“The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers” ....A Tribute
A Review by Carol Nelson
“The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers, A Tribute” is the first album to come out on Bob Dylan’s newly formed record label, Egyptian Records. Dylan conceived of this homage to the man referred to as “the Father of Country Music” , “the Singing Brakeman” or “the Blue Yodeler” and has assembled a collection of diverse artists to perform Jimmie’s songs. One thing that comes through on their performances… they all share a love for a man they never met and the songs he created in his short life.
Born in Mississippi in 1897, Jimmie was in poor health most of his life and succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 35, but in his six short years of writing and recording he secured a place as, in Bob Dylan’s words, “one of the guiding lights of the 20th century”. In most of Rodgers’ tunes, the romance of the road is coupled with a longing for home. This theme was cultivated through Jimmie’s upbringing….his mother died when Jimmie was only 4 and he was raised around the railroad yards by his father.
On “The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers”, David Ball singing “Miss the Mississippi and You” comes closest to recreating Jimmie’s sound, complete with the blue yodel (a yodeling style that’s a cross between Swiss yodeling and country singing). Dickey Betts brings “Waiting for a Train” back to life and, I think, the addition of clarinet and trumpet on this number makes it one of the highlights of the album.
Other artists weighing in on this tribute album include Bono (of U2) on “Dreaming with Tears in My Eyes”, Mary Chapin Carpenter singing “Somewhere Down Below the Mason Dixon Line, Willie Nelson on “Peach Pickin’ Time Down in Georgia”, Van Morrison with “Mule Skinner Blues”,Bob Dylan on “Blue Eyed Jane”, and Aaron Neville singing “Why Should I Be Lonely”. Steve Earle and V-Roys add a raucous rendition of “In the Jailhouse Now”.
And the best has been saved for last. The 14th (and last) cut on the CD is Jimmie Rodgers’ best-known song, “Blue Yodel #1”, also called “T for Texas” sung with mournful meaning by Dwight Yoakam.
Thank you, Bob Dylan, for organizing this tribute to Jimmie. . . . the first inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame deserves to be honored. What’s even more important, this album has introduced more people to the music of one of the pioneers.
Copyright © 1998 by Carol Nelson, All rights reserved
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