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Folk Songs of Many Lands / 21 Years in a Tennessee
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  • Liner Note Author: Paul Evans.
  • Paul Evans was a sweet-voiced singer best known for writing a sweet song -- "Roses Are Red, My Love," a pop tune made into a hit by Bobby Vinton in 1962 -- and taking a novelty called "(Seven Little Girls) Sitting in the Back Seat" in 1959. Evans was sharp enough to ride the folk revival of the early '60s, so around the time Vinton was recording "Roses Are Red, My Love," Evans cut a collection titled Folk Songs of Many Lands; then, three years later in 1964, he released an album of prison songs called 21 Years in a Tennessee Jail. These two albums are paired on Ace's 2013 two-fer (along with the single "Midnight Special"), and they're both pretty clever conceptual records, with Evans tackling all manners of British and American folk songs on the 1961 LP, then delving deep into the American canon for his prison LP. Of the two, the 1964 album feels more contemporary, as he does take the time to cover Johnny Cash's "I Got Stripes," along with other songs that regularly popped up on country and R&B records of the early '60s ("Betty and Dupree's Blues," "In the Jail House Now," "Columbus Stockade Blues"). Also, it has a bigger production, filled with chirpy backing vocals and twinkling pianos, a choice that hints at the ultimate problem with Evans: he's just a little bit too inherently pop, an inclination that does make these two records feel pretty tied to their times. Nevertheless, he's a sweet, ingratiating guy -- a quality that is evident on his self-penned liner notes -- and these LPs are both pleasant period pieces. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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