Static Roots 2018

34016858_857835087737260_3737381984364658688_nRound about this time last year we spoke to a good friend of Blabber’n’Smoke, Dietmar Leibecke, from Germany, about his Static Roots festival which he had set up in 2016. Seeing as it seems we share the same pair of ears when it comes to music, Static Roots seemed to be the place to be mid July and this was confirmed when another good friend, Ken Beveridge, wrote a fine review of the weekend. Well it’s that time of year again and so we dialled up Dietmar to ask him what was on offer this time. Read on to see what he has in store for those attending in 2018.

It’s your third year of putting on Static Roots, is it gaining a foothold on the musical calendar over there?

Well it’s a bit early to say but we are getting some more publicity with invites to talk about the festival from some radio shows here in Germany and I’ve even spoken about it for a London based show when I was over there two weeks ago. Certainly when we offered up our early bird tickets they sold out almost immediatley and since then the sales have been building up. Funny thing is that a lot of them are going to people from outside Germany but I’m hoping that with the recent publicity we can get some more local folk to come along.

I know that you have been closely linked with Ireland’s Kilkenny Roots Festival so is it a bunch of Irish folk going over?

A lot of my friends from Kilkenny Roots will be there but they come from all over, Ireland, England and there’s a big Scottish contingent. Many of them have been there for the past two festivals and when they come it’s like a big family gathering but for everyone else they’ve really enjoyed the atmosphere. We have a great venue, an old factory which has been converted into a really nice venue with a beer garden outside selling great food and great beer so there’s plenty of opportunities to meet people and share the experience.

Sticking with the Kilkenny connection I believe you are going to be paying tribute to the late Willie Meighan.

Willie came to the first Static Roots before he became unwell. When I was thinking about setting up the festival I got a lot of advice from Willie, he was a great inspiration and really a mentor to me. We had a lot of discussions about the bands I wanted to put on and he had some great suggestions. There was a band who wanted to play but I wasn’t sure about how they would fit in even though I knew their name would sell a lot of tickets so I spoke to Willie and he said, “Stay true to what you feel is right”, so I didn’t book them in the end and instead stuck to the acts that I knew would go down really well. Willie was my role model and such a great influence, such a lovely, friendly, polite and funny character so we’ve decided to have a special slot in the festival dedicated to him. And really there was no one better to play that slot than Kilkenny’s Midnight Union Band, I think of them almost as Willie’s children as he supported them so much.

So who else is on the bill?

On the Friday we open with Hannah Aldridge who is just tremendous. She’s playing solo but she can really grab the stage on her own and then there’s the Steven Stanley band from Canada whose album was produced by Christopher Brown on Wolfe Island. The Midnight Union Band are on next and then to close the night we have Terra Lightfoot with her full band. I’ve only seen her solo before and I was really impressed but the videos of her with her band are brilliant so I’m really looking forward to that. And then on Saturday we are lucky to have Justin Osborne from Susto opening the show  before we head to Nashville with Anthony da Costa and Charlie Whitten and then into London with Donald Byron Wheatley. I really loved Donald’s album which sounded at times like Dylan in the sixties when he was playing with The Band, I’m really looking forward to that but I think that the last three bands on will just blow people’s mind’s away. We have Bennet Wilson Poole, your new supergroup of sorts who are just brilliant and then Prinz Grizzly who have really progressed since I first saw them at Kilkenny last year. And then I’m really excited that we have managed to get The Cordovas over to close the show.  I saw them last year almost by accident. I was in Groningen  watching Hurray for the Riffraff and when they finished I was going to another stage to see the Cactus Blossoms but I had to pass another stage and there were these five hippies on it just starting to play so I stayed to see what they sounded like and they were tremendous, guitars, pedal steel and three singers doing some great harmonies. In the end I watched the whole show, I don’t think any of them stopped to retune a guitar or anything, they just played and they were so much fun so I missed the Cactus Blossoms and I decided I needed to have them at Static Roots so I spoke to them after the show and we agreed to see if we could manage it. And then I met with Paul Spencer who organises the Maverick festival and we decided to see if we could coordinate some things which resulted in us having The Cordovas coming to play for us. Hopefully Paul and I can continue this and bring some more of the bigger acts over.

