Singer, songwriter and certified guitar player Jerry Reed found his musical calling as a child, and by the time he turned 18 in 1955, he was already making records. Sides cut for Capitol (catch the rockabilly â€œWhen I Found Youâ€ here), NRC and Columbia failed to ignite a performing career, but his songwriting and session guitar work garnered traction in Nashville. By 1965 heâ€™d come to the attention of Chet Atkins, and two years later he released his debut LP, The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed, on RCA. The album was stylistically schizophrenic, ranging from folk-country tunes similar to Waylon Jennings early RCA sides to faux British Invasion pop to rootsy blues-country. Itâ€™s the latter, including the albumâ€™s first single, â€œGuitar Man,â€ that came to define Reedâ€™s sound.
In 1967, though, Atkins was still trying to find a place for Reed within the Nashville Sound. Atkins added badly-aging harpsichord to many of the debutâ€™s tracks, and though Reed, Wayne Moss and Fred Carter Jr. cut loose with gut-string picking on several tracks, including the instrumental â€œThe Claw,â€ there were still the doubled pop vocals of â€œIf I Promiseâ€ sharing track space with the sly talking ablues â€œWoman Shyâ€ and the Everlys-styled â€œLong Gone.â€ Itâ€™s interesting, albeit a bit disconcerting, to hear Reed singing so far outside his earthier country sound, and the folk- and pop-flavored cuts havenâ€™t the swagger of his blues. Elvis Presley covered â€œGuitar Man,â€ with Reed reproducing the guitar break from this recording, and â€œU.S. Male,â€ with the lyrical intro shifted from Georgia to Mississippi.
Reed returned Elvisâ€™ favor with his next single â€œTupelo Mississippi Flash,â€ on his second album, Nashville Underground. Released in 1968, this second albumâ€™s title proves itself ironic with music thatâ€™s even heavier on the crossover balladry. Try as he might though, Atkins couldnâ€™t shave the Southern edges off Reedâ€™s playing and singing, highlighted by the hard-picked guitar of â€œFine on My Mind.â€ In addition to eight originals, Reed covers a pair of traditional titles (â€œWabash Cannonballâ€ and â€œJohn Henryâ€), and takes a playful, jazzy turn on Ray Charles â€œHallelujah I Love Her So.â€ As on the debut, Reedâ€™s versatility is impressive, but itâ€™s the talking blues and arrangements stripped of Atkinsâ€™ crossover production that still leap most energetically from the speakers.
Real Goneâ€™s first-ever CD reissue of these two albums features the twenty-three original tracks, and includes a twelve-page booklet rich with original cover art (front and back), session data and liner notes by Chris Morris. If you only know Reed from 1970s hits â€œAmos Mosesâ€ and â€œWhen Youâ€™re Hot Youâ€™re Hotâ€ (or only as an actor from Smokey and the Bandit), this is a great opportunity to hear his first brush withNashville. Atkinsâ€™ production leaves many of these tracks sounding like period pieces, but Reedâ€™s talent still shines through, and if you pick your way around the glossier pop ballads, thereâ€™s some truly rewarding here. [Â©2012 hyperbolium dot com]