The "twangcore" and "Americana" boom of today owes a large debt to the shaggy twangers and no-hit wonders of yesteryear, the outlaw stoners and redneck rowdies of the counterculture who grooved on the classic country sounds laid down before Nashville sold its soul on the altar of countrypolitan easy listening. It was the hippies and weirdos who made country music safe again and -- more importantly -- made it fun. We also pay tribute to the little guys and locals who sang in bars, casinos and lounges across the world, especially the lucky few who made records of their own. Here are some of their stories...
The Abbey... Of South Texas "Full House" (Echo Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Bubba Perron)
These Texas youngsters definitely played an interesting mix of current pop/hard rock hits and country tunes -- with rock hits coming from Peter Frampton, KC & The Sunshine Band ("Play That Funky Music") "Slow Ride," Steve Miller Band ("Rock'n Me") but also some deal-deal country tunes as well. Side One of the album was recorded live at the Golden Stallion nightclub in San Antonio, while Side Two was recorded at the ZAZ Studio under more controlled circumstances.
Jim "Ab" Abernathy "Good Timin' Man" (Applause Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jeff Galey)
In the cosmic contest for the world's all-time biggest fan of Waylon Jennings, Illinois honkytonker Ab Abernathy is a pretty strong contender. This album, recorded towards the tail end of the Waylon & Willie glory years, is basically a Waylon tribute disc, covering a bunch of the biggest, most iconic outlaw hits: "Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," "Waymore Blues," "Luckenbach, Texas," "Don't Cuss The Fiddle," "Me And Paul" and more. Sure, Abernathy's no Waylon, but he's alright, and his band holds their own as well, pickin' and plunkin' in the classic style. The songs are all covers except for one original called "I'm Going Fishing," written by lead guitarist Phil Pedigo, and it fits right in with the slack, Waylonesque vibe of the rest of the record. A nice, guileless, straightforward homage to their hero... guaranteed to pry a smile out of other devoted fans as well.
Ace Weems & The Fat Meat Boys "It's All Gone Now" (Carryon Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by David Winston)
Some nice, clean-cut young men from Natural Bridge, Virginia, The Fat Meat Boys proclaimed as their leader one Ace Weems (a fictional character from the Get Smart TV show...) although there was no one in the band by that name. Nonetheless, there were a few real people in the band, including a babyfaced old-timey fiddler named James Leva who was sinking his teeth into a lively repertoire of uptempo stringband tunes. (Leva went on to become one of the more notable "old-time" modernists of the 1980s-'90s folk scene...) This album is maybe less "country" than most of the records we're looking at here... But with a band name like this, how could I leave 'em out? Besides, it's a pretty swell record.
Andy Acree's Country Squires "Welcome To Squires Country" (Illini Records) (LP)
(Produced by Fritz Brading)
I was psyched to see this album in the dollar bin at my local Record Hut, but profoundly bummed when it turned out the wrong disc was in the jacket. The Doors... ugh. Anyway, I guess these guys were from Springfield, Illinois, and they wrote most of their own material for this album. Bandleader Andy Acree is joined by brothers Jack Sampson and Larry Sampson on lead guitar and steel, singer (and songwriter) Leroy Clark, a gal singer named Janey Elston, who sings lead on one of Clark's originals, "My Whole World Turned Blue," and finally Acree's son, Gene Acree, playing drums. I guess they mostly did the county fair circuit, with Acree's own career reaching back a few decades before this album was recorded. (By the way, anyone know if this guy was related to country deejay Les Acree? Just wondering...)
Jay Boy Adams "Jay Boy Adams" (Atlantic, 1977)
I mostly remember Texas-born hippie troubadour Jay Boy Adams from hearing him make a stoned foray into the studios of my beloved KFAT radio, way back in the late 1970s... He hung out, the DJ's obviously loved him, I'm pretty sure you could hear them toking it up on air... This record (which has one of the most depressing hippie album covers ever...) is an odd mix of acoustic folk and Southern rock, with guitarist David Lindley and up-and-coming singer-songwriter Jackson Browne chipping in... Definitely a relic of its time!
Jay Boy Adams "Fork In The Road" (Atlantic, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Ham)
Adams was still hanging with Jackson Browne on this late-'70s album, but the vibe is more Michael Martin Murphey-style cosmic cowboy material, albeit with a distinct LA-scene pop gloss woven throughout. Adams and David Lindley trade off slide and pedal steel licks, and Lindley definitely adds a lot of the album's twang and overall musical direction -- Adams doesn't indulge in quite the same solipsistic singer-songwriter navelgazing as Browne's albums, but the familiar tones of Lindley's guitars are a reminder of the comfortable pop-twang that Jackson had brought to the top of the charts. For twangfans, songs such as "Superkicker," "Lone Line Writer," and a cover of "Tennessee Stud" have a nice feel, although Adams never quite finds the same anthemic groove that made the best of Murphey's songs so anthemic and memorable. Lyrically, I thought the most interesting song was "Stray Dogs And Alley Cats," which also seems like the most personal and truly reflective of the songs on here, with Adams talking about his father's pragmatic world view, in which "you've got to be nice to everyone/but still look out for number one"; you can hear the hippie-era ballad singer struggling against the wisdom of his "straight," car-dealer dad, and yet you can't help but wonder how much this advice must have helped Adams get by in the glad-handing music business. An interesting album that's certainly worth checking out, especially if you like super-'Seventies stuff.
Jay Boy Adams "The Shoe Box" (Smith Music, 2007)
(Produced by Monty Byrom & Jay Boy Adams)
A strong roots-twang set with some great songs, sweet picking and plenty of conviction. The title track is a reflection on the pleasures of reflection and nostalgia, other highlights include the jaunty "Moro Bay" and "Showman's Life," which examines the unseen hardships of showbiz (which Adams, who left the spotlight to start a tour-bus rental agency, probably knows quite a bit about...) A good throwback to '70s-style indie-twang, with guest performers that include Ray Benson (of Asleep At The Wheel) and Marty Stuart on mandolin... Definitely worth a spin!
Jay Boy Adams "Let It Go" (Rockin' Heart Records, 2014)
(Produced by Jay Boy Adams & Monty Byrom)
'Way back in the 1970s, Texas-born troubadour Jay Boy Adams straddled the worlds of outlaw country and fancy-pants singer-songwriter pop; he was pals with Jackson Browne and worked as a roadie for high-profile rock bands, such as ZZ Top, and recorded a couple of albums of his own that were, as they say, highly regarded at the time. In 2007, he came back to the studio to record a doleful, world-weary set of roots-rock and folk, and this new album follows suit. It's an extended meditation on life and the wisdom that comes with middle age and beyond, with Adams sounding a bit like a mix between Rodney Crowell and Loudon Wainwright III. Not all the songs are gems, but there are some definite winners, including the album's opener, "Judgement Day," which is a nice twist on the looking-back-on-my-wild-days genre, in which Adams sees a little too much of himself in his own wild and stubborn daughter, and the contemplative "Count Your Friends," which may be the album's strongest song.
Jerry Jack Adams "In Seattle At The Flame" (Flame Records, 197--?) (LP)
A live recording, with covers of pop and country standards such as Freddy Hart's "Easy Lovin'," Tony Orlando's "Knock Three Times," "Joy To The World," etc. There's no info on the plain white album cover, but from the repertoire, I would have guessed this is an early-to-mid '70s release -- maybe '73, '74? -- although I've also heard that Adams only lived in Seattle for a few years in the late '70s/early '80s before moving to Alaska. Anyone out there have more solid information about this album?
Jerry Jack Adams "On The Road" (Worm Records)
An indie twangster from around Seattle, Washington, with a fairly curious album. The artwork shows the band as a quartet of '70s longhairs, being "hassled" by a state trooper (and being bundled off into his patrol car on the back cover...) The bandmembers look like they might have been Kurt Cobain's older cousin's buddies, or something like that -- pretty shaggy with plenty of lumberjack plaid. But despite the hippie-ish look and the rebellious imagery, the music is pretty straightforward, sincere, old-school country crooning, in the tradition of Jim Reeves or Jim Ed Brown. It's for-real country-pop ballads, not done ironically or cynically in any way, but really played and sung with surprising resonance and a real "old man" vibe. Adams has a classically deep country voice, and shares lead vocals with a couple of band members -- a guy and a gal only identified by their first names, Bill and Merlaine. Sadly, there are no songwriter credits, but I'm pretty sure this is all original material and again, it's right in the country mainstream, albeit a little old-school even for the times. (I'm not totally sure when this record came out... Late '70s, early '80s maybe? Anyone know for sure?) At any rate, this is definitely worth checking out, particularly for obscuro-country fans who don't think you have to take the genre as a joke.
Jerry Jack Adams "Jerry Jack Adams" (ABM Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Adams)
Pappy Adams "My Kind Of Country" (Ropes Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Adams & Gary Denton)
Southern California songwriter Gary T. Adams penned all the songs on this album, with one ("Johnny's Job") co-written with Burton Carey and another ("Final Touches") with Elmer Garten. He's backed by a band that included pedal steel player Red Rhodes, along with a slew of more obscure SoCal players, with co-producer Gary Denton playing drums and guitar... This set was recorded in Van Nuys, California, though I couldn't find out much more about this guy.
