Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ernest Tubb

  • Live 1965 [Rhino, 1989] A-
  • Country Music Hall of Fame Series [MCA, 1992] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Live 1965 [Rhino, 1989]
You may never love his amazingly resonant baritone--he always sings flat, and by his own admission can't hold a note for longer than a beat. After nearly 50 years on the road, though, his two "live" albums were applause-added phonies, so this posthumous find is something new. Cut by an engineer friend when Tubb was 51 (not so bad when you consider that he rerecorded his compilations for stereo and full rhythm section in his mid-forties), it documents a show that evolved but never really changed--unhurried, genial, skipping from Tubb standards to chart fare to honky-tonk classics to band features to climax with his first and greatest hit, "Walkin' the Floor Over You." Reliable, reassuring, the man who invented honky-tonk belies truisms about how great pop music is always passionate or urgent or necessary. And sounds weird as hell. A-

Country Music Hall of Fame Series [MCA, 1992]
Snotnoses who think Hank and Lefty make them country fans won't believe how slow, flat, and sentimental the first honky tonker was. And though except for one hymn these 16 selections were all hits, there are livelier and more poetic possibilities that might help dilettantes comprehend his primal unflappability. Then again, so would a quick listen to Red Foley, who wasn't Pat Boone's father-in-law for nothing. Every genre needs an acid test. You may never be the same. A-