Aside from the music what else is going on?

As I said there’s a really nice beer garden outside and we have breaks so that people can go outside and grab a bite to eat.  Our friend Ken Beveridge who has written a book about all the gigs he’s gone to since 1966  will be doing a book signing at some point. I’ve also asked Anthony Griffin, a really good photographer, to come over but not to take shots of the bands but to concentrate on the audience. He did that for Kilkenny Roots and he can really capture that sense of wonder you get when you’re listening to some great music and really being part of a community. And really aside from the music we are arranging a sort of cultural outing for anyone who comes early on the Friday, the Static Ruhr Tour, a trip to some historical sites around Oberhausen along with some stop offs to experience a real currywurst stall and sample a few beers on the way.

Static Roots Festival happens on Friday and Saturday 13th and 14th July, all info here

And here’s a sample of Dietmar’s latest find, The Cordovas…

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Mishka Shubaly. When We Were Animals

Art copyBack in 2015 we wrote about an album which seemed to epitomise that old Wildean quote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” That album was Mishka Shubaly’s Coward’s Path, a dark and at times shambolic collection of drug fuelled misanthropy compared to which the likes of Nick Cave and Mark Lanagan sounded like top 40 popsters. Well Shubaly, a man who has probably the most chequered past of anyone we’ve reviewed has done it again with When We Were Animals, another dive into the depths of despair and again delivered with a voice sounding like Barry McGuire has had throat surgery.

It’s not for the faint hearted. No radio station is ever going to play World’s Smallest Violin, a song which kicks off with a punk rock throb sounding like a testosteroned Lou Reed looking for a fight as Shubaly describes a pretty sordid carnal encounter in a bar seesawing between GG Allin like explicitness and wry humour. You just have to love a line like, “When I pulled down my pants, that look on your face like you had lost a bet, “showing that Shubaly is at least not going to boast of his penile prowess.

So, fair warned, what can one expect from the remainder of the album? Well, pretty much more of the same, the music ranging from a mutant form of freak folk to spikier rock songs but the subject matter pretty much focussed on degradation and regret. Never Drinking Again is a bluesy hangover filled with regret as Shubaly populates the song with an exhaustive list of substances that he’s never going to do again before singing, “I’m never going to talk to you again,” indicating a partner as destructive as the drugs. By the end however he’s still in thrall to this person, the relationship reminiscent of Bukowski’s Barfly. The opening song Forget About Me, another loutish punk like thrash sets out Shubaly’s take on relationships as he looks for a cross between an angel and a demon while Animal is a slow growler of a song with Shubaly joined by an anguished female singer as they sing about down and dirty coitus. There’s a hint of Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries in the drug fuelled night out recalled (or not as the case may be) on Death In Greenpoint with Shubaly again transforming a calamitous one night drug fuelled Odyssey via his fantastic words on the final lines, “Well I think I’m going to go with a headfull of blow, in a Polish disco, in Greenpoint.” Meanwhile there is a tender moment on the Farmer John referencing Destructible which, while remaining quite dark, reminds one of The Handsome Family.

Just in case you’re wondering how far entrenched into the drugs world Shubaly was engaged in he offers us a loaded cover version of Little Feat’s Willin. Whereas the original was a brilliant delivery of those days when smuggling drugs had a fine and breezy outlaw vibe to it, here Shubaly invests it with a menace more akin to the murder and mayhem we’ve seen via shows like Narco. Just brilliant.

Mishka Shubaly is currently touring the UK. All dates here including a show at the 13th Note in Glasgow this Saturday.

 

Jamie Freeman. Hasia Dreams EP. Union Music Label

hasia20dreams20cover_724x724-837a8aIt’s been a while since a Jamie Freeman disc slid through the letterbox, his last release being 2013’s 100 Miles From Home. Despite being a familiar name down south in the UK Americana world as a musician and a behind the scenes mover and shaker he’s not well kent up here which is a bit of a pity. 100 Miles From Home (recorded with his band The Jamie Freeman Agreement) roamed around jangled power pop, English folk and dark Americana creating what should really be considered as a bit of a lost classic. There are certainly elements of the first two on this EP but there’s also a healthy dash of patchouli scented psychedelia with Freeman admitting that several of the songs are influenced by his favourite sixties bands.

