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Lloyd Green & Jay Dee Maness: Journey to the Beginning – A Steel Guitar Tribute to the Byrds

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Sweetheart of the Rodeo’s steel players reflect and pay tribute

The Byrds’ 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo wasn’t their first dance with country music, but it was their most full throated. The addition of Gram Parsons to the band’s lineup magnified the country music that had threaded through the Byrd’s earlier albums, and with Nashville ace Lloyd Green and Los Angeles player Jay Dee Maness contributing their steel guitar prowess, the group made its most powerful roots music statement. Now, on the album’s fiftieth anniversary, the steel wizards salute both the Byrds’ invention and their contribution to it by recreating the entire album as steel and fiddle-led instrumentals. And as a bonus, a reprise of the opening track, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” is offered with superb, heartfelt vocals by Jim Lauderdale, Jeff Hanna, Richie Furay and Herb Pedersen. Recorded at Nashville’s Cinderella Sound (the oldest independent studio in town), the new arrangements largely stay true to the original melodies, but with steel guitars and fiddle taking lead, the mood is more languorous, and the twang pushes the songs of Charlie Louvin, Cindy Walker, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons even further into the country domain. This isn’t meant to replace the iconic original album, but as a reflection on the turn it helped to usher in, and a musical conversation in steel between two of the original players, it’s a wonderful echo. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

NRBQ: NRBQ

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The 1969 debut of a polyglot music legend

Originally released in 1969, this debut outlined the wide musical grasp and irreverent sensibility that would grow the band’s legend over the next 49 years. 49 years in which this initial explosion of creativity sat in the vault unreissued. 49 years in which either the group’s continuing activity diverted their attention from a reissue, or in which lawyers intermittently haggled over muddy contractual rights. Either way, Omnivore has finally liberated the album from its resting place and reissued the fourteen songs in a tri-fold slipcase with original front and back cover art, Donn Adams period liner notes, and contemporary notes by Jay Berman. Berman characterizes the band’s repertoire, even at this early point in their career, as including “nearly anything,” and the eclectic mix of covers and originals bears that out.

This first studio lineup included long-time members Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato (the latter then credited as Jody St. Nicholas), along with vocalist Frank Gadler, guitarist Steve Ferguson and drummer Tom Staley. The group stakes out the audacious corners of their musical omniverance with covers of Eddie Cochran’s rockabilly “C’mon Everybody,” Sun Ra’s avant garde jazz “Rocket Number 9,” Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s folk blues “C’mon If You’re Comin’” (which the group revisited on 1972’s Workshop), and a country soul arrangement of Bruce Channel’s 1962 chart topper, “Hey! Baby.” Few bands at the time would have even known this range of material, let alone find a way to make it fit together on an album.

The original material from Adams, Spaminato and Ferguson is equally ambitious. Adams mashes up trad jazz and rock ‘n’ roll for “Kentucky Slop,” boogies hard on “Mama Get Down Those Rock And Roll Shoes,” captures the melancholy of Carla Bley’s 1964 jazz instrumental “Ida Lupino” with original lyrics, and closes the album with the piano-led “Stay With Me.” Ferguson’s trio of originals include the pop and soul influences of “I Didn’t Know Myself,” the gospel rocker “Stomp” and the country, folk and gospel flavored “Fergie’s Prayer.” Spampinato offers the album’s most ebullient moment with “You Can’t Hide,” a title the band would revisit ten years later on Tiddlywinks.

The album’s collection of first takes (including the previously unreleased first take of “Stomp” substituting for the re-recorded version that appeared on the original vinyl) provides a snapshot of the band as they played live. The set list reflects the confluence of musical interests, knowledge and talent the band members brought to the group, and the performances have an all-in quality that made second takes superfluous. Whether or not the renditions were note-perfect (and they pretty much are), they were perfect expressions of the musical ethos that sustains the band to this day. It’s a shame that the originally released second take of “Stomp” wasn’t included as part of this reissue, but that’s a nit, given the historical and artistic riches that have been sprung from the vault. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

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