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Saturday 8 February 2020

50 Americana Albums You Should Hear Before You Die - Harlan County

An obscure lost classic for you this week in the shape of Harlan County by Jim Ford  which was originally recorded in 1969  and which for a while was the only music by him committed to record.
It went pretty much unnoticed for  almost thirty years until  the song Harlan County was "rediscovered " by Dave Woodhead a friend of Andy Kershaw. This led to Kershaw featuring it on his radio show to great acclaim and including it on a compilation modestly entitled Great Moments in Vinyl History. 
This in turn led to a re-release of the album in 1997 on the Edsel/Demon  Records  label the original having been on Sundown Records as featured on the album cover.

The album features brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas and the booklet features a picture of their album At the Haunted House.I spent a few years trying to track it down. When I eventually did sadly it turned out to be not that good

In 1971 a band called Brinsley Schwarz (you may have heard of them) were hired to provide back up for a follow up album.
Nick Lowe (you msy have heard of him) says we spend three days in Olympic Studios, London trying to play with Jim but frankly we weren't good enough.
After we were fired the Grease Band were called in to have a go and they fared no better than us.
The album never saw the light of day.

I've just read that Jim Ford wrote Harry Hippy for Bobby Womack! Wiki advises that Nick Lowe describes Ford as his biggest musical influence and Sly Stone called him the baddest white man on the planet.
Ford was found dead early in the evening of Sunday, November 18, 2007, in his trailer home, by the Mendocino County Sheriff's department
Bear Records subsequently released a couple of albums of rare and unreleased material.

JC has a series called Some Songs  Are Great Short Stories. The song Harlan County is a novel in itself.

Where the cold winds blow and the crops don't grow
A man's tired of livin' when he's twenty
I was diggin' hard coal at twelve years old
Way down in Harlan County

Jim Ford - Harlan County

Jim Ford - I'm Gonna Make Her Love Me


  1. Jim Ford also co-wrote songs with Bobby Womack, including "Surprise, Surprise" which is an absolutely wonderful song.

    On their Silver Pistol album (which is a must have) the Brinsleys have a song called "Niki Hoeky Speedway". I didn't know about them recording with Jim Ford, but he had a 1960's song called "Niki Hoeky" and I wondered if they pinched that from him?

  2. And - if I may ramble on (and I will) - Steve Earle has a song called "Harlan Man" that he did on his album with bluegrass legends, The Del McCoury Band. It's one of my fave Steve Earle songs.

    And there's a great song called "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" which a few folk have covered but my favourite version is by Ruby Friedman.

    Thank you for this opportunity to show off...

  3. Harlan Country is one of my Top Ten Favourite Songs Ever. Eevery home should have this album.

  4. Another one that I only listened to because you featured it here previously. You're such a taste maker.

    1. One tries but in this case the credit is due to Andy Kershaw