The EP was recorded in Nashville and the UK with The Jamie Freeman Agreement playing on the UK songs while the Nashville tracks feature Larkin Poe and The Wild Ponies but aside from the opening number you’d be hard pressed to tell which was which. Hasia Dreams is that opening song and it’s a wonderful evocation of English psychedelia, the backwards guitars and  raga rock scales reminiscent of bands such as Tintern Abbey and (the UK) Nirvana. It’s a delicious listen with Lucy Powell’s voice weaving around Freeman’s vocals and while it may seem like a lysergically influenced song it’s actually a pretty grim tale of a refugee’s perilous journey fleeing Syria as she clings to happier days in her dreams.

Shiprock is another song which visits childhood memories although here Freeman’s template is The Who as he offers a Townshend like exploration of a dysfunctional family with the prodding keyboards recalling the synth additions to The Who’s Next album. With its muscular guitars and punchy propulsion the song soars towards another psychedelic moment on its bridge before climaxing with wailing guitar and an eventual sonic breakdown. You really need to listen to this one with the volume way up. The shimmer of Rum and Smoke then wafts into view and its clear by now that Freeman is exploring in these songs the adult influences on the psyches of their children as here he  inhabits the mind of the child of an alcoholic father. Incredibly poignant, the song clothes the child’s formative memories in a bittersweet delivery which at times recalls early Traffic.

Damaged children can find redemption and it’s tempting to see the last two songs as evidence of this. Make Do With England has the protagonist finding a partner who is helping him to cope despite his frailties with Freeman singing, “Baby you taught me how to care, yeah, well I taught you how to swear.” It’s not all plain sailing as he thinks the idea that she would marry him must mean she’s crazy while their union doesn’t always lead to bliss with the title of the song (I think) a nod to that old adage of lying back and thinking of England. Whatever, Freeman again sets the song against a magnificent and rousing delivery which slowly builds in grandeur from its folky beginning to the swell of guitars and percussion towards the end. There is a happy ending as Freeman and the band throw out a rollicking almost rockabilly number on Wedding Ring and a New Tattoo which sounds like a cross between Dwight Yoakam and Ian Dury believe it or not.

The only quibble here is that there’s only five songs. Hopefully now that Freeman has divested himself of his record store in Lewes we can expect to hear more of him in the future. Fingers crossed.

Hasia Dreams is available here

 

The Arisaig Americana Festival takes its first steps

arisaig-festival-1The West Highlands of Scotland may well be one of the most beautiful places on the planet and there’s been no shortage of music emanating from the area over the years, most of it in the traditional vein and reflecting the rich culture of this historical landscape. Now, an enterprising musician, Mairi Orr, wants to see the West Highlands, or, more specifically, the village of Arisaig,  on the romantically named “road to the Isles” to become a beacon for Americana music in Scotland complementing the sterling work carried out by the likes of Celtic Connections in Glasgow and Perth’s Southern Fried Festival. Orr (whose music we’ve discussed here) recently moved to Arisaig after living in Edinburgh and she’s decided to use her contacts to set up a festival which she hopes will grow into a popular attraction. Obviously that’s a long term goal and on the understanding that great oaks from little acorns grow this year’s inaugural Arisaig Festival is a small (but perfectly formed) affair. Intrigued as to why and how Ms. Orr set about this Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to her and we started off by asking her why she decided to have a go at setting up the festival in the first place.

I moved back here three years ago, not long after I released my album. It’s a lovely place but I found that I was kind of missing the music scene I’d been around in the big city. There are some amazing musicians up here but it tends to be mostly Scottish and traditional music and while the musicianship is second to none I felt that there was room for more Americana type music and importantly, that there is an audience for it, so I decided to see if I could kind of kick-start that, get it off the ground. I’ve always loved being up here.  Before we moved here permanently I visited a lot because I’ve got family here and I always thought it would be great to have some sort of event here. It’s a popular tourist destination, absolutely mobbed in the summer and there’s a great appetite for cultural events, music and such. When we got here I had my baby girl and that obviously took up my time but I started thinking seriously about setting up an event at the beginning of this year. In reality I’ve set up this first festival in a ridiculously short time but I’ve got a three year plan where I want to build the festival up, hold it over a couple of days and hopefully get some American musicians to come up and join in. So this year is really just to get it off the ground, put the word out and gauge the reaction.