Ron Adams "I Loved You, I Proved It" (Ripcord, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & Blaine Allan)
A honkytonker from Wanatchee, Washington, Ron Adams mostly sang cover tunes on this album -- stuff like Waylon's "Good Hearted Woman" and John Conlee's "Rose Colored Glasses," but there are a few originals as well, including the title track, "I Loved You, I Proved It" which is credited to C. O. Buddy Collinsworth, and "Out Of Hurt And Into Love With You," which was written by Adams. Too bad these old Ripcord records don't have release dates on them, though! I'm guessing this one's from around 1979, based on the Conlee song... Wish I could tell for sure!
The Adelmund Brothers & The Country Kings "Do It Their Way" (Triple Crown, 1975-?) (LP)
A regional band who seem to have been part of the extended Adelmund family in Eastern/Central Iowa... The only mentions I've found of them outside of this album are a couple of show notices from Waterloo and nearby Oelwine, Iowa, so I assume this was their main stomping ground. The shows were in '74 and '76, so I split the difference and guessed at a 1975 release date for this album... Also, though many of the songs are 1960's country classics, they also cover "The Keys In The Mailbox" (a #1 hit for Tony Booth in 1972) and "Roll You Like a Wheel," which was a hit for Mickey Gilley in '75. Anyone with more concrete info about these guys, I'm all ears.
Wendel Adkins "Sundowners" (Hitsville, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Huff)
A late-'70s, longhaired hard-country hero, Wendel Adkins was born in Ohio but traveled far and wide looking for his big break. He was playing a gig in Vegas when he met Willie Nelson, who invited him to come to Texas and join his band. Later he toured with country icons such as David Allan Coe and George Jones, and has released several honkytonk-drenched true-country records over the years.
Wendel Adkins "Live At The Whiskey River" (Texas Records, 1979) (LP)
Wendel Adkins "Live At Gilley's" (Gilley's, 1983) (LP)
Dennis Agajanian "Come To The Rock" (Hallelujah Records, 1972) (LP)
Flatpicking guitarist Dennis Agajanian was part of the Southern California bluegrass scene, with some dips into more folkie and country type stuff. Notably, he was in the orbit of the country-rock gospel band, Brush Arbor, and played in earlier bands with some of its members, and later in his career Agajanian started to specialize in gospel material. This solo set was recorded live at the Denver Lutheran Youth Congress, in April, 1972. The album includes gospel standards such as ""Somebody Touched Me" and "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," as well as more contemporary material. There are a couple of tunes from the Dillards, a version of Kris Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and two originals by Agajanian, including "Country Boy." The title track, "Come To The Rock," was written by Ken Munds, one of Agajanian's contemporaries in the Christian country-rock band Brush Arbor. There are also a few songs that spotlight Agajanian's flatpicking skills, including a flashy version of "Malaguena" which closes the album out.
Dennis Agajanian "Nashville Country" (House Of Hits, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Agajanian & Jack Skinner)
On this mainly secular album, Agajanian's joined by his brother Danny playing mandolin, banjo and fiddle, and West Coast stalwart Jack Skinner on bass. Nice stuff!
Dennis Agajanian "Rebel To The Wrong" (Light Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Limpic)
This is what I would consider an uneasy mix of roots and religious music... There's no question that Agajanian has mastery of his bluegrass licks -- and perhaps to a lesser extent, of his country chops -- but the intrusion of bombastic, melodramatic Contemporary Christian motifs really overwhelms the music. Also, his lyrics seem pretty artless and indulgent to me -- emotive and heartfelt, sure, but also farflung and unedited, badly in need of an outside touch to help pare them down. I'm sure there's an enthusiastic audience for these songs somewhere, it's just not me.
Dennis Agajanian "Where Are The Heroes?" (Sparrow Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Terry Talbot)
A religiously-themed spiritual album. Pretty much setting aside his bluegrass roots, Agajanian still picks some acoustic guitar on here, but relies more heavily on the standard-issue tinkly-toned '80s keyboard sound of the Contemporary Christian genre. The album was produced by Terry Talbot of the Talbot Brothers (and the Mason Proffit country-rock band) who also plays guitar and sings harmony. One thing I'm curious about here: is the Julie Miller who's listed as a background singer the same gal who was married to Americana star Buddy Miller and who recorded several albums both solo and as a duo? Inquiring minds want to know.
The Aggie Ramblers "After Sundown With The Aggie Ramblers" (Goldust Records) (LP)
(Produced by Emmit Brooks)
A long-running New Mexico band co-founded by Goldust label owner Emmit Brooks, the Aggie Ramblers played a mix of country and western swing, making numerous recordings, including singles backing Nolan Chandler and other singers. Bass player Brooks led the Aggies from 1957 to 1975, while his younger brother Jake played with the band off and on throughout the '60s and early '70s. The band also included musicians such as Bill Bailey and steel player Larry Dennison -- the group toured extensively in New Mexico and West Texas and fostered many local musicians over the years. This edition of the band includes Bailey, Brooks and Dennison, along with Jim Hill on guitar and piano player Jerry Miller, with various members singing lead vocals and a couple of instrumental tracks, one showcasing Dennison on a version of Pete Drake's "Midnight In Old Amarillo" and another with Bailey taking the lead on a vamped-up version of "Bile Them Cabbage Down." Ther are also some original songs, including "Fire Of Love" by Brooks and "Blues At Midnight," a duet by Miller and Hill.
The Aggie Ramblers "Ramblin' With The Aggie Ramblers" (Goldust Records) (LP)
The Alabama State Troupers "Road Show" (Elektra, 1972)
Mixing blues and country roots with deep gospel, rock and folk, producer Don Nix included Depression-era blues legend Furry Lewis in this far-ranging roots-music landmark...
The Alamo String Band "Alamo String Band" (Sugar Crik Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by R. J. Wright & Larry Sturm)
This Indiana band forged a potent, pleasant amalgam of styles, mostly honkytonk and western swing, along with quick hints of Southern rock and bluegrass. The band's mandolin player, Tim Cunningham, adds some crispy Appalachian twang, while pedal steel player Nelson Wynn zips out some really sweet, hot licks. Most of the songs are originals, mainly written by singer Steve Farley or bassist R. J. Wright, though Cunningham contributes the joviel "I Don't Want To Walk To Heaven (But I'd Appreciate The Ride)", as well as a couple by guys who apparently weren't in the band. Wright's tunes are the most traditionally country, including excellent novelty numbers such as "I Never Cheated On You Darlin'," "Cryin' Country Song," and "Out Standing In My Field," which is one of those anthemic songs about DIY little-guy country singers who could have tried their luck in Nashville, but chose not to... There are also a few well-chosen cover tunes that outline their wide-ranging influences, from the Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See" and Johnny Russell's "Catfish John" to the Hank Snow oldie, "I Don't Hurt Anymore" and the gospel standard, "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder." Their sound, especially with the mandolin in the mix, reminds me quite a bit of Columbus, Ohio's High Sheriff Ricky Barnes and his neo-trad novelty numbers. I think this band was only together for a few years, though a couple of members later formed The Original Hazzard County Band, along with a guy from the country-rock band Crossfyre.
Tony & Susan Alamo "Mister DJ" (Alamo Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Hoffman)
Despite the checkered history of Pentecostal preacher Tony Alamo, this late-'70s album is fairly good in musical terms. I'm not sure how "country" the Alamos were normally -- they started their ministry in Hollywood, California, then moved to Alabama in 1976, and may have cut this twang-oriented country set as a one-off event. Anyway, it's a fun album and the cover art shows them onstage with Porter Wagoner at the Opry, so that got my attention: he wrote a testimonial for them in the liner notes, and if Porter liked 'em and sang on their record, I figured I oughta check them out. The album is all Christian music, and the title track, "Mister DJ," is sung by a guy who wants the local radio station to spin "The Old Rugged Cross." Other tracks may have been recorded earlier in non-country versions -- anyone know for sure? Anyway, it's all Jesus-y but there's decent twang in there, too. Susan Alamo passed away a few years later, in 1982, and Tony Alamo's evangelical empire slowly unwound after that, over the span of decades, resulting trouble with the IRS, and an eventual criminal conviction as a child molester in 2009. Icky, yeah, but it's up to you how or if those later events should color your perception of this old album.
