Dave Frishberg: Sweet Kentucky Ham


Sweet Kentucky Ham


Dave Frishberg (piano, vocals)


Classics (Concord Jazz 4462)

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Dave Frishberg (piano, vocals).

Composed by Dave Frishberg


Recorded: Stroudsburg, PA, April 1981


Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

I first heard this song performed by Rosemary Clooney and she described it as “the ultimate road song”. True enough, as the lyric tells of a bored traveler moving through the Midwestern cities of South Bend, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Frishberg’s lyric focuses on two elements: the loneliness of travel (especially at night, when all of the scenes take place) and the food that one eats on the road. The second point is noteworthy because the traveler is dreaming of “Sweet Kentucky Ham”, but even more important is the first point, because throughout the song there is a strong intimation that it’s not just the ham that he wants, but the person who shares it with him. I doubt that Frishberg has ever included the words “I love you” in a lyric, but the emotions found deep in this lyric speak to a much deeper feeling than those three little words. Frishberg’s performance is letter perfect: his solo piano is the right accompaniment, as the addition of bass and drums would spoil the theme of loneliness, and his yearning vocal makes us believe that he has lived through this experience. The ultimate road song? Sure, but also a very profound love song.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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