There’s a segment of older artists who resent the current crop of performers, who represent change for a genre that’s held in high regard by its previous crop of talent. Country Music Hall of Fame member Tom T. Hall is not one of those crabby old-guard dudes.
“Music is an art form,” he told a passel of programmers Thursday at the Country Radio Seminar. “It should not be done the way it used to be done. If we do it the way they used to do it, that’s copying.”
Not that T. is above getting crabby.
“I do resent,” he allowed, “the fact that they’re makin’ so much money!”
Tom T., alternately known as the Storyteller by country fans, made his comments during WCRS Live!, a songwriter event sponsored by the performing rights organization BMI that flagged his crusty sense of humor as well as the sound of newcomer Easton Corbin and composer Wynn Varble. Neither of them makes music quite the way Tom T. did, though that fits his tenet to avoid copying quite well.
“There ain’t much of a story to it,” Easton said, introducing one of several pieces that helped showcase his debut album just days before its release.
Between his range, his enunciations and his predilection for traditionally grounded songs, Easton’s following nicely a pattern laid out by the likes of George Strait, Alan Jackson and Joe Nichols. All four of his numbers were solid material, performed with strength and conviction, in the general vein of his closing title — and first Top 10 hit — “A Little More Country Than That.”
Wynn wrote that song with Blaine Larsen in mind, and his assessment of its eventual success in Easton’s hands was delivered with a bit of humor that likely would have made Tom T. snicker.
“If you see Blaine,” Wynn drawled, “tell him he’s a dumbass.”
Wynn rendered the single he wrote for Kellie Pickler, “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind,” as well as the quirky “You Can Drink More Beer Than This” and the wryly sentimental “Waitin’ On A Woman,” which Brad Paisley brought to public attention.
Still, it was Tom T. who garnered the largest applause — in part because his performances are a rarity a dozen years after he retired from touring. Dressed in a suit and tie, he eschewed a guitar strap, propping the instrument with his fret hand and pressure from his right elbow while he ran through “Homecoming,” “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” and “I Love” with his distinctly conversational style. He earned standing ovations at both the beginning and the end of that short set, then presumably headed back to his 60-acre farm, where he enjoys his retirement with his wife of 41 years, Miss Dixie.
“It’s weird,” he said of his intentional break from the spotlight. “You hear these stories about how hard it is to break into show business. You should try to break out of it sometime!”
No one seemed to mind that he revived the experience for just a few songs.