Frank Ray, the leader of Cedar Hill, has contributed many songs to theband’s stage and recorded repertoire. However, about two years ago, Ray lost his son, Scott, and his father, Dallas, and he has experienced a song writer’s block ever since. No amount of effort could rectify the problem.
Being a Blue Circle Records’ artist Ray was often in contact with Dixie Hall, speaking on the telephone about mutual interests.
One day Dixie Hall called Ray to say that she had a proposition for him, Dixie and Tom T Hall had recently written a number of what she thought were good songs and she wanted Cedar Hill to record all ten of them. Naturally, Ray agreed. After all the Halls could have easily offered them to a host of willing recording artists.
Also, it was a project that Miss Dixie wanted to do for a long time, admitted Tom T Hall in the album’s notes.
Frank Ray was clearly enthused by how events unfolded ……
“This project was such an enjoyable one for all of us and a somewhat therapeutic one for me. The opportunity to work with two of the most prolific songwriters in country and bluegrass music history and not to mention absolutely wonderful people who I have been so fortunate to call my friends for a number of years, has proven to be one of the most memorable experiences in my musical career.”
He went on to add …..
“The songs were written over an approximate two year period. They were all written primarily by a Tom T and Miss Dixie collaboration with the exception of three songs that included writing contributions by others.
I did not contribute to the writing other than a couple changed lines here and there. The exciting contribution for me and Cedar Hill was bringing these wonderful songs to life through the arrangements and production.
Worth noting is the song I’ll Not Stand in Your Way. This song was written solely by Miss Dixie. Most all of the songs were a collaboration of Miss Dixie and Tom T Hall with the occasional third writer but Miss Dixie or Tom T would sometimes be a solo writer. This was rare in their later years. This song was one of those for Miss Dixie and certainly one of, if not the last solo song she wrote before keeping her eternal, heavenly appointment.”
Ray reflected on further titles …
“Hound Dog From Harlan – this is about an old hound dog whose owner has died and the person in the song finds him. I won’t tell more than that so as not to ruin the story line for you but as usual, Tom T. takes the listener on a heart-warming journey.
Aunt Penny – Aunt Penny turns out to be the unknown sister of Uncle Pen. She plays old time frailin’ banjo. An exciting old time song.
The Face In The Window – this is a literal ghostly song from the American Civil War period.
They Don’t Make Girls Like Ruby Anymore – a song about the virtues of the pure country culture of an earlier rural America.
Let’s Go Walking Again – It is very difficult for me to pick a favorite on this CD but this song would have to be near the top. It stirs a vivid picture for me of my own parents as my mother became more and more feeble. Dad would ask her to take a walk around their place in the rural Ozarks they loved so dearly. It turns out this was very similar to Tom T. and Miss Dixie as they would walk around their beloved Fox Hollow farm. The things they would do, such as stop to check the flowers and visit their neighbour, conjures up a very endearing time. This song often brings a tear to my eye.
Burning Down The Barn – this is another, oh so typical Tom T. style song. A somewhat comical but all too real scenario. The bank is about to foreclose on the family farm but Dad gets the last laugh.
Hillbilly Highway – Mr Tom T. told me he lived this song. The song of a country boy who goes to the city and returns to his roots.”
The current Cedar Hill members, Frank Ray (mandolin, tenor vocals), Britt McGarity (guitar, lead vocals), Jim Bunch (banjo, Dojo [a cross between a Dobro and a banjo], baritone vocals), Patti LaFleur (bass, high baritone vocals) and Pete Brown (fiddle, guitar), were supplemented by Tim Crouch ( twin fiddles, Let’s Go Walking Again), Danny Lee Allison (Dobro, Let’s Go Walking Again) and Billy McGarity (frailing banjo, Aunt Penny). Ron Pennington played mandolin back-up on a couple of tracks.
Here is the complete track listing with composer credits ………..
- This Ain’t No Way to Run a Railroad – Tom T Hall / Dixie Hall
- Love Is a Gamble – Tom T Hall / Dixie Hall
- Hound Dog from Harlan – Tom T Hall / Dixie Hall
- I’ll Not Stand in Your Way – Dixie Hall
- Aunt Penny – Dixie Hall / Tom T Hall / Billy Smith
- The Face in the Window – Dixie Hall / Tom T Hall
- They Don’t Make Girls Like Ruby Anymore – Keith Bilbrey / Dixie Hall / Tom T Hall
- Let’s Go Walking Again – Tom T Hall / Dixie Hall / Troy Engle
- Burning Down the Barn – Tom T Hall / Dixie Hall
- Hillbilly Highway – Dixie Hall / Tom T Hall
Miss Dixie, Tom T & Me (Blue Circle Records BCR 042) is released today, March 23, 2015.
I have never been disappointed by a Cedar Hill album and this new one promises much.