Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Roy Acuff

  • Columbia Historic Edition [Columbia, 1985] A-
  • The Essential Roy Acuff 1936-1949 [Columbia/Legacy, 1993] A

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Columbia Historic Edition [Columbia, 1985]
The Opry fixture and publishing mogul is well-served by a series format that combines a few very famous songs with half-forgotten hits and unreleased vaultorama of varying quality. He's granted 14 cuts instead of the series' usual 10 or 12, and because he relies on tried and true folk melodies, the new stuff gets friendly real fast. In fact, although John Morthland recommends the Time-Life box, this is all the Acuff I need. Not unlike the Kingston Trio, the Smoky Mountain Boys were folkie populizers who turned sentimental expression into sentimental entertainment. An education in mountain sensibility (and less obtrusively professional than Greatest Hits, which is less obtrusive than Acuff's label hopping post '40s remakes), the sampling is genuine Americana for sure. But Americana that's conscious of its own Americanness never hits home like the real thing. A-

The Essential Roy Acuff 1936-1949 [Columbia/Legacy, 1993]
A revered elder in the country is a missing link in the city because there's no sinner in him--the imagination that connects him to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams is vocal, not moral. But he's not the kind of sickie who thinks pleasure and sin are the same thing--his relish is as palpable as his deep sorrow. So you can hear his moral imagination if you try. And if you want to know why the two things he treasures most are conjugal love and trains, figure he's also not the kind of sickie who thinks contradiction and iniquity are the same thing. A