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Craig You're Kidding
The long hiatus for this much loved column has not been due to a lack of material. And, certainly it isn't a result of not wishing to appear repetitious. I mean Craig and his cronies are forever finding new and innovative ways to stuff up a review. Rather it was due to a rather forlorn and ludicrous hope that they may improve. "You're kidding", you say and guess what, you are right.
But bypassing and not commenting on the exaggerations, the cloying chumminess, poor judgements etc has its limit and that limit was well and truly breached with the atrocious goings on regarding the treatment of Cowboy Jack Clement and his wonderful, wonderful album, "Guess Things Happen That Way".
There is actually a 3 part comedy of errors on CMP's part. A tragedy in 3 acts if you like. Firstly, there is the appalling review by Jon Philibert. Can you believe a 3 star review! That is something reserved for the likes of "Daniel O'Donnell Sings the Little Texas Songbook" and not something you'd expect to see pertaining to only the second ever album by arguably the greatest behind the scene's man in the entire history of country music. Mind you his up front stuff ain't too darn shabby either.
Secondly is our beloved editor's foot in mouth attempt to answer a letter from Nashville scribe, John Lomax III, which dares to criticise, in admirable detail, the review of Craig's chum, Jon Philibert.
Finally, there is the clumsy response of Philibert himself, which is printed in the "Write to Reply" section of the February, 2005 issue. A little too "in house" you might say and you'd be right.
There are serious flaws in the Philibert review; but easily the main one is his failure to mention the vocal contributions of Johnny Cash on "Guess Things Happen That Way" and "Ballad of a Teenage Queen". I mean this is not some Johnny come lately we are talking about but Johnny Cash himself. Cash would have to rate with Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and perhaps arguably Patsy Cline as one of the 5 most important artists in the entire history of country music. You can guarantee if it were an overblown no-one singing with Jack, Philibert would have given them ample press. BUT, they didn't; the great man did however and is ignored.
Lomax points out that Cash was so feeble that Jack had to set up a makeshift recording studio in his downstairs' office as Cash was too weak to climb the stairs to the proper recording studio. This valuable insight was rudely dismissed by Craig. Cash did record his contribution to the Carter Family after this effort but there may not have been any other recordings made prior to his passing. Frankly, Cash sounds stronger on this than a lot of his latter work and his interjection "I don't like it", on "Guess Things Happen That Way" made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, and still does with every play.
Philibert's attempts to justify his failure to mention Cash are pathetic. Furthermore, it is amazing that Craig and Jon both try and worm their way out with a series of questionable arguments that would be seemingly peculiar to them and no other person on the planet. The only tiny concession they make to Lomax is in relation to Jack's age, where I thought Lomax was being a tad pedantic. 72 or 73? It doesn't really matter but there is Craig half admitting a tiny inaccuracy.
The truth of the whole thing is that CMP has not given a great album its due. The album deserves an almost religious reverence but the review is a laughable atrocity. Jack's wonderfully warm almost Burl Ives-ish voice, a perfect selection of songs, terrific production and highly complimentary backing would seem to make a 5 star rating seem lowly.
I also have the new revelation that Craig is indeed England's Archie Bunker with CMP being an "all in the family" affair. Julie Flaskett is actually Craig's wife. Now, I can forgive her for not taking her husband's surname (after all she'd be Julie Baguley!) but why wasn't such a thing announced? I'd be the first to send a set of Sydney Harbour placemats with matching coasters. Would look great with bubble & squeak and Yorkshire pudding.
One thing I find a tad amusing is how Craig seems to place himself as the reviewer when a non American bluegrass album comes along, despite having reviewers with higher credentials on staff. As always you can bet he will be close to a 5 star review. In this case our own (as in antipodean) Greencards get the prize. They are good and enthusiastic but in the overall scheme of things have a long way to go to merit a 4 ½ star rating.
As always I will give credit where it is due and in this case I couldn't agree more with Chris Bolton's year end assessment of Gretchen Wilson, which he assesses as "cliché ridden, faux pop country that's no more honky tonk than Eminen." Well said.