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So this year is pretty much dipping a toe in the water and seeing how it goes?

As I said it’s really just a launch pad for what I hope will be a bigger festival next year. We’re holding what is the main event on the Saturday night but before that we will be having musical workshops for guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin, on the Saturday afternoon. There’s also going to be what I’m describing as a big pub session on the Sunday and I know there’s going to be a lot of musicians turning up for that, a good mix of people I hope.  A lot of local people have expressed their interest since we announced it and we’ve received some funding from a local trust fund and it’s great to get their support. There will be tourists around looking for something to attend and then folk I know in the music scene have also said they’re coming up, they’ll join in the session so that should be good fun.

 

Tell us who you’ve got lined up to play

Well I’m really pleased to have The Wynntown Marshals as our headliners as they are one of Scotland’s best known “Americana” bands. They’ll be playing here as an acoustic trio which suits the hall we’re holding the concert in although I’ve asked Iain Sloan to be sure to bring his pedal steel with him. We also have The Jellyman’s Daughter, an excellent duo who have just released their second album and for this they’re bringing some friends with them to add bass and banjo on stage so that should sound great. Then there’s The Daddy Naggins who will be rounding off Saturday night with some good old foot stomping bluegrass. They’ll also be around earlier in the day as they are going to be helping out on the afternoon workshops.

You’ve missed out an act, the Crow County Pickers, which, after some extensive research, turns out to be yourself and some chums!

OK, that’s me with David Currie, Craig McKinney and Alan Finn. David is a fantastic Dobro player who did several shows with me when I was out playing my album. We hadn’t played for sometime after I had my daughter but we got back together a little while ago and started working on this and Craig is bringing along his mandolin while we’ve got Alan on bass

It seem to me that aside from the concert you’re trying to inject an awareness of roots type music, folk, Americana and such in a place that’s probably more used to trad fiddle sessions and pipers galore.

Well there’s a lot of music students up here who are learning trad music along with a lot of “closet” players out there who would probably love to have a go on the banjo or mandolin. We’re just trying to expand the idea of folk music to encompass more than trad so the workshops are aimed at them. One of things I like about Americana music is that it’s really open and friendly and inclusive, I’m hoping that if you play guitar or banjo or mandolin or anything really you can come along and join in. The workshops will be free as will the session on Sunday, bring an instrument or just come along to hear the music. The Sunday session is being held in a great bar where they’re really encouraging to musicians and I’m getting feedback that a lot of folk will be coming to that.

It is a small festival, we don’t have a great capacity in terms of the venues but I really want to grow it over a couple of days and bring artists up here who probably don’t come to this part of the world that often. Really we just want this year to put us on the map, there are musicians who come to the West Highlands but not often enough. I’ve been talking to some other promoters to see if can start to join the dots as it were for American acts coming over here so that they don’t just play the cities, to see if we can make it attractive enough for them to play a bit further afield.

Which bring us to my final question. A lot of folk will thing that Arisaig is out in the sticks, cut off from the mainstream as it were. If we were to go would we have to hike there or get a helicopter?

Although we look as if we’re out in the wilds there are good transport links. There’s a steam train that comes from Fort William, it’s actually the one you see in the Harry Potter films which goes over the Glenfinnan viaduct. That’s the tourist way of getting here but you can get the train from Glasgow while buses run from Glasgow and Inverness. I think most people will drive and we’re only about three to four hours away from most cities in Scotland. It is a bit of an effort to get here but it’s such a beautiful part of the world it’s well worth the effort. We’ve already got a successful trad festival here, Feis Na Mara, which is held in October and it always sells out and that’s in the off season so there’s no reason not to come.

The Arisaig  Americana Festival takes place on 23-24 June. Their website is here and tickets are available here.

