Tag Archives: Byrds

State Of Our Union

9 Feb

State of Our Union

Coming to you from 1985, ‘State of Our Union’ was the third album from The Long Ryders and their major label debut, It appeared on Island records (ILPS 9802) from when that label was still eclectic and unpredictable. I can’t recall exactly why I bought it but I know it was when I was living in Bishops Stortford, in Hertfordshire – which dates it between September 1985 and  October 1986. I can also remember how much I loved this album at the time! It is a cracker.

The Long Ryders embodied Americana before the term was invented!  They emerged from the so-called Paisley Underground in California but, at the time they seemed to embody an intriguing synthesis between country rock and punk. The album is a the sort of mash-up  that might have occurred if The Byrds and The Clash ever met. Do watch the YouTube clip at of Looking for Lewis and Clark to see what I mean  ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0saf-DKQoM8 ). It is unique and brilliant – one of those musical avenues that were never developed)!

I loved and championed this album when it came out – and since the Long Ryders  eventually folded in the late 1980s, I’ve followed and bought work from singer/guitarist (and writer) Sid Griffin, who is now UK-based and making great bluegrass-influenced music with the Coal Porters – but why this album was not successful baffles me to this day.

It contains  eleven cracking tracks (plus four more if you download it nowadays – which I have). All are classic guitar based rock/pop – but all are more melodically-aware, intelligent and lyrically literate than the British equivalents of the time,

The other key tracks  (especially ‘Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today’) draw inventively on an American folk tradition going back to Woody Guthrie but with a new wave sensibility and urgency.  Other corkers are ‘You Just Can’t Ride the Boxcars Anymore’ and  the anthemic ‘Capturing the Flag’.

I guess nowadays I see indie guitar bands like Gaslight Anthem as being part of the same tradition – but without quite  the same sensibilities that the Long Ryders had. It was the lyrics that really set them apart. These are from ‘Good Times Tomorrow’ (and could have come straight from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath):

“If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, you know, the stream would have no song

If it weren’t for the dreams my father held we’d just have moped along.

Now some men kinda crawl through life never asking why

My Ma, she chose a restless, type always reaching for the sky

Good times tomorrow, a few hard times today

 I can hear his voice right now explain bad times away

Good times tomorrow, hard times today

Every stream has got a song, like a stream we’ll roll along

Hard times won’t touch this family. “

 

This is one band I really wish had succeeded more than they did. Do check them out.

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Louvin Brothers Eight Classic Albums

10 Apr

LouvinBros8

This four CD reissue set appears on the Real Gone label (RGMCD062) and comprises the whole of the eight LPs that were released originally on the Capitol label between 1956 and 1960. There’s no date on the package but I got it a few weeks ago.  The package includes what others suggest are probably the brothers’ two finest collections. These are ‘Tragic Songs of Life’ (from 1956) and the wonderfully weird ‘Satan is Real’ (1960) which was issued originally with one of the most distinctive album covers ever (not in this compilation sadly).

The sound quality is good but otherwise the package is a bit sparse (no liner notes or composer credits). That said, the price was less than you’d pay for a single full price CD.

I first came across the Louvin Brothers (Ira and Charlie) via composer credits on Emmylou Harris albums (‘Making Believe’ and ‘If I Could Only Win Your Love’)  and then through Gram Parsons and the Byrds (The Christian Life’ from their 1968 ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ album) before reading about their larger-than-life story in Nicholas Dawidoff’s excellent 1997 book ‘In the Country of Country’. Although the subject matter can be remarkably kitsch and sentimental or aligned to a very particular religious tradition, it is redeemed by the stonkingly fine vocal performances and great tunes.

There are 96 tracks in this collection and the ones I’ve found myself returning to are the earliest ones (‘Tragic Songs of Life’) especially the songs ‘Kentucky’, ‘Alabama’ and ‘Knoxville Girl’ .where the instrumentation is pretty sparse which allows the brothers’ harmonies to come to the fore.