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Feb. 13: Tennessee Ernie Ford, born 91 years ago today, sang all styles, from hoppin’ country boogies to smooth, gentle pop to top-selling gospel and Christmas fare. If all you know of Ford is “Sixteen Tons,” you owe it to yourself to sample his full catalog. Make sure to include a 1964 album that’s on my “desert island” list: Country Hits … Feelin’ Blue. It features Ern’s small-combo treatment of 12 key selections from the country music canon, like this number that Ted Daffon wrote, recorded and released in 1940.

Accompanying Ford and his powerful baritone voice are famed West Coast musician and producer Billy Strange on the flat-top Martin guitar and John Mosher on bass. The low-key arrangement, typical of the album, emulates a relaxed segment of Ford’s then-current TV show that suggested friends or family sitting around and singing. Ford himself considered the album one of his favorites. My father had a well-worn copy of the LP, which served as my introduction to Tennessee Ernie. In my late teens, I ordered one of my own and have played it a fair number of times over the years, as you can probably tell from the occasional pop and crack on this cut.

If you like this sound, also seek out Ernie Sings and Glen Picks from 1975. It’s essentially a sequel, with the addition of Glen Campbell’s tasteful acoustic picking and timely harmonies on 10 more recent country offerings. Together, they’d make a great 22-track CD reissue on Capitol Records to please Tennessee Ernie Ford fans old and new. C’mon, EMI, soothe our worried minds and get right on that!

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