Barbara Alan "In Nashville" (Mid Land Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by William Lee & Jack Logan)
A lounge singer from Saint Louis, Missouri, Barbara Alan was the runner-up in a talent contest sponsored by the Grand Ole Opry as part of its fiftieth anniversary celebrations. I guess that's kinda like playing horseshoes, though, 'cause a couple of years later, she was still playing the bar at the Best Western Inn. But what the heck? She was still a working musician, and she got to make an album in Nashville, with Buddy Emmons playing steel and Phil Baugh playing guitar. This is an appealing album, although it does have a rather static feel... Ms. Alan says that Patsy line was her hero, and you can definitely hear it in her singing (though perhaps filtered through the rougher tones of Kitty Wells...) though there's not a lot of variety to her style, she's still kind of appealing. The real problem was with the studio crew -- they just don't seem that into it, and don't give her a lot, and while there are much more going-through-the-motions albums to be found, this one does suffer nonetheless. What's cool about this album is the odd song selection -- she sings some pop standards by Gershwin and Berlin, a few country oldies by folks like Eddie Miller and Bill Monroe, as well as one by Wayne P. Walker (who's always a personal favorite of mine) but there are some odd entries that I think are unique to this album... "Walking Midnight Road" is the least of these, an odd ripoff of Patsy Cline's "Walking After Midnight, while "Walk On The Wild Side" is a pretty good honkytonk novelty number, where the singer balances six days of fun against one day of repentance and concludes that's a straight ticket to Hell. Perhaps the most interesting track is "I Don't Know," a song written by Bill Adams, that's a sort of sideways gospel tune, written by a person who questions their faith because of all the horrible things God lets happen. I also enjoyed their bar-band funk rendition of "Blue Moon Of Kentucky," which is solid private-record kitsch. On balance, I thought this was a nice, sincere record made by a gal who for whatever reasons maybe didn't get the best treatment when she made the trek to Nashville. And so she came in second...? Well, she made a record, and that's more than most of us have done! So who even cares who came in first?
Urel Albert "One Man's Woman At A Time" (Cinnamon Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by John Elgio)
An oddball novelty artist whose best-known work is in a long string of far-flung indie-label singles, Missouri native Urel Albert was a professional country music imitator, doing impressions of folks like Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and the like... He had a few songs that grazed the back end of the Top 100, but mostly Albert was a plugger, relying on live shows for his bread and butter. Albert also recorded a few football-related private pressing singles (rah! rah! go Buckeyes!) which seems to have been a viable gig for under-the-radar country singers in the late '70s... Anyway, there's some straight country stuff on here, as well as some impressions, which, frankly I don't think were all that great, but they are kind of interesting in an odd, pop-culture way.
Urel Albert "Saturday Night In Nashville" (Spar Records, 1974) (LP)
Bobby Albright "...And The New Country Revue" (Arctic Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Albright, Larry Welborn & Debbie Barlow; Engineered by Jim Zuchsow)
All cover tunes by this group from Alaska... Although they called Anchorage home, the band apparently made it down to the Lower 48 to play -- the liner notes from Kenny Vernon say that they backed him in Vegas. Albright apparently stayed in the background, playing bass and singing harmony, while guitarist Larry Welborn and gal singer Debbie Barlow split the lead vocals; neither were particularly adept vocalists, while the band was -- hate to say it -- pretty mediocre. An authentic bar band, and one of the few Alaskan country groups that made a record... but you don't need to go crazy trying to track this one down.
Bob Alday "Alabama's Real Country Sound" (1982) (LP)
Ava Aldridge "Frustrated Housewife" (MGM, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by George Soule)
Like a lot of folks in the Muscle Shoals scene, singer Ava Aldridge sat on the ledge, with country on one side, and soul on the other... This is really probably more of a "pop" album, but there's a twangy undercurrent, to be sure. Aldridge worked extensively as a backup singer for a wide range of artists -- including Greg Allman, Patti Austin, Jim Dickinson, Levon Helm and Hank Williams, Jr. -- and obviously had deep connections to both country and Southern rock. She was also a successful songwriter, with perhaps her best known song being "Sharing The Night Together," which was a Top Ten hit for Dr. Hook. This was her first and (I think) only solo album, packed with original material...
Larry "Jinx" Alexander "Riverboat Man" (Private Stock/Demon Records, 1972/1989) (LP)
(Produced by David Johnson)
I really don't much about this guy -- the liner notes on the album are pretty cryptic, and I wasn't able to find any info about him online. As near as I can figure this was sort of a "field recording" conducted by David Johnson for the Private Stock label, where he traveled to Mississippi and met and recorded Larry Alexander, who was a bluesy swamp-rock oddball who sounded pretty similar to Tony Joe White and Larry Jon Wilson. This is a cool, kicked-back, swampy Southern album -- kind of surprising it's so far off the radar... But that's the '70s for you! Hotshot superpicker Travis Wammack plays guitar (and banjo!) and that's always a treat. Originally released in 1972.
Stan Alexander "Remember Me" (Blanco Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Stan Alexander & Richard Westley)
A curious but kind of delightful album... Stan Alexander was a young dude from Chireno, Texas (near Nacodoches) who had a strong affinity for older music, covering blues-tinged, sentimental hillbilly oldies such as "There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder," "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name" and "Remember Me," as well as other, eclectic selections of a more modern vintage. Alexander had a very gruff, old-man sounding voice suggesting a Lone Star geezer such as Don Walser, but if you look at the pictures, he was just some skinny kid from East Texas. He was also a pretty idiosyncratic vocalist, perhaps not that great technically, but there's a relaxed, potluck-party charm to this album that might win you over. Alexander has some definite quirks -- he bends everything into an odd, blues-based mode, and he sometimes struggles on uptempo numbers, though on the softer side when he really starts to croon, he might remind you of Fred Neil or Hoyt Axton, with a similar post-folk vibe. There's some nice picking on here, too... I like the mellow, unpretentious feel of the sessions, mostly with Houston locals in the crew, as well as bluegrasser Alan Munde playing banjo, and some nice pedal steel by Dave Williams. If you like unusual, uncompromised, unique-sounding roots records, give this one a spin. I'm not saying it's a classic, but I got into it.
Wyvon Alexander "Wyvon" (Gervasi Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Shook)
This Texas honkytonk crooner's full name is Wyvon Alexander, and this record is pretty darn good. Robust, soulful, and packed with original material, this is a nice mix of hard-edged barroom ballads and smoother commercial country. This might appeal to fans of Ed Bruce, Vern Gosdin or Waylon Jennings -- kind of in that general territory. Definitely worth a spin!
The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band "Friends For Lunch" (1985) (LP)
This wild-and-wooley, all-acoustic, old-timey jugband represented the old-guard hippie fringe of the Lawrence, Kansas music scene. When all the kids were going punk, the Alferd Packer band -- named after a notorious 19th Century Midwestern cannibal -- played a mix of old-timey tunes from the likes of Charlie Poole and Uncle Dave Macon, some Celtic material, and several originals by bandmembers Steve Mason, Jim Krause and Doug DuBois, who penned the topically-themed "A Partheid In A Pear Tree." Playing percussion in the group was sculptor Jm Brothers, who found fame outside the Midwest and was drawn back to the heavy gravity of Larrytown, where he continued to produced nationally-recognized works, often with historical themes. Not sure if he ever did a piece about Alfred Packer, though... This album also includes their rambunctious version of the "William Tell Overture," which they would play to heighten the tension of their annual concerts at the downtown Post Office on Tax Day, to the delight of last-minute filers.
Mary Alice "Loving You Again" (Marty Bleifeld Productions, 1981-?) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Aschlemann & Marty Bleifeld)
This uber-Midwestern album was recorded in Fort Wayne, Indiana with an all-locals band. The repertoire is all cover songs, except for the title track, "Loving You Again," which was written by John Snyder, who was apparently a friend of the band. It seems doubtful that singer Mary Alice was even semi-professional, since in the liner notes she thanks Dick and Pat Oberly for letting her sit in with their group, the Country CBers Band, at a gig at the Four Aces club in Tillman, Indiana... My guess is that the musicians backing her here weren't her "regular" band, either, but rather a pickup group put together just for these recording sessions.
David Allan "Town And Country" (Scooter Records, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Nate Schwartz)
Songwriter David Allan was a longtime presenter on Albany, New York's WRGB-TV, where he hosted a "dialing for dollars"-style game show, and had a sideline as a musician and recording artist. On this album, recorded with Pete Williams and the Goodtimes Three, he records a bunch of original material, much of it with a light novelty feel, including songs like "Miss Understanding," "Turn Off The Memories," "That's How The Word Gets Around," "When A Woman Really, Really Loves A Man" and "Bone Lonely."
