Friday, January 18, 2008

Get To Digging!

Larry Birdsong - Digging Your Potatoes

The late Larry Birdsong was yet another member of the criminally-overlooked Nashville soul circuit despite a pretty decent run of singles released over the span of a decade and a half or so for labels including Excello, Champion, Vee-Jay, Sur-Speed and Ref-O-Ree. Birdsong's unusual, quivering vocal style struck me as sort of unnerving at first, but repeated listens to stuff like "Somebody Somewhere" and "Every Night in the Week" (both the '50s R&B version and the oh-so-funky '60s version - on Sur-Speed - that I featured in Episode #16 of the podcast) and today's selection brought me to the realization that Birdsong was a cat with plenty of soul, and had the breaks gone the right way he may have been more successful. (And what a break he missed out on - when Vee-Jay Records wanted to sign him, Ted Jarrett - is there any Nashville soul act that he was not involved with at one time or another? - insisted they take Gene Allison as well; Vee Jay agreed, and Allison struck paydirt with "You Can Make It If You Try"!)

Larry's 1969 Ref-O-Ree single "Digging Your Potatoes" was his second-to-last soul 45 (he would record one gospel single and a gospel album before his death in 1983), and it's a sho' 'nuff groover. The song clearly is cut from the Johnnie Taylor "Who's Making Love" / "Take Care of Your Homework" mold, but Birdsong's unique vocal style, coupled with a great Nashville funk groove, makes the song stand nicely on its own. "You better dig your own potatoes, keep that other man out of your patch," Birdsong warns. "He might do a better job than you, and I know you wouldn't like that." Good advice, Larry!

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