And here’s some video of Mairi in action. She’s sure to give The Marshals’ a run for their money.

 

 

 

3hattrio. Lord of the Desert. Okehdokee Records

a0675962829_16The sun blasted and sand blown 3hattrio, denizens of Utah’s Southern Desert, continue to comb their way through the arid and atmospheric landscape which surrounds them on this, their fourth full length album. Their basic line up of guitar, violin and double bass is again enhanced by spectral sounds and effects while the voices are often like shamanistic exhortations with repetition used to induce an almost trance like effect.

At the heart of the band are three musicians (Hal Cannon, Greg Istock and Eli Wrankle) with various backgrounds in American folklore, creative art and classical music and who in essence are a string band par excellence but, just as Dr. John was a great r’n’b pianist, they depict their ochre infused landscape with as much invention as Mac Rebbenack did with New Orleans back in his Gris Gris days. There’s a hypnotic lure in the songs here, a temptation to succumb to the incantations and swirling dust storm of sounds the band summon up, the hallucinatory effect of the desert laid bare.

The three musicians’ distinctive styles create the contours of the album. Cannon provides the ballast, the lonesome traveller in the desert, Istock is the Shaman, the beguiler whose incantations and esoteric sounds are almost a peyote experience while Wrankle conjures up an ethereal mistral of sounds evoking the shifting landscapes sculpted by the forces of nature. Lord of the Desert is perhaps the band’s most successful invocation so far as the songs slide into one another, disparate elements fused into a whole as they shift from the banjo led introduction, Dust Devil; the traveller stepping foot into the alien territory forewarned but unabashed, to the closing surrender to the lord of the desert, gravely intoned by Cannon.  In between it’s an Odyssey of sorts amid the sand dunes. Pilgrim bustles with a spritely bass line and fuzzy electric violin and a rare mention of water, normally a good thing in a desert but here a harbinger of danger. Night Sky finds the instruments approximating the sounds of the creatures who venture forth after dark before the discombobulating babble of voices and eerie sound effects of Faith Is In Our Hands, a last cry of the faithful before the pagan desert swoops in which it does in the brace of Istock songs which follow. War ripples with Eastern influences, tabla and oud like sounds which summon up a vision of lysergicly scarred Iraq veterans recreating Operation Desert Storm while Faith can be construed as their attempts to recall an earlier normal life in flashback, all to no avail as I Am returns to the Eastern influences with Istock’s grunt of a voice invoking Imans and infantry grunts.

Cannon’s everyman returns on Wastelands of Yesterday, an extremely parched approximation of The Handsome Family’s bizarre canon before the even more parched instrumental Skeleton Tree which has a Morricone touch to it. Then, like insects buzzing around a flyblown corpse, Wrankle’s violin introduces another Istock invocation as the old man of the desert on Motel,  sounding here like an indecipherable Walter Brennan, a trick repeated on the following Won’t Help (although there’s a soupcon of Dr. John’s voodoo in here) as the spirit guide abandons the traveller who is left to rhapsodise on what could have been in the forge towards the new west on Poor Boys.

Bleached as white as bones in the desert sun, creaking and cracking like stones in the frozen desert night, infused with the memories and voices of those who have travelled and travailed across the sandy wastes, Lord of The Desert is a trip in more ways than one. It is mind expanding in the best sense as 3hattrio offer the listener an opportunity to explore, experience and enjoy their American desert music.

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David Starr. South and West

61v48w2essl-_ss500Blabber’n’Smoke was glad to have a sneak preview of Colorado musician David Starr’s latest album, South and West prior to him playing a show in Glasgow this week. The follow up to his acclaimed Love & Sabotage (from 2016 with a John Oates’ produced EP in between), South and West is another robust and joyful dive into those halcyon days of freewheeling and hair flowing country rock songs from the seventies with a dash of more introspective melodies giving the album just enough emotional ballast to prevent it from flying down the freeway.