Anna Jane Allen "Born A Woman" (Lakefront Records, 1967) (LP)
The Anna Jane Allen Family "You Are My Sunshine" (Lake Front Records, 197--?) (LP)
The Allen Brothers Band "Live From The Sail Inn Lounge" (Arkay Custom Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Rich Krueger)
Ultra-authentic bar-band/lounge act country from this clean-cut California combo... The Allen brothers, Jack and Russ, were originally from Decatur, Illinois, moving to California in the early 1960s and forming their first band in '68, although it was put on hold for a few years while Russ Allen served a tour of duty in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Jack Allen and his wife Linda came up with the cash to purchase the Sail Inn Lounge, a bar in Santa Cruz, CA, which is where this album was recorded. You can really hear the ambience of the room, with happy, tipsy customers chat-shouting during the set and whooping their applause... The band was amateurish but sincere, mainly a guitar-based lineup with some fairly haphazard pedal steel licks in the mix. (Steel player Ernie Hagar mainly played gigs around the central coast, though he had a brief, early 'Seventies gig with the Commander Cody band, and recorded an instrumental album under his own name.) Here, the Allen Brothers played a few rock tunes -- Santana's "Evil Ways," a couple of Creedence covers ("Down On The Corner" and "Proud Mary," of course) and a semi-funky version of the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman." Mostly though, they seem to have been devoted to country stuff, with versions of "Six Days On The Road," "Night Life," "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" and a lively version of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" where Russ Allen shows some real chops on the banjo. The Sail Inn Lounge changed hands (and names) several times before the property was eventually purchased by the county and converted into the Live Oak branch of the local public library... Although toddler storytime is probably the big show there now, I'm sure many a mellow night was spent at the old bar, back in the days.
Greg Allen "This Is Greg Allen" (ASI Studios, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Greg Allen & Jim Murphy)
An ultra-DIY album by a lounge singer from Minneapolis, Minnesota... Basically one of those records that are just intended to get a musician more work, this includes simple, typewritten liner notes that list -- in minute detail -- each of the dozen or so casinos, hotels and bars that had hired Allen to date, a string of Midwestern and Southern Holiday Inns and Vegas lounges. Working with local musicians, Allen recorded this short session, with country oldies like "Rocky Top" alongside pop standards such as "Feelings" and "My Way." This is another undated mystery record where we just have to guesstimate the release date: the most contemporary selections include Bobbie Tyler's "It's A Heartache" and Kenny Rogers' "Love Or Something Like It," both hits in 1978, so I'm gonna go '79 on this one, although it could be later as well.
Ira Allen "Hanging On With..." (Portland Records, 1977)
(Produced by Gene Breeden & George Richey)
A stalwart of the New England country scene, Maine's Ira Allen started out as a rocker in the late 1950s, cut a few country singles in the '60s and early '70s, but nothing charted nationally, and he remained a hometown hero for several decades. This album includes seven originals by Allen, and one by KAYO deejay/PD Bobby Wooten (who also wrote the liner notes...) The album title is a reference to Allen's best-known song, "(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On," a tune he co-wrote with Buddy Mize that was one of Vern Gosdin's first solo hits in the 1970s. And of course the "Portland" label refers to Maine's coastal town, not Puddletown on the West Coast.
Ira Allen "...Sings Cabbage Patch Doll" (LS Records, 1985)
Judy Allen "Especially For You" (Stop, 1972) (LP)
One of the many lost, orphan albums of the early '70s... Canadian-born Judy. Allen actually had her chart hits a little later on, in 1978, with a brief mid-1970s stint on Polydor, but apparently those Back Forty singles weren't enough to persuade the label to put out a full album of her work... Perhaps someday she'll get a full retrospective set, combining these songs with the later stuff? Maybe... who knows?
Reb Allen "The Fightin' Side Of Me" (Crown Records, 1970-?)
A California-based also-ran, singer Reb Allen released several singles over a span of years, some of which are reprised here. Although he recorded a bit of uptempo twang in his time -- notably his own bouncy rocker called "Go Back To Your Honky Tonk" -- these tracks are mostly pretty languid and low-energy. Dunno much about this guy, though obviously he got into the orbit of the cheapie budget label scene... As with all these Crown LPs, it's not clear who the backing musicans may have been, or when the sessions were recorded.
Terry Allen -- see artist profile
Duane Allman "An Anthology" (Capricorn, 1972)
A fine retrospective that spotlights the late Duane Allman's session work outside of the raucous confines of the well-known Allman Brothers Band. Besides the Southern rock and blues workouts, there are some sweet, acoustic-based gems such as "Please Be With Me," by the band Cowboy, and the Allman Bros instrumental, "Little Martha," which is an eternally soothing, mellow melody. Some of the funky roots riffs and slide routines have grown stale through overexposure and imitation (if I never, ever, ever, ever hear "Layla" again, it'll be too soon...) though it's still cool hearing Allman backing up the likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Clarence Carter... And as an historical testament to one of the finest whiteboy blues players ever, this is a pretty swell 2-CD set. If you're unfamiliar with his legacy, this collection is the place to start.
Gregg Allman "Low Country Blues" (Rounder, 2011)
(Produced by T Bone Burnett)
A rock-solid, pleasantly mellow roots-blues set from Southern Rock granddaddy Gregg Allman, who has seen his fair share of funky jam sessions in his time, often with a solid wall of rock-god guitars around him. This time, he's in a stripped-down, mostly acoustic mode, playing classic blues from the likes of B.B. King, Amos Milburn, Otis Rush and Muddy Waters, with a few more obscure songs in the mix and some original tunes for good measure. Underpinning Allman's B3 organ are the funky piano trills of Dr. John, and a host of tasteful pickers, including producer T Bone Burnett strumming on a tune or two. A very tasteful, tasty album, Allman's first solo set in thirteen years(!) and sure to satisfy his fans and old-school blues lovers everywhere. Definitely recommended.
Jerry Jaye Allogio "Sweet Memories" (Pallette Records, 1985-?) (LP)
(Produced by Kent Hickman)
Not to be confused with Southern country-soul man Jerry Jaye, in the 1980s, local Pennsylvania rancher and aspiring songwriter Gerald Allogio hosted a country music TV show in Lehigh Valley, also releasing his own records while performing regionally with his band, Wrangler. Allogio was just starting to make some real traction with his music career when this album came out -- fellow Pennsylvanian Pat Garrett filmed a video with Allogio, and there was talk of a major-label deal in Nashville. Allogio died suddenly, however, suffering a heart attack while driving his car in 1987, barely a month after appearing at Nashville's star-studded Fan Fair music festival. This album is mostly cover songs, including oldies such as "Making Believe," "Heartaches By The Number" and "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," as well as some newer tunes, like Hugh Moffatt's "Old Flames." There's also one original song, Allogio's own "Let's Make It."
Jerry Jaye Allogio "What Does She See In Me?" (Pallette Records, 198--?) (LP)
John Allred "Big Horn Country" (CG Productions, 1976)
(Produced by John Allred & Leon Bohanon)
The songs are all originals, mostly by Allred, though one tune was written by his father, Garth Allred, while another was by Louis Reynolds, one of the guys in his band.
John Allred "A Real Live Cowboy" (Wind River Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Williams & Ronald Gant)
I suppose if George Strait had missed the bigtime and just kept playing with the Ace In The Hole Band back in Texas, he might have sounded something like this uber-indie Montana cowboy... Allred went to Nashville to record, and cut an album of consistently good, simple, straightforward melodic honkytonk, with a sharp backing band, spotlighting rich, ringing pedal steel and dobro by Paul Franklin, and the Bob Wills-flavored fiddling by Tommy Williams (of the Hee Haw house band.) As with his other albums, this contains a wealth of original material, with about half the songs being Allred's compositions, along with some well-chosen cover tunes such as Jimmy Work's "Making Believe" and "Good Hearted Woman" by Waylon Jennings. The vocal phrasing can be a little sluggish at times, but essentially this is pretty strong stuff... Definitely worth a spin!
John Allred "Born With Country Music" (Wind River Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Williams & Ronald Gant)
Man, what a great record. Allred sounds a lot more at ease here, robust and relaxed, and much better at riding along with the rhythm of the songs. This time around he hired another Nashville studio crew, with paid pickers including Sonny Garrish, Bunky Keels and Terry McMillan playing some sharp, slick riffs, with Tommy Williams is still leading the sessions and still sounding western-swing sweet. You really gotta wonder why Allred didn't make to the national stage with a record like this under his belt, but hey, that's show business. Another set of all original material -- six songs by John Allred, one by his dad Garth Allred and a few more by bandmembers Leon Bohanon and Lonnie Bell. Nice stuff. The title track, "Born With Country Music," is one of those fun twang-booster tunes where the singer says he ain't from Texas or Tennessee, but he can play country just as well as those big city fellers. Amen to that, brother!
John Allred "Dreams Of A Dreamer" (Wind River Records, 1984) (LP)
The Amazing Rhythm Aces -- see artist discography
A. M. Delivery "A. M. Delivery" (A. M. Delivery, 1976) (LP)
With their banjo-mandolin-autoharp lineup this Atlanta, Georgia band was more of a bluegrass/newgrass group, but they covered folks like Billy Ed Wheeler, Herb Pedersen and Merle Haggard, so they'd probably fit into a broader "twang" category as well...
G. T. Amell "Bein' Ernest About Hank" (KM Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Johnson & Bob Berglund)
Straight-up country roots music, covers of honkytonk oldies by Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams by country (and western!) enthusiast Tom "GT" Arnell. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Arnell worked for years in heavy industry while nurturing his love of western movies and old Hank Williams songs... He's backed here by a cast of Twin Cities locals, including Peter Ostroushko and Butch Thompson from the orbit of the Prairie Home Companion radio show, as well as pedal steel player Mike Cass and backup vocalist Maureen McElderry, who had a roots-oriented album of her own that came out around the same time. Amell later moved to Tombstone, Arizona, where he dressed up in wild-west cowboy duds, and retired in Georgia around 2015. As far as I know, this is his only album.
