May 25, 2011

Album Review: Artists Return to Fox Hollow to Honor Tom T. Hall

Wholesome songs about simple things can transcend generations to appeal to just about anyone; which is as good a reason as any why Tom T. Hall’s 1974 children’s album, Songs of Fox Hollow, has resonated with listeners of all ages for almost four decades.

The country music legend, known for such hits as “Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine,” “The Year Clayton Delaney Died” and “I Like Beer” was inspired by two of his young nephews who had visited his rural farm and home, Fox Hollow. Taken by the children's wide-eyed curiosities, Hall chronicled their adventures and perceptions as they explored the pastoral landscape and, in so doing, penned perhaps the most beloved work of his career.

In honor of this landmark album comes the just-released collection, I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow (Red Beet Records), featuring interpretations by a venerable host of folk and country artists.

The standout performance comes from Patty Griffin, whose expressive gifts as a songwriter herself no doubt influence the way she renders “I Love,” instilling it with near tear-inducing compassion. Other highlights include Tommy Cash’s rockabilly narration of “Ole Lonesome George The Basset” (in which he name checks his late brother, Johnny, just as Hall did on the original); Buddy Miller’s Southern-funky take on “Sneaky Snake,” with guitarist Duane Eddy revving the rhythm; and Bobby Bare’s poignant cover of “I Care,” which he imparts with just the right amount of empathy and encouragement.

Tom T. Hall even joins in on the fun, singing a bit with folk artist Fayssoux McLean on “I Made a Friend of a Flower Today,” a heartwarming gesture to end the album, which is no doubt a labor of love for everyone who contributed. Above all, I Love is a delightful tribute to some timeless songs and one masterful storyteller.