Black Music Matters Festival

James Talley

Touchstones – 2002 (Cimmaron)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

CDs by James Talley

James Tally is one of the more underrated country singer/songwriters of the past 30 years. He had some minor hits on Capitol, but since has kept a lower profile. His new album is a collection of some of his favorite songs from those mid-1970's Capitol years. He calls these songs his "touchstones," the core of his early work. The songs have all been re-recorded, with new (yet pleasing) arrangements, different musicians and different instrumentation (including fiddle, steel and accordion).

Included are the timeless, working-man ballads, "Forty Hours" and "Are They Gonna Make Us Outlaws Again?" plus "When The Fiddler Packs His Case" and "Tryin' Like The Devil." The album's best tune is "W. Lee O'Daniel And The Light Crust Dough Boys," a great toe-tapper about the legendary western swing band leader, featuring Joe Ely on vocals. Whether it comes to lost love, "Sometimes I Think About Suzanne," or reflecting on the social condition, "Give My Love To Marie" or "What Will There Be For The Children?," Talley clearly demonstrates he's a versatile thinker and writer.

Good songs never go out of style. Talley is a fine troubador with a lot of good stories to tell and feelings to express.