American Bluegrass Express "Bluegrass Express" (Eagle Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard Walls)
Years before he joined the Top Forty country band and still in his teens, Shenandoah, Florida-born singer Marty Raybon led this bluegrass band, with three of his brothers -- Ken, Rick and Tim -- playing a mix of secular and religious material. Decades later, as an ex-chart artist gone indie, Raybon returned to bluegrass and gospel... Nice to hear that he had real roots in the style!
American Bluegrass Express "Expressing Gospel" (Eagle Record Productions, 197-?) (LP)
American Bluegrass Express "Bluegrass On My Mind" (Eagle Record Productions, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Leonard B. Needham)
American Bluegrass Express "Live!" (Redwing) (LP)
American Flyer "American Flyer" (United Artists, 1976)
(Produced by George Martin)
Songwriter Eric Kaz is well-known to fans of the early Bonnie Raitt canon as the composer of the epic weeper, "Love Has No Pride," which he recorded himself while in this soft-rock ensemble formed with Craig Fuller (formerly the lead singer of Pure Prairie League) along with Doug Yule, who at the time had recently helmed the teetering, post-Lou Reed Velvet Underground... This falls more into ornate soft-rock territory than I'd prefer - very '70s, very slick, very LA. But then again, that may be exactly what you're looking for, right?
American Flyer "Spirit Of A Woman" (Columbia, 1977)
(Produced by Ken Friesen & American Flyer)
Gerry Andal "Country... Just For The Heck Of It" (Aura Cee) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
A country covers album from the Pacific Northwest, recorded at the Ripcord Records studio, though not officially part of their catalog. A Saskatchewan native, Gerry Andal went to college in Seattle and eventually settled in the area, where he first owned a car dealership and then went into the restaurant business, partly as a way to have a place he could play music. Of special interest here is his thank-you in the liner notes to R. C. Bannon, who loaned Andal his band, Freedom, as backup musicians for this album. In the early '70s, Bannon was working as a DJ and bar singer in Seattle, before moving to Nashville in 1976; guitarist John Hoag followed Bannon to Nashville and wound up working in Louise Mandrell's band. Oh! Anyway, back to Gerry Andal: I'm not sure exactly when this album came out, but I'd guess somewhere around 1973-74, around the time Andal was hosting the first of a series of local TV shows. The album includes several Kris Kristofferson songs (including the inevitable "Me And Bobby McGee") along with stuff like "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Everybody's Talking At Me." By all accounts, Andal -- who passed away in 2011 -- was a really nice guy who loved playing county fairs and was very active in the community.
Gerry Andal & Pat Roberts "Country Northwest" (Aura Cee) (LP)
(Produced by B. D. Bassett & Aaron Linburg)
Eric Andersen "A Country Dream" (Vanguard, 1969)
(Produced by Jack Lothrop)
Singer-songwriter Eric Andersen was always one of my favorite of the early Greenwich Village folkies, with his distinctive, classically pretty-sounding vocals and a romantic vision that -- to my ears at least -- helped elevate him from the confines of the either-Dylan-or-Butcher-Holler "authenticity" pigeonholes of the genre. Like many of his contemporaries -- Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton -- by the end of the '60s, Andersen found himself pushing against the boundaries of the folk scene and several times he went to Nashville to add a more countrified tone to his work. On this album, his last for Vanguard, he was backed by many of the big-name Music City session players such as Charlie McCoy, Weldon Myrick and Norbert Putnam... Years later, Putnam would call on several years of experience working with Andersen to produce one of the singer's finest albums, Blue River, listed below,
Eric Andersen "Avalanche" (Warner Brothers, 1969)
(Produced by Jerry Goldstein)
Eric Andersen "Eric Andersen" (Warner Brothers, 1970)
(Produced by Paul Tannen)
One of several albums Andersen recorded in Nashville, this could be considered either "diverse" or "uneven," depending on your point of view. Stylistically, it's certainly all over the map: Andersen braves Muscle Shoals-type roots-funk on the opening track, "Don't Leave Me Here For Dead," and again on Side Two, with the uptempo "She Touched Me," and to his credit he really throws himself into the rock'n'roll vibe. Similarly, he makes good use of his Nashville crew on a couple of straight-up country-novelty songs, "Sign Of A Desperate Man" and "I Was The Rebel (She Was The Cause)," with a hefty chunk of the 615 studio crew backing him up: Norbert Putnam playing bass, Weldon Myrick on pedal steel, drummer Kenny Buttrey, Charlie McCoy, David Briggs, et. al. While the rock and twang numbers are done well, most of the album is devoted to straight-up folk stuff, all of it with Andersen's distinctive romantic stamp on it, with a few tunes drifting into more cosmic, starry-eyed, semi-psychedelic territory. Although the album isn't necessarily all that cohesive, all of the tracks are musically solid and satisfying on their own terms. And certainly -- if it matters -- Anderson has fully liberated himself from the "imitating Dylan" trope: this music is all Andersen's sound and vision. Definitely worth a spin!
Eric Andersen "Blue River" (Columbia, 1972)
(Produced by Norbert Putnam)
Al Anderson "Al Anderson" (Vanguard, 1972)
(Produced by Maynard Solomon)
The hotshot, blues-drenched lead guitarist for NRBQ recorded this lovely solo album early in his career, apparently finishing out the contract his old band, The Wildweeds, had with Vanguard. It's a real gem, definitely worth tracking down. Here the master musician of the alterna-bar-band repertoire nods his hat towards Hank Williams and Delta blues forerunners, while also sculpting several lovely, delicate acoustic love songs of his own. A nice mix of styles, mostly in a mellow, gentle, country-tinged mode. One of my favorite hidden gems from the goodle days.
Anita Anderson "Busted Love" (Dusspri Records, 1982) (LP)
Released on a label from Hollywood, California...
Casey Anderson "Good Old Boys" (Edge Records, 1974) (LP)
Born in Chicago, singer-guitarist Casey Anderson was more of a "folk" artist, recording albums in the '60s for Elektra, Atco and other "real" labels, but he'd always peppered his work with country and blues material. On this self-released indie album, he goes all-out country, covering Johnny Horton, Jim Reeves, Hank Williams and others, and adds a twang anthem to the canon called "Country Music Is Alive And Well." This was, I believe, his second-to-the-last album, with Anderson passing away in '76.
C. W. Anderson "Turn Off The Key And Rosin Up The Bow" (Circle B Recordings) (LP)
Fiddler C. W. Anderson was part of the band at the Circle B Ranch, a dude ranch in South Dakota that produced numerous LPs, including this "solo" set, which highlights fiddle tunes...
C. W. "Cliff" Anderson "A Little Fiddlin' And A Little Yodelin' " (Circle B Records) (LP)
A solo set by one of the members of the Circle B dude ranch's house band, the Circle B Cowboys. He plays some fiddle tunes such as "Cripple Creek" and "Old Joe Clark," as well as cowboy songs like "Cattle Call" and "Lonesome Cowpoke."
Texas Anderson & Jeff Martin "Songs In Boone Country" (RCM Records) (LP)
(Produced by Chan Strader)
This duo from Winchester, Kentucky played fairly hardcore, old-school country -- the emotive, declarative Jeff Martin sounds like a combination of Hank Snow and Mac Wiseman, a little stilted though compelling, while Texas Anderson sounds a lot like Kitty Wells. She's able to project and sort of force her way through a song, much like Kitty Wells did, although Anderson's phrasing often sounds off, and her vocals wobble a bit as a result. Sometimes the band is a little wobbly, too, so maybe tempo wasn't everybody's strong point here. That being said, I really this record -- the overall sound is stripped-down and rough-edged, but robust and soulful as well -- Martin, in particular, sells these songs. There are a lot of good cover tunes -- she wallops her way through "Just Walk On By," "Once A Day" and "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man," and he covers Joe South's "Games People Play" in a hard honky-tonk style, to rather amusing effect. There's original material as well: five of the tracks were composed by the album's producer, Robert Channing Strader, a middle-aged Kentucky native who claimed direct descent from Daniel Boone and who approached the singing couple to see if they would record his songs for him. They seemed to have helped him rough them out a bit -- four of the tracks are also credited to T. Martin, which I think meant that "T" was for Texas and that she and Mr. Martin were married. There's also one song written by the guy who also contributed the liner notes, Herb Lewis, whose "Two Divided By One" is a fairly standard-issue love-triangle country weeper which, like some of Stradler's stuff, comes off as a little bit lyrically strained, though not at all unpleasant. After all the good-natured twang, the album ends up sharply veering course -- Ms. Anderson testifies her way through a churchy, gospel-oriented Strader-Martin tune, "The Golden Grains," which hints at what they hoped would be their next project, an album showcasing Strader's religious material. Did they ever make it? I dunno -- you tell me! (One quick footnote: Mr. Strader (1911-1991) was a well-regarded local farmer and insurance salesman who died a bachelor in 1991. In his will, he donated to the State of Kentucky forty-seven acres of family land that had once been a settlement known as Boone Station, where Daniel Boone lived from 1779-1782. Mr. Strader also willed the state his collection of over 10,000 arrowheads, which were to be given to the Kentucky state parks system. Boone Station, where he had previously helped endow a historical marker, is now a state historic site which includes recreations of the old cabins and stockade walls. And he left us a few songs, as well.)
