On most CDs that the Ace group of labels release, we have a reasonably good idea of how many copies they are likely to sell immediately, and how many they might go on to sell in their catalogue lifetime. More often that not - happily, much more often than not - we're nigh on spot-on in our assessments, give or take a handful of copies. Sure, there are times when we're off beam - we're only human, after all. Generally, though we're there or thereabouts. We've been doing this a while now, so there'd be something seriously wrong if we were not.
However, every so often something comes along which does very nicely, very quickly, and thus surprises us in the nicest possible way. It's only been a few months since we put out our first Roy Acuff release, combining his two early 60s Hickory albums Once More" and "The King Of Country Music". Now, we expected this to be a nice addition to our growing country catalogue, and also a useful stock item that would tick over year-in, year-out. Turns out, though, that we may have underestimated the demand for Mr Acuff just a tad, as we've already sold almost as many copies of our first Acuff 2-on-1 in two months as we originally thought we might sell in two years!
Naturally we're very happy to be wrong on these kind of occasions, as it gives us the excuse to bring you further recordings from Acuff's Hickory catalogue, and bring them to you more quickly than was originally envisaged. So it is that, in March 2004, we have for you another excellent coupling of the man's Hickory long-players, both from the early 1960s and both featuring this legend of country music at the peak of his vocal powers.
These days, "Americana" is a term you hear used a lot to describe traditional and real country music, ie the kind that American radio prefers to ignore while they're busy assaulting eardrums with loud AOR-rock that sounds like it escaped from a mid-70s Styx or Rush session. The two albums compiled here are thus "Americana" in every sense of the word - they're traditional, and real.
"American Folk Songs" and "Hand-Clapping Gospel Songs" are both self-explanatory "concept" albums. And like the proverbial Ronseal, they both do exactly 'what it says on the tin'. AFS is Acuff's homage to the songs he learned as a boy and youth in South Tennessee, in the days when such songs as Little Rosewood Casket, Zeb Turney's Gal and House Of The Rising Sun were the equivalent of "regional chart-toppers" through sung per-formances, rather than recorded ones. Acuff's early musical experiences again played a great part in the selection of repertoire utilised on HCGS, although he also dipped into the catalogues of 20th century songwriters like Albert Brumley, the Bailes brothers and Hank Williams to give the album a more contemporary edge.
Roy Acuff was never in better voice than he was in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he's heard to his greatest advantage on "American Folk Songs" especially. So intense are his performances at times that you can almost hear the tears rolling down his cheeks as he sings a song like The Letter Edged In Black - not an uncommon occurrence for Acuff, who was often known cry publicly when delivering a particularly emotional parable. The sympathetic backing from his long-time band the Smoky Mountain Boys - featuring the undisputed master of the dobro, Pete "Bashful Brother Oswald" Kirby - enhances every one of Acuff's stellar performances. The man and his musicians certainly made some of the most uncompromisingly country music to be coming out of Music City in the era of the "Nashville Sound", two dozen examples of which will shortly (we hope) be interacting with the laser of your CD player!
Plans are afoot to release more of Roy Acuff's Hickory albums in the 2-On-1 format. If this one sells even half as well as the previous one - and only half as quickly - you can expect the next pairing to be arriving fairly swiftly. Till that happens, we invite you to spend an essential hour in the company of Roy Claxton Acuff - a man who, for his many fans, simply was country music for most of the twentieth century and who, in their eyes, always will be.
By Tony Rounce"