits
Tom T Hall’s story songs are classics of country music – and, to be honest, classics of English literature – and a must-have for any music collection. He has produced 35 albums, so this 50-song double CD with full lyrics booklet that includes all his singles is a welcome roundup of the best of a long career.
The tracks are offered in chronological order over three decades, from Hall’s first songs after signing for Mercury in 1967 that included the top-10 hit “Ballad of Forty Dollars. Also there, of course, are classics like “I Love”, “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” and “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine”, as well as songs from his popular children's albums.
Maybe the track that most illustrates Hall’s ability to tell a story in just a few lines – and with no chorus – is the 1969 song “Homecoming”. It’s a remarkable tale of family, generations and the way lives change, not to mention the trials of life on the road, told through the words of a country singer on a rare visit home. Like many of Hall’s songs, the final line adds an entire new layer to the story and leaves the listener to imagine the rest.
What the album notably doesn’t contain is songs written by Hall that were hits for other people, such as “Harper Valley PTA”, made famous by Jeannie C Riley, and Bobby Bare’s “Margie’s At the Lincoln Park Inn”. Hall did record both songs, so it would have been good to see them here.
The other question worth asking is: does Hall actually have 50 “greatest hits”? Which is to say that there are a few duds here too, even though the strict answer to the question is yes, since 52 of his songs made the charts.
The album is a UK release on Hump Head Records (and offered on Amazon as a best-of from the “late country legend”, which will be news to Hall, who’s still going strong at the age of 74).
Release date: November 29