Daniel Andrade "Hank The Drifter" (New England Records, 1968-?) (LP)
Born in Taunton, Massachussetts, hillbilly-style singer Daniel Andrade was a wildly devoted Hank Williams fan, starting his recording career back in 1955 with a double-sided tribute 7" ("Hank Williams Is Singing Again"/"Hank You're Gone But Not Forgotten.") This was followed by a string of country and rockabilly singles released between 1956-64, as well as by this LP, which came out sometime after January 1, 1968 (according to the liner notes.) Most of his recordings were released on Andrade's own label, New England Records, which was curiously-named, considering that he had long since moved to Houston, Texas. The tracks on this album seem to have been made over a long timespan: on the Hank Williams tributes he sounds pretty nasal and young, while later songs sound really crudely produced and his voice is gutterally thick and middled-aged low: Hasil Adkins fans might dig these rough-hewn rockabilly stomps. Definitely a one-of-a-kind, oddball offering! But good, too!
Lumber Jack Jeff Andrews "The Man That Used To Be" (Lumberjack, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Schrimpf)
A singer from Pleasant Lake, Indiana who went to Nashville to record at producer/pianist Mike Schrimpf's studio. The studio crew features Steve Wariner playing bass and singing backup, along with Terry Wariner (related?) on drums. Jeff Andrews also sings one of Steve Wariner's own compositions, "No Reason," although most of the songs are published by Shrimp Music, presumably the publishing company of producer/pianist Mike Schrimpf, including several by Andrews and two by Ron Saucier, who was not in the band.
Bruce Anfinson "Huckleberry Hill" (Last Chance, 1985)
A cowboy-poet type guy from Helena, Montana, Anfinson covers Guy Clark's "Homegrown Tomatoes," along with some other butte-iful old songs. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one...) I think he made a few more albums as well.
Betty Angel "Golden Voice Gal" (Joey Records, 1978) (LP)
Kenny Antcliff "I'm Double Parked" (Autumn Hill, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Voytek)
Any Old Time String Band "Any Old Time String Band" (Bay/Arhoolie, 1978, 1980)
This San Francisco Bay Area ensemble was one of the most charming -- and accomplished -- of the late -'70s string band revivalists. The 1996 CD reissue combines two LPs originally released in 1978 and 1980, and features their lovely version of the melodic oldie, "I'll See You In C-U-B-A," originally a hit for vaudeville star Billy Murray in 1920. The lineup changed between albums, but Kate Brislin and Sue Draheim were core members of the band, along with Genny Haley on guitar... and their sense of "old-time" music, including old-time jazz and Tin Pan Alley material, was right on the button. Very sweet and highly recommended.
Any Old Time "Ladies' Choice" (Bay Records, 1983) (LP)
Appaloosa "Morning Riser" (White Gold Music, 1980) (LP)
A country-rock band from Champaign, Illinois...
Applejack "First Swig" (Adobe, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Scott Martin)
The El Paso, Texas trio of Mike Durham, Charlie McDonald and Cleo Pair played a mix of honkytonk and softer country-folk... The softer stuff was best, and Side Two of the album leads off with a particularly folkie number, Bob Coltman's "Before They Close The Minstrel Show," which dramatically changes the pace of the album. This leads into a parade of mellower numbers: an oldie by Tom Russell, a nice version of Jesse Winchester's "Brand New Tennessee Waltz" and -- this is the one that won me over -- a cover of a Kenny Rogers song that I actually enjoyed... and that's no easy trick to accomplish!! One their hard-country efforts, the vocals and the band don't always have enough ooomph... But this band is fondly remembered, and the album may grow on you...
Billy Apollo "Coast Guard Blues" (Nashville American, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Bragg & Hank Strzelecki)
Although he didn't have a rock-solid voice, Florida's Billy Apollo had a great sense of humor and knew how to how to do honkytonk novelty songs right. The title track is an amiable pot-smuggling song, a worthy companion to Peter Rowan's "Free Mexican Air Force," while the rest of the record sports some other swell songs. Apollo went up to Nashville to cut this album, and got backing from a bunch of old pros, including Buddy Emmons and Lloyd Green on steel guitar, Hargus Robbins on keyboards, et. al. Fun stuff!
Apple Ridge Band "Pickin' On" (Appleridge Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Scott Turner & Al McGuire)
The lone album from this band out of McComb, Ohio. The group included Keith and Mark Detamore, drummer Dan "Spanky" Corwin, lead guitar Kenn Trout and keyboard player Jim Slagle... Songs include "Alabama Rose," "Long Legged Women," "Peterbuilt," and "Small Time Country Band." There's really not much info about these guys online... One bandmember became a local judge, so I think it's fair to say that the band was really just a for-fun kind of thing...
Suzi Arden "The Suzi Arden Show Live At the Mint Hotel" (Mint, 1977) (LP)
Apparently originally from Colorado, fiddler-guitar picker Suzi Arden is best remembered as the leader of the longest-running show in Las Vegas history... She had a background in the golden era of hillbilly variety shows, notably performing on Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee in an duo called "the Arden Sisters." She hit Vegas in the early 'Sixties and became a fixture at the Merri-Mint Lounge, where she remained for most of the 'Sixties and 'Seventies. She also cut a couple of singles in Nashville and LA, but her vinyl clam to fame comes from this live LP, recorded in Vegas in the '70s... Arden is also a legendary figure among guitar buffs for having field-tested the first Rickenbacker 12-string guitar back in 1963... Take that, Roger McGuinn!
Area Code 615 "Area Code 615" (Polydor, 1969)
(Produced by Kenneth Buttrey, Elliot Mazer & Area Code 615)
A funky, rootsy set of all-instrumental jams by several studio musician heavyweights, including then-ubiquitous superpickers such as fiddler Buddy Spicher, banjoist Bobby Thompson, steel player Weldon Myrick and Mac Gayden on guitar, with Charlie McCoy tootling on the harmonica. It's a loose, good-natured session, with these Nashville virtuosi obviously having a good time jamming together, dipping into bluegrass, baroque pop, and plenty of Southern-style, Muscle Shoals-y rhythm'n'rock. They cover several Beatles songs, perhaps the best of which is a steel-drenched "Hey Jude," take passes at Otis Redding and Bob Dylan, and Thompson plunks out an oddly slowed-down version of "Classical Gas." Some of the most inventive moments come with their covers of traditional bluegrass tunes, perhaps most surprising is on "Lil' Maggie," where Gayden plays some heavy electric guitar, flirting at the edges of the acid rock/proto-metal sound of the time, and Charlie McCoy gets into some gritty Chicago blues riffs ala Little Walter. Who knew he had it in him?? It helps to be a fan of instrumental music to get into this one, but it is a nice chance to hear some Nashville cats let their hair down and play a little rock'n'soul.
Area Code 615 "Trip In The Country" (Polydor, 1970)
(Produced by Area Code 615)
The second AC album feels more forced, less like a laidback jam session and more like an in-studio concoction. There's still certainly diversity: from the big, bright, brash pop-orchestral update of Bill Monroe's "Scotland" that opens this album, to the spacy proto-prog of "Stone Fox Chase," the group moves into a few tracks of outright easy listening, ala Mantovani, and finishes up Side One with a clunky acid-rock number by Mac Gayden called "Gray Suit Men." Their country roots are largely obscured between the Southern-rock electric riffs and the flowery muzak, with the banjo or fiddle drifting out of the haze from time to time, though the best tracks have more of a Muscle Shoals feel than a Nashville tinge. The core group is essentially the same, with the addition of pianist David Briggs, and the set list is almost all original material, in contrast to the covers-heavy first album. But it's pretty kitschy and easy listening-ish, with only one track, Weldon Myrick's robust instrumental, "Welephant Walk," to satisfy twangfans. After this, Mac Gayden took the 615 rhythm section of Kenny Buttrey and Wayne Moss, and founded the rock band Barefoot Jerry, which continued the country-meets-soul vibe going... On this album you can sense their impatience, from the sterile, multitracked feel of the songs to the album-art footnote that reads, "Ding Dong The Code Is Dead?" Farewell, too, to the Goodlettesville String Sextet, and to this chapter in country-billy crossovers.
