THE BLISSED-OUT BIRTH OF COUNTRY ROCK
Following on from its earlier releases, Bear Family Records concludes its revealing insight into country rock music with three more double cds.
To repeat some earlier background information. Whereas rockabilly came from the South in the 1950s and was an alternative to country music, so country rock was the West Coast’s variation a decade later, created by musicians who might (in the main) be considered as rock. But both rockabilly and country rock as compiler and originator of this series, Colin Escott points out, “were reactions against the then-prevailing music … every rockabilly single was a finger thrust in the face of smug, perfectly formed 1950s pop. Country rock (or ‘longhair country’ as the trade press called it) was a reaction against the self-absorption of psychedelia.”
So, in this series, the focus moves between rock musicians who extended their music into the realms of country and creating their own sound, alongside country music artists reaching out the other way. These latest releases cover the years 1972 – 1975, a period that saw the perimeters of rock and country drawn ever more closely together, a decline in a number of West Coast bands, the emergence of Austin as a major force and many Nashville artists broadening their recording activities by way of songs and musicianship.
Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels creates the atmosphere of the era thanks to the recordings – a total of 126 – complimented by 82 page books detailing the artist’s background, song and recording information, other snippets and photographs. Packaged in an attractively designed digi-pack, this is a unbeatable way to recall, or discover, country-rock and its various offshoots.
So on to the final releases in this innovative series (and pinpointing some of the highlights) ......
TRUCKERS, KICKERS, COWBOY ANGELS: Volume 5 (1972)
Disc One: DANNY O'KEEFE - Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues; DELBERT & GLEN - I Received A Letter; BOBBY CHARLES - Tennessee Blues; THE BYRDS - Lazy Waters; J. J. CALE - After Midnight; TOWNES VAN ZANDT - You Are Not Needed Now; JIMMIE DALE &THE FLATLANDERS – Dallas; RY COODER - Boomer's Story; KRIS KRISTOFFERSON - Border Lord; JONATHAN EDWARDS - Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy; NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE – Rainbow; MICHAEL NESMITH - Different Drum; CHIP TAYLOR – Gasoline; PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE – Tears; JOHN HARTFORD - Nobody Eats At Linebaugh's Anymore; JOHN PRINE - The Great Compromise; JIMMIE DALE & THE FLATLANDERS - You've Never Seen Me Cry; DAN HICKS & HIS HOT LICKS - Walkin' One And Only.
Disc Two: BOBBY CHARLES - Small Town Talk; J. J. CALE – Clyde; DANNY O'KEEFE - The Road; DELBERT & GLEN - Ain't What You Eat But The Way How You Chew It; DOUG KERSHAW - Super Cowboy; THE EVERLY BROTHERS - I'm Tired Of Singing My Song In Las Vegas; RICK NELSON & THE STONE CANYON BAND - Garden Party; RICK ROBERTS - In My Own Small Way; DAN FOGELBERG - Anyway I Love You; PURE PRAIRIE LEAGUE - Early Morning Riser; THE BYRDS - B.B. Class Road; CHIP TAYLOR - Dirty Matthew; J. D. SOUTHER - The Fast One; UNCLE JIM'S MUSIC - Once In A Great While; NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE - Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music); KRIS KRISTOFFERSON - Smokey Put The Sweat On Me; JIMMIE DALE & THE FLATLANDERS - Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown; GARY & RANDY SCRUGGS - Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies; NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND - Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
(Bear Family BCD 17365)
The introductory notes to this set, reflecting upon the changing state of the music in 1972, reveals (according to a Billboard report) an interest in neo-country swing and that while many of the 1950s acts were content to continue to playing their old hits others, like Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson, were reinventing themselves in country rock, tired of being known as “oldies” artists – hence I’m Tired Of Singing My Song In Las Vegas and Garden Party respectively. Another retrospective view came with John Hartford’s Nobody Eats At Linebaugh’s Anymore, a glance at Nashville’s then faded Broadway area. Other changes of musical identities came with Michael Nesmith, now with his Monkees persona behind him, and Gary & Randy Scruggs began establishing their own pathways away from their father’s bluegrass identity (but Earl was also an innovator, having created his Revue lineup with a track on the 1973 collection) – and Doug Kershaw’s recordings were adapted (and failed) to present the energy of his live performances. Far more successful solo performances came from Jonathan Edwards (Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy) and Danny O’Keefe (Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues), while Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s distinctive vocals headed up The Flatlanders (with Joe Ely and Butch Hancock). Townes Van Zandt was on his way to a cult following, Bobby Charles showed he was equally good at vocals as he was as a songwriter and Kris Kristofferson’s creativity was put to the test with a surfeit of album releases. The band scene was also slowing down though Nitty Gritty Dirt Band made a groundbreaking 3 LP set, with Will The Circle Be Unbroken featuring a stack of country music’s foremost traditional artists.