Written in Cedaredge, Colorado and recorded in Nashville (hence the title) Starr and his accomplished band (Dan Dugmore, guitars, pedal and lap steel, mandolin; Erik Stucky, mandolin; Mark Prentice, bass; Mike Severs, guitars; Howard Duck, keyboards and accordion; Tommy Hayden, drums) expertly navigate the difficult waters of playing like a plethora of the usual suspects (Eagles, Poco, Fleetwood Mac) while not copying them and even occasionally wandering into unexpected backwaters as when they deliver Could Have Run Together with its churchy organ and sweet guitar outro recalling The Stones’ in their more mellow moods. Starr, who wrote or co-wrote all bar one of the songs here, has his finger on the button throughout with arresting images such as on the opening lines of Nothing Short as he sings, “There’s a jar full of nickels on a stand beside the bed. The sun hits it in the morning, shines like a million bucks.”

The album opens with a classic wide open road song on Good As Gone, the restless spirit of the adventurer bouncing out of the speakers buoyed on frantically scrubbed acoustic guitar, a propulsive rhythm and some muscular guitar breaks. There are several such numbers here. Love Won’t Make Itself starts off as a breezy Fleetwood Mac like number before Dugmore’s pedal steel weighs in and transports the song into cosmic cowboy territory. Even better is the fiery Until It’s Gone with Starr singing, “Of the ten commandments I’ve broken nine, and the tenth I’ll believe I’ll break in time,” as the band really rock out with barrelhouse piano, wicked slide guitar and caroming bass and drums, the song coming across as a brilliant mash of Springsteen and Joe Walsh.

Nestled between these rousing anthems are several more laid back numbers. The sweet accordion and pedal steel laced Don’t Give Me Hope, the yearning that is the mandolin speckled Night Rolls Around, a song reminiscent of Jackson Browne, and the closing These Damn Goodbyes, an excellent song which conveys a wonderful sense of bittersweet memories and letting go. Nestled within these songs Starr conjures up an excellent cover of Elton John’s Country Comfort, a fine reminder that the man with the funny specs (and his writing partner) used to matter. While it’s fairly faithful to the original the band swell out the song excellently and Starr sounds uncannily like John. He’s aided and abetted here by his quartet of harmony singers who sing throughout the album adding yet more texture to the fine band sound.

All in all South and West is an almost perfect collection of breezy country rock with some added muscle provided by the excellent ensemble playing. Starr is obviously well versed in his forebears and he is well able to dig a similar seam. Perfect summer listening.

Website

 

Pickin’ Up The Pieces – a reissue round up.

1592_2000xHot Tuna – Live at New Orleans House Berkely, CA 9/69

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Poco – Live at Columbia Studios Hollywood 30/9/71

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Poco – The Songs of Paul Cotton

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New Riders of The Purple Sage- The Best Of

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Barefoot Jerry – Watching TV With The Radio On/You Can’t Get Off With Your Shoes On

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Pure Prairie League- Firin’ Up

We’ve got a good tranche of reissues here which in a way show the journey of what we used to call country rock back in the seventies.  First off is a 1969 live recording from Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady’s spin off band from the Jefferson Airplane. Although they eventually morphed into a power trio Hot Tuna initially kicked off playing country blues with Kaukonen on acoustic guitar and Live at New Orleans House is a generous 70 minute capture of their early days when they were whiling away their time while Grace Slick was recovering from throat surgery. A selection of songs from this show were released as the first Hot Tuna album but here we get a shed load of others which could just as easily could have been featured. Kaukonen was going back to his roots, Rev. Gary Davis and such, which he learned to play in Texas along with a young Janis Joplin. His distinctive voice and accomplished finger picking is well aided by Casady’s fluid and sturdy bass playing while Will Scarlett adds harmonica on several songs. They run through songs by Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Leroy Carr and Lightin’ Hopkins among others with the highlights being a fine delivery of Death Don’t Have No Mercy and a snappy rendition of Blind Blake’s Never Happen No More with Kaukonen’s guitar playing spritely. It’s well recorded and quite intimate and well worth a listen.

