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Friday, October 7, 2011

Sixteen Tons

Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons (1955)

"...another day older and deeper in debt."

A song about the plight of the working man. Paid in company script so he could never save cash and get out of debt. The narrator is so in debt that he asks St. Peter not to take him yet, because he still owed the company. This cover was recorded in 1955 and was as big a hit as the early Rock and Roll it was up against on the charts. Originally recorded in 1946 with just a simple acoustic guitar to make it sound like it was from an even early time; this version was jazzy and upbeat for having such a serious tone. Clarinet, muted trumpet and upright bass are held together with a set of brushes on a basic drum set. Producer Lee Gillette claims that the finger snaps provided by Ford were just his way of helping the band come in but Gillette loved it and left them in the mix. The image of a vocalist and band performing together on a recording is so foreign to modern audiences, but it was the only way to do things back then, and it provides perfect stories like that, that lead to great little add-ons that can really make a song a classic.

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