Arizona Outlaws "On The Road" (1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Monnett)
This long-lived band from Central Arizona was led by pedal steel player Jim Monnett, with Danny Monnett on lead guitar, Don Carson on piano, some fiddle and mandolin by Maverick Homes, and vocals by Jim Monnett, Kathy West and bassist Bob Lewis. The album includes covers of classics by Rodney Crowell, Whitey Schafer and Hank Thompson, as well as a wealth of original material. There are four songs written by Ken Patrick, a friend of the band who had apparently passed away before the was released, including "Can't Get You Out Of My Mind," "Listen Heart," "Outlaw Night Train" and "Running To The River." Jim Monnett contributed two songs, "Arizona Outlaw Theme" and "Spaced Out Cowboy" while Bob Lewis penned one called "Free Man Again." The lineup changed a few times, but Monnett kept the band together well into the 2010s, playing local festivals, county fairs and other community-oriented gigs, although I think this was the group's only album.
The Arkansas Travellers "Live" (American Artists, 1976)
(Produced by Leo Rainey)
Retro-delic old-timey music recorded in August, 1976 at the Arkansas Traveller Folk Theater in Hardy, Arkansas, with artists such as Ralph Depriest, Jim Buchanan, Debbie Hansen, Abe Weaver and others... The repertoire was all oldies and folk songs, including "Sally Goodin," "Sweet Betsy From Pike," "Wreck Of The Old 97," "Bile Them Cabbage Down," and the like. The liner notes mention four previous studio albums, but I haven't been able to track those down yet.
Tim Arkansaw "Entertainment Is The Thing" (Astumhill) (LP)
Born in Alabama, Tim Arkansaw was an African-American country singer who worked throughout the South, eventually settling in Atlanta Georgia, where he became an arts educator in the city's public school system. On this album he's singing "town and country," according to the liner notes. Apparently Arkansaw was kind of a jack-of-all-trades, doing a gig at a Polynesian-themed restaurant called Dobb's House Luau, in Memphis, as well as traveling to Europe, Asia and Africa to perform. He recorded another Astumhill album, though that one was full of sailing songs, so the country thing might not have been his main gig.
The Arnold Chinn Group "Take It On The Chin" (Twin Spin, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Chandler & The Arnold Chinn Group)
Oddly enough, there's no one in this band named Arnold Chinn -- not sure what the in-joke was there -- but there was plenty of twang. A decent pop-country band from Owensboro, Kentucky, these guys got together in 1974 and played throughout the decade. This early album sports a strong bluegrass-y streak that eventually faded out of the band's sound... In addition to several original tunes composed by various bandmembers, they cover country-rock classics such as Dan Hicks' "How Can I Miss (You When You Won't Go Away)?," "Oooh, Las Vegas" from the Gram Parsons songbook, and J. D. Souther's "Safe At Home." The band is joined on a couple of tracks by fiddler Buddy Spicher.
The Arnold Chin Band "Hometown Heroes" (Twin Spin, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Hardy)
A nice album with a perceptible AOR influence, but firmly surrounded by a pronounced, slightly exaggerated hillbilly twang. It took me a while to place it, but finally (duh) I heard their similarlity to country-rocker Rodney Crowell. Indeed, they had an almost-hit with a cover version of Crowell's "Ain't No Money," which got played on American Bandstand and is included on this album. Their allegiance to the sleek, hip style of Rodney Crowell/Emmylou Harris post-hippie neo-traditionalism gives them a distinctive sound, recreating yet refashioning their radio-friendly sound. There's definitely an almost-but-not-quite, woulda-coulda feel to this record -- it's amateurish in some ways, ambitious and assertive in others. Worth a spin, if you can track it down.
Arrow Memphis "Arrow Memphis" (Intermountain, 1980) (LP)
Originally from Saint Louis, Missouri, these guys moved to Tucson, Arizona in the late '70s when the desert's country-rock scene was really hot... They became mainstays of the local scene, and at the time they made this album, were the houseband at the Stumble Inn honkytonk bar. Lead singer Steve Williams bought a smooth, James Taylor-ish voice to front a solid outlaw country sound -- he later broke into the Nashville songwriting racket, penning several Top Forty hits, including "Redneck Yacht Club" (a chart-topper for Craig Morgan) and "Where Have I Been All My Life," which was recorded by George Strait. And here's Williams and his pals, back in their longhaired glory... Pretty good stuff, though you can sure hear the commercial, Top 40 aspirations in there as well.
Arwen Mountain "Five Of A Kind" (Chelsea House, 1977) (LP)
A string/swing band from Vermont who mixed zippy covers of standards and public domain tunes and western swing with progressive bluegrass and country-folk material from the likes Herb Pedersen, Dallas Frazier and Asleep At The Wheel. Mostly in the bluegrass came, but with some interesting country touches.
Tom Asbridge "Moments With Tom" (Square Records) (LP)
Originally from Marion, Kentucky, singer Tom Asbridge relocated to Memphis for a few years, and cut this album in Little Rock, Arkansas. A few years later, he made his way to Houston, Texas, where he's been ever since. This album includes some interesting cover songs, including a version of Chip Taylor's "Clean Your Own Tables," Sammy Johns' "Chevy Van" and yet another rendition of "Me And Bobby McGee," as well as a couple of tracks that may have been Asbridge originals.
Garry Ash "The Country Sound Of Garry Ash" (John's Recording Studio, 1973-? ) (LP)
A native of Melbourne, Arkansas, teenaged guitarist Garry Ash -- who was still in high school when he cut this record -- picks and sings a set of country covers, with hits such as "Big River," "White Lightnin'," "Walk On By" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The backing band appear to be all locals, among them Todge Avey on lead guitar, Zane Beck playing steel and Bobby Carson on fiddle. Not sure of the year, though it definitely looks 1970s... This was his first album, though Garry Ash continued playing country music and put out CDs as recently as 2011, backed by his band Wildfire.
Francis B. Ashby "Ashby Country" (High Sierra, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Rich Price)
I guess I'd file this one under the "you never know, do you?" department. When I first heard this record in the late '80s, I didn't think it was that great -- maybe I donated it to my radio station or something. But coming across it again years later, deep in the throes of my '70s hippiebilly mania, I could finally hear what a great record this is... Francis Ashby was a West Coast country fan who herded together a mix of old-timers and longhair pickers to back him on a dozen of his own original songs, many of which are quite good... The record opens with "Welfare," a modern-day working-man's ballad that has a Merle Haggard feel, but slightly more liberal leanings -- the liner notes talk about Ashby's own bout with chronic unemployment, so while the song is gritty, it's also compassionate. Various heartsongs, train songs and honkytonk numbers follow, with passionate, razor-sharp lyrics. This San Francisco session was helmed by local cowpoke Rich Price, who later recorded for the same label, but unlike Price -- who got a bunch of high-power Nashville superpickers to back him -- Ashby's band seems to have been little-known locals, and they really put a lot into their performance... This is one of the stronger hard-country indiebilly albums of the era, a little idiosyncratic and rough around the edges, but definitely worth checking out. An energetic, original off-the-radar '70s country album.
Eddy Asher "Faded By The Night Life" (Dry Holler Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Nelson & C. E. Asher)
A singer who hailed from Springfield, Missouri, Eddie Asher packed this album with original material, writing eight out of the ten songs... Asher was also involved in some of the Missouri-based country music variety shows, including one that billed itself "the Ozark Hee Haw," and recorded an album under that name.
Asleep At The Wheel -- see artist profile
Mike Asquino "Old Friends And Fine Wine" (Red Cloud Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Beckley, John Nagy & Chris Cassons)
A folkie-country set from upstate New York... Asquino also released a couple of albums in the early 2000's...
Atchafalaya "One In A Row" (Nijik Records, 1982) (LP)
Atchafalaya "Live" (Nijik Records, 1986) (LP)
Recorded in concert at the Boudin Festival in Broussard, Louisiana, Feb. 1 and 2, 1986.
Atchafalaya "Defined" (Nijik Records) (LP)
Kip Attaway "Jess For You" (CIS Northwest, 1981) (LP)
Originally from Texas, singer Kip Attaway decamped to Idaho in the early 1970s, skipping out on the Lone Star outlaw scene, but bringing a lot of the same freewheeling attitude to his new perch in the Rockies. Over the years he hung around with a lot of notable folks -- Jerry Jeff Walker, cowboy honkytonker Chris LeDoux, the Braun Brothers -- and was especially tight with bad-boy twangster Pinto Bennett, playing in various bands and on various albums together. In later years, Attaway moved away from his hippie bar-band roots and focussed more on being a redneck-ish comedy artist, though this early stuff is still pretty rooted in the outlaw vibe of the times.
Kip Attaway "On Down The Road" (Very Available Records) (LP)
(Produced by Kip Attaway)
I'm not sure what year this album came out, though I'm guessing 1983-85, based on the sound and look of the record. Overall, I'd have to say I didn't care much for this one -- there are a lot of tracks with just terrible pop-crossover arrangements and cheesy production that sounds both glossy and rinkydink. The opening track is the worst, a kind of 'Eightiesed-up bar-band rock number that I almost didn't get past... The rest of the record gets better, though not by a lot. There are a couple of decent twang tunes, though their charms are largely obscured by the iffy, antispetic production... Still, an alcoholic novelty song like "I'll Hold The Bottle (You Hold The Wheel)" is one that deserves to be known, and in terms of actual songwriting, as opposed to performances, this record has material that's worth a spin. But honestly, not a lot on here that I'd want to listen to for fun. Attaway's longtime pal Pinto Bennett chips in on this album, though in a pretty strictly background role.