Fast forward two years and we have Poco Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood in 1971, featuring their most solid line up of Richie Furay, Paul Cotton, Rusty Young, Timothy B. Schmidt and George Grantham. It relies heavily on songs from their then current release, From The Inside but with space to showcase Furay’s Buffalo Springfield song, Child’s Claim to Fame along with Pickin’ Up The Pieces from their debut album. Poco of course were the somewhat unsung pioneers of country rock but here they rock out on occasion and add some fine slurps of southern influenced grooves while there are moments when they seem to anticipate Steve Still’s use of Latin American music in Manassas. On this evidence they were certainly funkier than the fledgling Eagles who were just taking off around this time. The clamour and clash of guitar and pedal steel with some fine harmonies on Hear That Music along kicks ass while What A Day has the melodic finesse and fiery fury of a Moby grape song. The recording here is not as clean as on the Hot Tuna disc but crank it up and open a bottle and it’s a great listen.

It’s Poco again on a selection of songs written by the man who replaced Jim Messina from the original line-up on Poco – The Songs of Paul Cotton.  Cotton added some muscle to the band along with some excellent song writing.  One Horse Blue and Ride The Country are both stalwart songs while Western Waterloo bashes along with some fantastic pedal steel, banjo and squirreling guitar. Blue Water meanwhile is as sinewy a bluegrass influenced country rock song as you would want to hear. Ten songs long it’s an excellent introduction to this severely underrated songwriter.

While Poco were establishing the ground rules for country rock those psychedelic cowboys from the west coast, The Grateful Dead, were dipping their toes into country music eventually begetting The New Riders of The Purple Sage. Here we have a Best Of collection (expanded from a 1976 vinyl release) which, again, is a handy primer for those yet to hear these hippie born celebrations of country music. Their laidback early style is well captured on Glendale Train and Last Lonely Eagle from their first album with Buddy Cage’s pedal steel weeping and wonderful. From their magnificent The Adventures of Panama Red album we get the powerful rush of Kick In The Head, which sounds like Bob Weir leading an energised Dead with Cage thrashing about on fuzzed pedal steel, along with the glorious title song, one of the great hippie country anthems.

The pick of the crop here is the straightforward bundling of two mid seventies albums from Barefoot Jerry (You Can’t Get Off With Your Shoes On and Watching TV With The radio On) on one CD. barefoot Jerry were a shifting bunch of seasoned Nashville pickers led by Wayne Moss who played guitar on Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, was one of the crew on Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde and who formed Area Code 561, the band responsible for Stone Fox Chase AKA the theme music for The Old Grey Whistle Test. With the rest of the band having a similar pedigree this outfit really could play just about anything and so here they wander from southern rock to western swing to hippie dope anthems and scintillating instrumental workouts. If anything they were just too eclectic and really never achieved much more than cult status. Watchin’ TV…  still stands the test of time and is a highly recommended listen, the title song and Funny Looking Eyes could easily have been released recently  by the likes of Sam Morrow or Andrew Sheppard, both having a tough southern slink. The instrumentals, Pig Snoots and Nehi Red and Two Mile Pike, allow the band to show off their chops and really have to heard to be believed while the delicate acoustic number If There Were Only Time For Love harks back to their magnificent debut album (which you really should search out).  The albums ends on a (ahem) high note with the cosmic dope anthem, Mother Nature’s Way of Saying High, which is not a million miles removed from David Crosby’s musings on his solo debut. You Can’t Get Off… pales in comparison but it’s still well worth a listen with the opening tale of Ali Babba a fine chunky slice of southern rock, Slowin’ Down a down home country rock number in the manner of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils and the title song a rip snorting  funky number sounding like the Band on amphetamines. If you’ve never barefooted with Barefoot Jerry then here’s your chance.

Winding up this roundup is a 1980 release from Pure Prairie League, a band perhaps better known on these shores for the emblematic Norman Rockwell cowboy, Lucky Luke, who appeared on all their album covers.  They had a sizeable success in the States although by the time of this album none of the original members were present but they had inducted a new member, the fledging Vince Gill. Gill injected new blood into the band and the album achieved top 40 status but there’s precious little down home music here with the band playing for the audiences who were lapping up the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. As such there’s some very polished rockers here, She’s All Mine is classic FM fodder and it still sounds great with a fine twin guitar solo spiralling away while I‘ll Be Damned is an excellent country rocker which benefits from Gill’s bluegrass background.

All the above are available from Floating World Records