TRUCKERS, KICKERS, COWBOY ANGELS: Volume 6 (1973)
Disc One: DOUG SAHM & BAND (vocals: DOUG SAHM & BOB DYLAN) – (Is Anybody Going To) San Antone; WILLIE NELSON - Shotgun Willie; GRAM PARSONS - That's All It Took; DELBERT & GLEN - California Livin'; TOWNES VAN ZANDT - Pancho & Lefty; JERRY JEFF WALKER – Gettin’ By; BOBBY BARE - Ride Me Down Easy; BILLY JOE SHAVER - Old Five And Dimers Like Me; J. J. CALE - If You're Ever In Oklahoma; HANK WILSON - Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms; GENE CLARK - Don't This Road Look Rough And Rocky (aka Rough And Rocky); THE EARL SCRUGGS REVUE - Salty Dog Blues; NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE - Lonesome L.A. Cowboy; THE BAND - Crying Heart Blues; GOOSE CREEK SYMPHONY - (Oh Lord Won't You Buy Me A) Mercedes Benz; RICK ROBERTS - Glad To Be Goin'; OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS - Country Girl; BORDERLINE - Please Help Me Forget; DENNIS LINDE - Burning Love; LITTLE FEAT - Roll Urn Easy; DAN HICKS & HIS HOT LICKS - Payday Blues; DOUG SAHM AND BAND - It's Gonna Be Easy; JERRY JEFF WALKER-LOST GONZO BAND - Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother.
Disc Two: WILLIE NELSON – Troublemaker: HOYT AXTON – Sweet Misery; J. J. CALE – Lies; LITTLE FEAT – Dixie Chicken; THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND - Ramblin' Man; GRAM PARSONS – She; THE EARL SCRUGGS REVUE - If I'd Only Come And Gone; ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL - Take Me Back To Tulsa; JERRY JEFF WALKER - Sangria Wine; COMMANDER CODY & HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN - Everybody's Doing It; JIM FORD - Big Mouth USA; DELBERT & GLEN - To Be With You; KINKY FRIEDMAN - Sold American; GOOSE CREEK SYMPHONY - Me And Him; MICHAEL NESMITH – Winonah; GENE CLARK &THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS - Here Tonight; GENE PARSONS - Sonic Bummer; CHIP TAYLOR - 101 In Cashbox; BILLY JOE SHAVER - I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train; TOWNES VAN ZANDT - If I Needed You; GRAM PARSONS & ERNMYLOU HARRIS - Sleepless Nights; THE SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET -Texas Tornado; JERRY JEFF WALKER (GARY P. NUNN: vocal) London Homesick Blues.
(Bear Family BCD 17366)
Austin, Texas, was becoming the new focal point of the cutting edge of country music and one-time Nashville recording artist Willie Nelson was the catalyst, kicking off with Shotgun Willie and launching his first annual July 4th picnic at Dripping Springs in 1973 which attracted 30,000 – 40,000 people. The Armadillo World Headquarters was at the heart of the city’s music community while the Soap Creek Saloon was its soul and where Doug Sahm led the house band before establishing Sir Douglas Quintet (and, later, the Texas Tornados). Among his recordings here is (Is Anybody Going To) San Antonio, a teaming with Bob Dylan who had already made a country breakthrough working with Johnny Cash in Nashville. Other Austin artists making their presence felt included Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band, Gary P. Nunn and Asleep At The Wheel, soon to play an active role in reviving western swing. Meanwhile, in Nashville, more singer/songwriters were claiming attention including Billy Joe Shaver – heard here with the classic Old Five And Dimers Like Me as well as scoring a hit for Bobby Bare with Ride Me Down Easy – the controversial Kinky Friendman (Sold American), Hoyt Axton, Townes Van Zandt, Dennis Linde and rocker Leon Russell turned country under the guise of Hank Wilson. Bands were not only claiming attention in California (including New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Little Feet, Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen and Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, the last two moving into the realms of swing and boogie) but also other locations like Memphis (Goose Creek Symphony) and Macon (Allman Brothers Band), But, arguably, the most influence artist to emerge during this period was Gram Parsons, not only because of the impact he made but also because as the discoverer of Emmylou Harris.
