Like many singer-songwriters, J.D. Souther is better known for songs performed by others, including the Eagles (â€œNew Kid in Townâ€), Bonnie Raitt (â€œRun Like a Thiefâ€) and Linda Ronstadt (â€œFaithless Loveâ€), than for his own performances. But in the early â€˜70s, the Detroit-to-Texas-to-Los Angeles transplant was introduced to David Geffen by his downstairs neighbor, Jackson Browne, and found himself signed to the nascent Asylum label. This 1972 debut features ten originals, and includes accompaniment by Southerâ€™s then-roommate, Glenn Frey, as well as handpicked session stars Bryan Garafalo, Gary Mallaber, Wayne Perkins and Nashville West fiddler Gib Guilbeau.
The albumâ€™s sound helped develop the templates for â€˜70s Southern California music, adding country to rock, while keeping the singer-songwriter sensibility front and center. The album was recorded at Pacific Recorders in Northern California, rather than one of the reigning L.A. studios, but you wouldnâ€™t know it from the musical vibe. Souther sounds a bit like his pals Browne and Frey, and his songs have a similar shade of inviting introspection. In â€œKite Woman,â€ which Souther had previously recorded with Frey as the duo Longbranch Pennywhistle, and â€œHow Long,â€ you can hear the voice that would carry him forward, and the songwriting that would come to fit the Eagles. The latter song was in fact resurrected by the Eagles for their 2007 comeback Long Road Out of Eden.
The album failed to click commercially, and it would be four more years until Souther waxed his second solo effort, but the lack of sales doesnâ€™t reflect on either the songs or the performances. Souther apparently didnâ€™t have the commercial â€œitâ€ of Browne, but his music is heartfelt and effective. Omnivoreâ€™s 2016 reissue augments the original ten tracks with seven period bonuses, including an alternate version of â€œKite Womanâ€ and six demos. The latter, stripped mostly to guitar and vocals, provide more intimate readings than the band versions, and include the otherwise unrecorded â€œOne in the Middle.â€ Delivered in a digipack with a 12-page booklet, this is a worthy upgrade and a good introduction for those who havenâ€™t yet dug J.D. Souther. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]