Saginaw, Michigan

by: Lefty Frizzell

The career of this great country singer in some ways went in the opposite manner of other performers who came out of the honky tonk tradition. Usually the earlier recordings of this genre of country singers are the really good ones, with later productions tending to be saturated with the background choruses, string sections, and downplayed picking which passed for fancy productions once Nashville started going Pop like the weasel. However, in the case of Frizzell, this earlier album is one of the ones with somewhat excessive production, and the later recordings sport a more toned-down bar band sound, heavy on the barrelhouse piano. Not that the production here is really that obtrusive. Certainly other country singers have fallen much more the victim to their background singers than this man, who would sound good with a steam hammer and the entire roller-skating staff of a drive-in diner trying to back him up. The title song was of course a huge hit, and if there was ever a town that is too dull to deserve such a great song, "Saginaw, Michigan" would be it. "There's No Food in This House" is a chillingly understated Merle Kilgore number, the singer admitting that he "used to ask what there was for supper, now I don't ask anymore." The conclusion of the song involving a delivery of food from the good-hearted folks at a nearby church may rub some cynical listeners the wrong way. "Hello to Him" is an out and out classic, one of the best songs the artist ever recorded, while the jumping "James River" even sports a banjo in the arrangement, despite this instrument having been practically banned from Nashville recording studios. The best of this material is typical Lefty Frizzell -- in other words, some of the best country music around. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi

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