TRUCKERS, KICKERS, COWBOY ANGELS: Volume 7 (1974-1975)
Disc One: GRAM PARSONS & EMMYLOU HARRIS – Return Of The Grievous Angel; GENE CLARK – Life’s Greatest Fool; NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE – Crooked Judge; THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS – Building Fires; RICHARD BETTS - Long Time Gone; J.J. CALE - Cajun Moon; HOYT AXTON - When The Morning Comes; WILLIE NELSON & TRACY NELSON - After The Fire Is Gone; WAYLON JENNINGS – Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way; HANK WILLIAMS, JR. - Stoned At The Jukebox; CHARLIE DANIELS BAND - Willie Jones; MULESKINNER - Mule Skinner Blues; BAREFOOT JERRY - Mother Nature's Way Of Saying High; LARRY JON WILSON - Ohoopee River Bottomland; GUY CLARK - L. A. Freeway; NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND - Ripplin' Waters; THE SOUTHER-HILLMAN-FURAY BAND - Border Town; THE DOOBIE BROTHERS - Tell Me What You Want (And I'll Give You What You Need); BILLY SWAN - I Can Help; THE OUTLAWS - There Goes Another Love Song; WILLIE NELSON - Bloody Mary Morning; GRAM PARSONS - Brass Buttons.
Disc Two: THE SOUTHER-HILLMAN-FURAY BAND – Trouble In Paradise; THE OUTLAWS – Knoxville Girl; GENE CLARK – From A Silver Phial; MULESKINNER – Runways Of The Moon; GRAM PARSONS & EMMYLOU HARRIS - In My Hour Of Darkness; THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS - Sweet Desert Childhood; COMMANDER CODY & HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN – Southbound; KINKY FRIEDMAN - Something's Wrong With The Beaver; BAREFOOT JERRY - Slowin' Down; OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS - E. E. Lawson; JOHNNY RIVERS - Wait A Minute; BILLY SWAN - Lover Please; DONNIE FRITTS - We Had It All; THE LOST GONZO BAND - Railroad Man; JESSE WINCHESTER - Mississippi, You're On My Mind; SIR DOUG & THE TEXAS TORNADOS - Cowboy Peyton Place; GUY CLARK - Desperados Waiting For A Train; EMMYLOU HARRIS - Boulder To Birmingham; THE WRIGHT BROTHERS OVERLAND STAGE CO - Wild Wicked Woman Of The West; JOHN PRINE - Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard; WILLIE NELSON - Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.
(Bear Family BCD 17367)
So on to the concluding double cd in this ten year rise and fall of country rock – well, not so much a “fall”, as Colin Escott comments in the booklet’s introductory notes, but rather an immersion into soft rock as suchlike musicians, once found in California, were now making their presence felt in Austin and Nashville as “country”. And the late leader of the pack, Gram Parsons, first heard in the 1973 set now emerges with Emmylou Harris who was to carry on the work of her mentor after his tragic death as well as establishing her own iconic status. There’s a couple of chances to hear them singing together here. Several of the familiar country-rockers are still around – Flying Burrito Brothers, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Gene Clark, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Richard (“Dickey”) Betts, Commander Cody among others – while Nashville was making changes, not only with session musicians (a stack of them went through the ranks with Barefoot Jerry) but also the artists. Waylon asked Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way, Hank Jr was Stoned At The Jukebox and Billy Swan added an organ to create a country-pop hit with I Can Help. Larry Jon Wilson and John Prine were a couple of the newer singer-songwriters in town and Guy Clark is heard with his classics, LA Freeway and Desperados Waiting for A Train. Willie Nelson duets with Tracy Nelson (no relation) and the set concludes with his Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, a song from the Fred Rose songbook that would be an integral part of the timeless “Red Headed Stranger” set, an album that was originally rejected by the industry.
Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels (Vol 1: 1966-68) (double cd: Bear Family BCD17361 BS)
Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels (Vol 2: 1969) (single cd: Bear Family BCD17362 AH)
Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels (Vol 3: 1970) (double cd: Bear Family BCD17363)Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels (Vol 4: 1971) (double cd: Bear Family BCD17364)