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Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee Ernie Ford’

I call this painting Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a title I used for a few paintings from my early Exiles series, in which this piece is included. I seldom show this piece and am not sure if it has ever appeared here. While I like this piece for a variety of reasons– for instance, I love the sky and hill colors– I never felt it was up to the same level as the other work in the Exiles series. I felt that it was more flawed than the others and too forced, not as organically formed as much of the other Exiles.

But every time I pull this piece out I feel a small sense of satisfaction in it and maybe that it needed to be aired out. I want to play a song today and thought this would be a good opportunity to let this little guy get out a bit. We’ll see.

The song is Work Song. It was written by the brother of jazz great Cannonball Adderly and was originally performed by him as an upbeat  jazz piece. But it has been interpreted by a number of artists over the years, some to great effect. Others, not so much to my taste. But one of my favorites is from one of my  guilty pleasures, Tennessee Ernie Ford.

He certainly doesn’t seem like a “cool” choice if you remember his public persona in the 50’s and 60’s as the goofily naive but affable hick from Bristol, Tennessee. I enjoyed that caricature as kid it was his music that hooked me. He had a deep and mellow voice and a knack for choosing songs and arrangements that fit him perfectly. His series of country boogies were great and his 16 Tons is a classic. His version of this song is a great interpretation, spare and deep felt.

I couldn’t find a decent video of this song so here is the track alone:

Here’s another version that is a different interpretation from a band called The Big Beats with vocalist Arlin Harmon. I don’t have a lot of info on either though from what I can glean Harmon was a highly esteemed singer out in the Northwest. It’s a solid rocking performance with a different flavor. Give a listen.

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I’ve always been a big fan of Tennessee Ernie Ford, who died in 1991.  I saw him quite a bit on the television of the 1960’s and in reruns from the 50’s.  He was always extremely funny in the persona he adopted onstage as a hillbilly caricature and it was always startling when he would shift from that higher pitched bumpus voice into his singing voice was as smooth and deep and rich as one can imagine. I picked up a box set of his music several years ago and find myself listening to it for long periods of time.  It may not be hip.  It may not be cool.  But there’s something incredibly authentic in his voice and the personality he projected that I really am drawn to.

Here’s a nice version of one of my favorite songs, Wayfarin’ Stranger, which is also the title of the painting shown here, one from around 2004 in the Red Roof series.  Enjoy and have a good Sunday.

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