The "twangcore" and "Americana" boom of today owes a large debt to the shaggy twangers and no-hit wonders of yesteryear -- this section looks at the hippiebilly and stoner bands and a few odd, random artists from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, back before there was anything called "alt-country." This page covers the letter "B."
Banana & The Bunch "Mid-Mountain Ranch" (Raccoon, 1972)
A truly groovy solo album by keyboardist Lowell "Banana" Levinger, an original member of the Youngbloods... Here, he indulges a passion for old-time music, ala The Carter Family, including a gorgeous version of "Ocean Of Diamonds." I think I still have a vinyl copy of this floating around somewhere; be great if the powers-that-be put it out in digital form someday... Levinger also cut an album under the name Noggins, but I haven't heard that one yet...
Everyone knows about "The Band," right? Buncha scruffy bar-band locals picked out of nowhere to be "the band" backing Bob Dylan through his audacious early moves into electric rock. When Bob wrecked his motorcycle, nearly died, and then quit touring for a while, the time seemed ripe for these fellas -- Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and the others -- to make a name for themselves. This is their debut album which many folks consider their best, and is certainly a landmark for the roots-rock movement. "The Weight" played interminably on FM radio throughout the 'Seventies, and their version of "I Shall Be Released" is also a plaintive classic.
Big Pink may be a critic's darling, but the group's biggest, most enduring (and most country) hits come from this, their second album. "Across The Great Divide," "Up On Cripple Creek," "Rag Mama Rag" and the unkillable radio hit, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" are a pretty potent batch of tunes... and that's just the stuff on Side One of the original LP! This one's a real doozy. Highly recommended.
Well, I guess some Band fans don't care much for this album, but it's an old favorite of mine. There's a loose, disjointed poppiness about many of these songs, wed to a whistful sadness that makes it doubly appealing. The spasmodic, herky-jerky boogie riffs of "Time To Kill," "Just Another Whistlestop" and "Shape I'm In" have a slight guilty pleasure whiff about them, but the lyrics have a sincere sense of pathos which redeems these songs from being mere hippie frolicks. This disc is also definitely worth picking up!
The Band "Cahoots" (Capitol, 1971)
The Band "Rock Of Ages" (Capitol, 1972)
A live album
The Band "Moondog Matinee" (Capitol, 1973)
The Band & Bob Dylan "Before The Flood" (Sony, 1974)
The Band "Islands" (Capitol, 1977)
Their last studio album, released after the much-vaunted breakup concert that became known as "The Last Waltz." Apparently most folks in the know don't think too highly of this one, though I have to confess I've never heard it. When I do, though, I'll give you a full report!
The Band "The Last Waltz" (Warner Brothers, 1978/2000) (big old box set)
The Band "The Last Waltz" (MGM, 1978)
Moe Bandy was the real deal. All of the LPs listed below are totally worth tracking down and picking up. For those of you handicapped by the lack of a turntable, this kickass best-of CD should fill the gap. An excellent selection of his best songs, including a lot of the early stuff. HIGHLY recommended!
Moe Bandy "It Was Always So Easy (To Find An Unhappy Woman)" (GRC, 1975)
Moe Bandy "Bandy The Rodeo Clown" (GRC, 1975)
Moe Bandy "Hank Williams You Wrote My Life" (CBS, 1976)
Moe Bandy "Here I Am Drunk Again" (CBS, 1976)
Moe Bandy "I'm Sorry For You, My Friend" (CBS, 1977)
Moe Bandy "Soft Lights and Hard Country Music" (CBS, 1978)
Moe Bandy "Love Is What Life Is All About" (CBS, 1978)
Joe Stampley & Moe Bandy "Hey Joe! Hey Moe!" (CBS, 1981)
Good-timing, beer-guzzlin', girl-chasin' honkytonk novelty songs are this fellow's stock in trade. Hard to go wrong with any of his old stuff -- his indie releases on GRP were so good they landed him his Epic deal, and the stuff he did for the big boys stayed true to country roots for way longer than anyone had a right to expect. Once he paired up with Joe Stampley and their "Good Old Boys" gimmick became a brand name, it was only a matter of time before the music started to suffer. Still, well into the early '80s his albums didn't completely suck... Uncomplicated, upbeat material with great arrangements and studio work -- well worth checking out, even with the redneck schtick.
Bobby Bare -- see artist profile
Awesome!! After Creedence, John Fogerty got so fed up with the fratricidal aspect of actually being in a band, that he promptly went off and recorded an album all by himself -- played all the instruments, picked all the tunes, multitracked the album, and totally rocked out. This is the result, a masterful set of country oldies, covering artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Webb Pierce and Melvin Endsley, all with a jocular, rolling bounce that can't help but win you over.
