Top 10 Tom T. Hall Songs

Country song teller Tom T. Hall crafted many modern-day country standards. While there was rarely a chorus or catchy hook in his songs, the man could spin a narrative like no other. He wrote about characters from his past or about people just passing through, making legends out of normal folk that people still sing about today.

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Whether they were songs for his own catalog or for other country greats, his songwriting—always marked by wit and wisdom– has gone down in history. Below are 10 Tom T. Hall songs that are a testament to his skills.

10. “Country Is”

Country is livin’ in the city / Knowin’ your people, knowin’ your kind / Country is what you make it / Country is all in your mind, Hall sings in the twanging “Country Is.”

Hall knew the intricacies of what country was and what it wasn’t (he practically wrote the book on it), singing in the 1974 tune that it was more a state of mind than anything else.

9. “Fox On The Run”

She walks through the corn leadin’ down to the river / Her hair shone like gold in the hot mornin’ sun / She took all the love that a poor boy could give her / And left me to die like a fox on the run, Hall sings on the famed “Fox On The Run.”

A long-covered bluegrass standard, Hall’s Kentucky-textured lilt is the perfect pairing against the song’s racing banjo and crying fiddle.

8. “Homecoming”

I guess I should’ve written, dad / To let you know that I was coming home / I’ve been gone so many years / I didn’t realize you had a phone…, plays the loping song-story “Homecoming.”

In the song, Hall is having a discussion with his estranged father about why he’s been away for so long. It’s a bittersweet tune about the price of fame and the people you miss on your way to the top.

7. “Ballad Of Forty Dollars”

I guess I ought to go and watch them put him down / But I don’t own a suit / And anyway when they start talkin’ about / The fire in Hell, well, I get spooked, plays another of Hall’s iconic song-tellings.

The rambling “Ballad Of Forty Dollars” depicts a funeral from the eyes of a gravedigger. In Hall fashion, it’s a light-hearted tune about death that throws in a few wisecracks here and there.

6. “I Love”

I love little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks / Slow movin’ trains and rain / I love little country streams, sleep without dreams / Sunday school in May and hay / And I love you too, Hall sings in the tender “I Love.”

Released on his Country Songs for Children album, “I Love” is as sweet as songs come.

5. “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died”

I remember the year that Clayton Delaney died / They said for the last two weeks that he suffered and cried / It made a big impression on me, although I was a barefoot kid / They said he got religion at the end and I’m glad that he did, he sings on yet another story song in the Hall trademark.

In “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died,” Hall lilts about a local musician he used to look up to as a kid. He reminisces on fond memories of his childhood hero, a man who never really made it, but in Hall’s eyes, he did.

4. “Faster Horses (The Cowboy And The Poet)”

“It’s faster horses / Younger women / Older whiskey / More money,” the cowboy in Hall’s “Faster Horses (The Cowboy And The Poet)” claimed was the secret to life.

The galloping country-bluegrass-rock number tells the story of an old cowboy speaking to a young wannabe poet. They both have different views about life, but they come together to share wisdom.

3. “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine”

There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me / The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ ‘Ironsides’ on TV / Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind / On old dogs and children and watermelon wine, plays Hall’s sage tale.

“Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” is another song in which two characters trade wisdom and listeners come away feeling all the more aware.

2. “I Like Beer”

Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much / Vodka puts my mouth in gear / This little refrain should help me explain / As a matter of fact I like beer, plays “I Like Beer.”

Like Hall, this classic doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a fun slice-of-life tune that’s light on sophistication, but heavy on simple pleasures. It’s impossible not to smile at a song so plainly honest.

1. “That’s How I Got To Memphis”

If you love somebody enough / You’ll follow wherever they go / That’s how I got to Memphis / That’s how I got to Memphis, Hall sings in his greatest hit “That’s How I Got To Memphis.”

Covered by so many, the song has become a country standard since its release in 1969. Hall originally wrote it for country hitmaker Bobby Bare, who popularized the tune. However, no one plays it quite like Hall.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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