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James Talley

Nashville City Blues – 2000 (Cimarron)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by James Talley

James Talley has been jerked around on a short Nashville chain for nearly 30 years, and only his tenacity and belief in his talent has kept him in the music business at all. After a series of well-received folk/country/roots albums for Capitol in the early '70's, Talley found himself on the wrong end of label politics, and out of a deal. Throughout his music career, Talley had supplemented his meager income with carpentry jobs and social work, ultimately moving into real estate in the mid-'80's. Talley continued to rightly believe that he still had a place in the music business.

Six years ago, he recorded an album's worth of Woody Guthrie songs which became 1999's "Woody Guthrie and Songs of My Oklahoma Home," the first album on Talley's very own label.

Recorded five yearse ago, this offers the same simple formula that Talley has offered from the start of his career - unpretentious songs about life sung in an eloquently plain voice in whatever genre fits the mood (country blues on "So I'm Not the Only One," rockabilly on "House Right Down the Road," the whole spectrum on the axe-grinding title cut). Talley has the same expressive flatness that marks the work of John Prine, Hoyt Axton and David Olney, although his lyrical content only occasionally matches that trio's stratospheric results. Still, there is a warmth and comfort in his songs and presentation, and he's more than paid his dues on his way here.