David Bromberg -- see artist profile
OK, look -- I know that this is major "guilty pleasure" territory, and that Jimmy Buffett is one of those love-him-or-hate-him litmus tests for a lot of people, but I still kinda get a kick out of stuff. Did I ever tell you the story of how I had to go buy a copy of Living & Dying in 3/4 Time to donate to my radio station, 'cause I just had to hear "Come Monday" again? Well, it turns out that when I played it on my show, I realized how bad the bridge is, but I still really like the chorus. And don't even try to tell me that you don't know all the words to "Margaritaville" by heart... We all do; there's no shame to it. Honest. Anyway, this cringeworthy 2-CD set is a little bit odd as a best-of, since it's about halfway packed with live versions of popular old songs, although the most of the biggies are included in their original studio versions. For Parrothead true believers who already have all the old albums, the new recordings are probably a welcome change of pace, although I have my quibbles with the song selection. They seem to be playing it safe by excluding potentially offense songs such as "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don't Love Jesus," "God's Own Drunk" and "Livingston Saturday Night," but I suppose Western civilization will survive the loss... Not my personal ideal for an "ultimate" Buffett set, but it does seem representative of his work.
Jimmy Buffett "Boats, Beaches, Bars And Ballads" (MCA, 1992)
This 4-CD box set is actually divided by themes: one disc about boats, another about beaches... No foolin'! And he's got more than enough songs in each category to keep the hits coming... Bong hits? Acid? Hey, man, I'm only here to talk about the music... You'll have to ask Jimmy about all that other stuff.
Jimmy Buffett "Down To Earth" (Barnaby, 1970)
Big old hippie.
Jimmy Buffett "High Cumberland Jubilee" (Barnaby, 1971)
"God Don't Own A Car" was my personal anthem for a couple of decades... (...love that Louvin-style mandolin riff, too!) Now I drive the biggest gas guzzler I could find, and I double park in front of compacts, blocking htem in just to mess with them. Ha, ha, hahahahahaahah! Seriously, though: great song.
Jimmy Buffett "A White Sport Coat And A Pink Crustacean" (ABC-Dunhill, 1973)
Jimmy Buffett "Living And Dying In 3/4 Time" (ABC-Barnaby, 1974)
"Come Monday" is such a great song. And "God's Own Drunk" was a fun novelty track, too.
Jimmy Buffett "A-1-A" (ABC-Dunhill, 1974)
Jimmy Buffett "Rancho Deluxe (Soundtrack)" (United Artists, 1975)
Jimmy Buffett "Havana Daydream" (ABC, 1976)
Jimmy Buffett "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes" (ABC, 1977)
"Margaritaville." Dude... need I say more? Now that was a hit record for you.
Jimmy Buffett "Son Of A Son Of A Sailor" (ABC, 1978)
This was Jimmy at his commercial peak, with "Cheeseburgers In Paradise" and "Livingston Saturday Night" plastered all over the radio, offering a welcome alternative to the deluge of disco and bland, humorless, late '70s soft-pop AOR. This was where his wry-humored beach bum persona really gelled and wormed its way into the American mainstream. Made him a bundle of cash, too. But, say what you will about Mr. Buffett, this is definitely one of his strongest albums.
Jimmy Buffett "You Had To Be There" (ABC, 1978)
A concert album, capturing some of his live appeal...
Jimmy Buffett "Volcano" (MCA, 1979)
Jimmy Buffett "Before The Beach" (MCA, 1979)
A collection of songs from his first two albums, before the whole "Parrothead" thing started to take shape...
Jimmy Buffett "Coconut Telegraph" (MCA, 1981)
The first "official" country-rock album, though really, it was simply a masterful country album, recorded by a super-famous rock band. As the story goes, stonerbilly bad boy Gram Parsons more or less muscled his way into LA's then-ascendant folk-rock band, and swiftly remade them into Nudie suit-wearing space cowboy, hippie-billies... which is to say, into his band. Naturally, there was resentment within the group, and Parsons was eventually given the boot, but not before they made this wonderful, landmark album. Gram provided most of the arrangements and repertoire, including his own classic ballad, "Hickory Wind," as well as oldies such as the Louvin's "Christian Life." Because he was under contract to another label, though, the producers at Columbia stripped Parsons' vocal tracks off the album, and replaced them with lead vocals by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. Recent CD reissues have gone back and (partially) re-created the album as it was originally recorded.
Hick Music Index