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Tom T. Hall

Soldier of Fortune – 1997 (Koch)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Tom T. Hall

While never refined or polished, Tom T. Hall has always been a fiercely individualistic artist, and this re-release of a 1980 album will do nothing to discourage his reputation for staying steadfastly true to himself. His rough and tumble singing sometimes feel like a bumpy ride on a rocky road in a car without shocks. Nevertheless, road trips with Hall are - more often than not - memorable journeys.

This recording oftentimes sounds like a relic from the old country-politan days of the Seventies, which gave us all those classic Tammy Wynette and George Jones recordings. Oddly enough, though, the great sibling bluegrass vocals of the Osbourne Brothers can be heard clearly over the omnipresent string arrangements and sugary backup vocals that dominate throughout. Elsewhere, on tracks such as "Back When Gas Was Thirty Cents A Gallon," Ozzie Osment's sweet traditional fiddling succeeds in leaving a lingeringly positive impression.

Hall may have settled for some rather incongruent instrumentation on this release, but his personalized songwriting never fails to impress. Whether he's singing about class differences in "The Six O'clock News," or describing his inability to fit into the Texas lifestyle with "Texas Never Fell In Love With Me," Hall is ever the convincing storyteller.

Many have taken songs written by others and made them sound like their own, but few have pressed their unique fingerprints onto their songs as well as Hall.