Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Tom T. Hall: In Search of a Song [Mercury, 1971]
Forget arty pontificators like Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury--wouldn't you rather have Woody Guthrie? Hall's politics are only liberal, his ironies sometimes pro forma, but like Guthrie's his observations and presentation are direct and unpretentious in a way that can't be faked or even imitated--he has a few things to say, he says them, and that's that. While in the past the dull sentimentality that is the downfall of so much country music has flawed his albums, here even the worst song, "Second Hand Flowers," qualifies as bright sentimentality (with a twist). The best is "Kentucky Feb. 27, '71," hidden away on the second side because it's too subtle to make its impact broadside. Simple as death, it recounts Hall's pilgrimage to see an old mountain man, who explains why kids move to the city--"They want to see the things they've heard about"--and apologizes for not providing Hall with a song. A