Bobby Attwood "Picks The Nashville Sounds" (1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Peppers)
A guitar instrumental album by a guy from Wichita Falls, Texas, who also owned a music store in town and is remembered as one of the best pickers in town. Although it's very no-art, DIY, the album features liner notes by '70s star Mel Street; Atwood led a band of his own, which was managed by Street in the early '70s.
The Austin All Stars "The Austin All Stars" (Thumbs Up, 19--?) (LP)
Greg Austin "Dixie Dancer" (Kentex, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by J. D. Miller & Cecil Jones)
A pretty good indie album with a rootsy-meets-slightly-commerical sound... I'm not sure, but I think this was Austin's first album, and his band was pretty good for a bunch of locals. Other than the credits for songwriting and musicians, there's not a lot of info on here -- I'm just guessing what year this came out -- and while this was recorded in the Lemco studios in Lexington, Kentucky, I'm not sure if that's where the band was located at the time. Anyway, it's a pretty solid record. Austin co-wrote all but two of the songs, along with Ron Daly, a guy who wasn't in the band, but did sing backup on some of the tracks. The exceptions were a version of the R&B/western swing oldie, "Mama Don't Allow" and a cover of Shel Silverstein's "Masochistic Baby," which is one of the novelty-song standouts, along with "I Beat The Bottle" and "If Women Were Whiskey." This stands up well in comparison to Austin's later records, with vocals that are assertive but not verly emotive -- he desn't reach too high or try too hard, and the results are fairly straightforward and effective. Definitely worth checking out if you're on the indie-billy trail. Just wish I knew more about when this one came out!
The Greg Austin Band "Midnight Driver" (Chnito Productions, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Nick Heyl)
An ambitious album from this shaggy local bar band out of Vermont. I couldn't find much info about these guys, other than what's on the records themselves, and the fact that they made at least three albums. Apparently Austin had been playing since the mid-1970s, though this might have been his first album. Anyway, it's an appealing set, even though it's poorly recorded, with a mix that leaves most of the instruments muted, except for the lead guitar. The vocals are okay -- not a great voice, but plainspoken and sincere -- and the songs are pretty good. It's mostly original material, written by Austin or various band members, twangy songs about drinking, bars, and "painted ladies," as well as a cover of David Allan Coe's "I Love Robbing Banks," which gives them an outlaw vibe. This isn't the greatest music ever, but it has sincere DIY authenticity...
The Greg Austin Band "The Greg Austin Band" (Xeres, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by J. P. Pennington)
Big difference here: the band went down to Nashville to record this, and a Music City sound is immediately noticeable, with slicker, processed guitars instead of their earlier scrappy sound. Some of the songs are still outlaw themed -- like "Cheap Thrills," which opens the album -- but others were clearly meant to be more commercial, like the Eagles-y "Leaving In Her Eyes" and "Didn't Mean To Love You." Obviously, it didn't work, since these guys remain so obscure, but it's still interesting to see how quickly a band could remake themselves, reaching for the big brass ring. Their bar-band roots still show, though, in several rock-oldies covers -- "Bird Dog," "Sea Cruise," as well as a more-interesting cover of "Tonight The Bartender Is On The Wrong Side Of The Bar," an old Asleep At The Wheel song. Again, not spectacular, but for real. Let's hear it for the little guys!
The Greg Austin Band "If The Dream Could Stay" (Xeres, 1984) (LP)
The Greg Austin Band "Three Time Losers" (Xeres) (LP)
(Produced by Cecil Jones)
Kay Austin "The Hit Kit" (Corrall Records, 1977) (LP)
A country gal from Southern California who mostly worked the casinos in Nevada, Kay Austin also made it onto the Opry stage at least once (there's a picture on the back cover of her other album...) She led her own band for several years, touring mostly on the West Coast, but also nationally in the mid-1970s, after she hit the scene as a "promising new artist" in 1974. In addition to these two LPs, Ms. Austin also released several singles, including the 1976 novelty song, "(This New) Woman's Lib," which doesn't appear on either of her albums.
Kay Austin "Only A Woman" (EIO Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Boles, Ray Ruff & Don Lee)
Unlike her first album, this one is less reliant on cover songs, packed instead with newer material, including -- interestingly enough -- a couple of songs by Linda Hargrove. Two of the songs that were reeleased as singles made it into the Billboard Back Forty, "The Rest Of Your Life" (which hit #86) and "Two Hearts Beat (Better Than One)" (which peaked at #75.)
Luke Austin "Introducing Luke Austin & Country Kingdom" (Country Kingdom USA, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Al Bruno)
Independent twang from Houston, Texas with bandleader Luke Austin frequently sharing the spotlight with his sidemen. Looks like it's all cover songs, with picking courtesy of Austin, lead guitarist Terry Martin and steel player Jimmie Powell, along with bassist Don Babb and pianist Roscoe Horton. (Any why do I never mention the drummers? If I was Rudy Blake, I'd be pissed!)
Steve Austin "Pretty Lady" (K-Art Records) (LP)
We can rebuild him... Oh, wait, no. I promised I wasn't gonna make that joke... Ooops. Anyway, this Steve Austin was an older, post-middle aged fella who sings a bunch of country oldies -- stuff by Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Eddie Miller and Hank Williams -- and who dedicated this album to Jim Reeves. He also includes four of his own original songs: "Pretty Lady," "For Old Times Sake," "I'm Glad We Got Together," and "You're Not Really Real," which is an awesome-sounding song title. The who-where-when of this album is kind of a mystery -- there's not a lot of info in the liner notes, except that he thanks the folks in Ellis County who supported him, but he neglects to mention if it was the Ellis County that's in Texas, the one in Kansas, or the one in Oklahoma... Your guess is as good as mine. But the "why" of the album is pretty clear -- he wants to sing some country, and he wants to keep things old-school.
Steve Austin "Goin' To Town" (SRM/Special Release Music, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Austin)
This is a different Steve Austin, a younger guy than the feller above... This singer was from Pound, Wisconsin, a microscopic village near Green Bay. He was a kind of laid-back country-folkie who seems to have spent some time in Nashville.
Shorty Avery "...And The Swingsters" (Renee Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte & Larry Krenk)
A farm kid from Petersburg, Nebraska, Orville "Shorty" Avery (1923-2013) played in local groups dating back to the early 1950s, and formed his own four-piece band, the Swingsters, in the 1960s, and for a while hosted a weekly television show on KCNA in nearby Albion, Nebraska. This edition of the band included Mr. Avery on rhythm guitar, Dick Williamson playing piano, Leon Schulz on lead guitar, and "Porky" the drum machine, who gets a lot of attention in the liner notes. There's no date on this album, but the cover songs -- "Snow Bird," "Never Ending Song Of Love," "Games People Play," "Me And Bobby McGee," "Kiss An Angel Good Morning," and Faron Young's "Leavin' And Sayin' Goodbye," et. al. -- include a slew of tunes that were hits in 1971, so I'm making an educated guess that this came out in '72. In addition to all the covers, there are two songs listed as originals: "Ramblin' Piano" (composed by Williamson) and "Please Forget Me" (penned by Mr. Avery). The group apparently played gigs in Nebraska, South Dakota and nearby Kansas -- they also traveled to Texas to cut an earlier(?) 7" single on Keeno Records, which was a square dancing record. Avery played live shows up until around 2000, when he was almost eighty years old, though I think this was his only LP.
Hoyt Axton -- see artist profile
Joe Aylward "Joe Aylward" (Panther Records, 1984) (LP)
A Top-40 oriented honkytonker from Ontario, Canada, Joe Aylward released this 6-song EP in the '80s, and kept plugging away for at least a decade, well into the mullet-y '90s, backed by his band, The Yelverton Express. Good, uptempo neo-trad stuff.
Aztec Two-Step "Aztec Two-Step" (Elektra, 1972)
Although they really fit more into the '70s "soft rock" category, like many bands of that era, Aztec Two-Step wove significant amounts of twang into their albums, and deserve mention as part of the radio-friendly country-rock sound of the time. Besides, this first album has Doug Dillard and John Sebastian sitting in on the sessions, and those are some mighty fine guests to have at your party. Apparently, songwriters Rex Fowler and Neal Shulman met each other at an open-mic club in Boston, things clicked, they got signed, and they just kept making music happily ever after. Most of the songs on this debut disc are gooey, spacey acousto-pop numbers, much in the style of Brewer & Shipley or Seals & Crofts, though a few tunes have more overtly twangy feel. Worth a spin, but very '70s AOR-ish, so be forewarned.
Aztec Two-Step "Second Step" (RCA, 1975)
Aztec Two-Step "Two's Company" (RCA, 1976)
More '70s Oddball Country Letter "B"
Hick Music Index