Classic Album Review-”Ernest Tubb And His Texas Troubadours”
We start this week with an album from one of the most, if not the most distinctive voices in the history of Country Music, Ernest Tubb. The legendary Texas Troubadour was one of Country music’s top vocalists of the 1940′s and early 1950′s, and would be a regular visitor to the singles charts, well into the 1960′s. In fact, Ernest would make eighty-three appearances between 1944 (when the charts began) and 1983, when he appeared on “Leave Them Boys Alone” with Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings. Of those eighty-three appearances, fifty-eight would reach the top ten, with six reaching number one. Today’s album is a June, 1960 release titled “Ernest Tubb And His Texas Troubadours”. The album is a collection of 1940′s and ’50′s recordings, released on Decca’s budget line, Vocalion. The recordings are mono, though an “enhanced for stereo” version was also released.
This album opens with E. T.’s version of “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”, which is one of those songs that pretty much anyone over 40 is familiar with. Ernest’s version is a spirited version, featuring the always stellar Texas Troubadours in the background, and a fine Tubb vocal performance. There’s something always fresh about Ernest’s version of this song, whenever I hear it. Tubb’s version was a Country top ten hit in 1955, the same year that the Mitch Miller version was big on the Pop side.
The Johnny Bond written “I’ll Step Aside” was a top five hit for Ernest in 1947. A mid tempo ballad, that I would label typical Ernest Tubb music of the time. The slightly off-key vocal that somehow still sounds good, a good quality composition, and a stellar background performance by Ernest’s backing band.
The same can be said for “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin”. A quicker tempo than “I’ll Step Aside”, for me, what makes this track is Ernest’s handling of the refrain. Just listen to him singing “I’m drivin’ nails in my coffin, everytime I drink a bottle of booze”. Great stuff; great music. Another top five hit for Ernest Tubb, this time in 1946.
“Till We Two Are One” never charted, but is still a quality cut. Ernest gives a really good performance on this mid tempo ballad. One thing that can be the difference between a great, good, average, or bad cut, is how well the singer “sells” what he’s singing. Ernest sells well, here.
“Kansas City Blues” was a 1955 single that missed the charts. I rate this song average. Not as good of a performance as the other tracks on side one, and the song, itself, is not as strong.
With side one completed, we turn to side two.
One of the big hits of the early Rock And Roll era was Pat Boone’s “Don’t Forbid Me”, in 1957. Now, no one will ever confuse E. T. with Pat Boone, but all in all, Ernest’s version isn’t too bad; he even hits the low note, which anyone familiar with Ernest’s music, knows didn’t always happen.
1954 was the year that Ernest just missed the top ten with “Two Glasses, Joe”. A swinging Cindy Walker composition of a guy reminiscing of his lost love, with, of course, the help of alcohol. Very normal in Classic Country music. My actual favorite version of this, is found on Ernest’s late ’70′s album of duets, where Ferlin Husky joined him on this track, both as himself, and Simon Crum.
“Journey’s End” is another track that despite never charting, remains a favorite among Ernest Tubb fans. And with good reason. Simply put, a good song. Ernest’s performance is fine, as well.
Ernest recorded “It’s A Lonely World” in 1955. Never charting, nevertheless, a decent track. I think what makes this track stand out, is actually the work of the Texas Troubadours. Ernest’s performance is good, the song is decent, but the playing is some of the finest of that era, on this track.
The only track on this album that I really don’t care for, is the final track, “There’s A Little Bit Of Everything In Texas”. I prefer his later, stereo rerecording; it comes off much better. On this original track, it always sounds like the turntable is too slow, though I have read others who say the sound is what makes the record great. Guess I’m just different. It is a favorite of his fans, and was highly requested during his live shows.
I do not believe that this album is currently available, though it was for many years, well into the 1980′s. There are some used copies, on the market, with prices that I saw, ranging from $8 to $15.
This album’s Standout Track has to be “Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin”. I will give the Hidden Gem to “Journey’s End”; thousands of Ernest Tubb fans can’t be wrong. As for the Weakest Track, I will go with “Kansas City Blues”. Just a rather average recording.
Ernest used to joke that 99% of those who heard him, thought they could sing better than him, and that they were probably right. That was part of the charm of Ernest Tubb; a guy who wasn’t a great natural singer, but a guy who still enjoyed singing. Plus, his stage presence and personality more than made up for his lack of vocal ability. This album, though, actually features some very good Tubb vocal work. Despite the jokes and comments, Ernest’s vocals actually improved as his voice aged, and recording technology improved to where the singers could sing softer and with less effort in recording sessions. Overall, I think this is a good collection of music, even without any of his huge hits. I rate it a 4 out of 5.
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