Carl Jackson -- see artist profile
Jackson Highway "Jackson Highway" (Muscle Shoals Sound, 1977)
A diverse, uneven, but ultimately winning indie-twang album made by some Alabama natives who were in tight with the Muscle Shoals studio crew... The country stuff on here I like a lot, particularly tracks like "Wayne Co., Tennessee," which sounds like one of those early, non-sucky Eagles twang-tunes, or "Pickup Truck," where he's hitting up some girl with the oh-so-alluring promise of riding around in his truck all day, and, well, doing a little "trucking" as well. Less fun, for me, are the redneck disco tunes and overblown rockers... Guess I'm just not that into electric guitar solos anymore, though I imagine Southern rock fans will find both styles on this album equally groovy. Definitely worth a spin!
Jackson Highway "Jackson Highway" (Capitol, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Johnson & David Hood)
Yeesh. Really big change here. This major-label album opens up with a horrible, shrill, pompous rock number that reminds me more of Rush than Charlie Daniels, then careens into "Rock And Roll Man (Hung Up On A Disco Girl)" a novelty song with a promising title, but one that sounds like a Bob Seger outtake. Sadly, it never gets better. They redo a couple of songs from their first album ("Circles" and "Hook, Line And Sinker") and really royally screw them up. There's no twang anywhere on this album, and while there's a definite Southern rock influence, it's so buried in bad, bland, misguided, coked-up overproduction that they wind up sounding like Dee Snyder jamming with Supertramp, which I definitely do not mean as a compliment. It's really not my cup of tea... Probably not yours, either. (Footnote: after writing this I discovered I was right about the Bob Seger thing: one of the guys in this band actually wound up recording with Seger's band, playing lead guitar on his big hit, "Old Time Rock and Roll." So there ya go.
Jerry Jackson & The Inmates "Meet Jerry Jackson & The Inmates" (Vanco Records) (LP)
Tons of twang on this robust record from the Pacific Northwest... The Inmates were apparently from Caldwell, Idaho, although they drove over to Vancouver, Washington to cut this album at the Ripcord studios. And it's mighty nice stuff... They kick it off with a rough-hewn cover of Jim Croce's "Don't Mess Around With Jim," but immediately dig into a deeper country vibe with weepers such as "She Called Me Baby," "Curtain In The Window," and "Invitation To The Blues." The band's piano player, Jan Adair, is spotlighted as a vocalist on "Fool Me One More Time," where her rugged, throaty vocals stand out, reminding me a bit of Melba Montgomery, and she plunks out some tasty licks, too, particualrly on the bouncy instrumental, "On The Rebound." Most of the songs feature male vocals, though, and they're pretty solid, with an obvious devotion to the Ray Price honkytonk sound. The pedal steel work by Jimmie Collins is strong throughout, including instrumental showcases such as "Wildwood Flower Waltz" and "Orange Blossom Special." A good, solid, late '70s twangband... Unfortunately the album doesn't include any information about all the who-what-where-when of its making, but it's nice for life to have a few little mysteries. At any rate, this is a strong record from an unpretentious but solid local band. Worth tracking down.
Mary Jackson & The Nashville Heir "Live At Tabor Opera House" (Kowgirl, 1981) (LP)
A country show held at the Tabor Opera House, a historic music hall in Leadville, Colorado...
Norm Jackson "Country Boy" (Charter Records) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
Paul Jackson "...Sings Future Country Hits" (Jarelco Records) (LP)
The hopeful album title belies the exceptionally retro feel of this low-key set of homespun hillbilly music, simple twangtunes with an early 1950s feel (though this album looks like it was recorded in the mid-1960s to-mid-1970s...) This appears to have been a mom'n'pop label version of big-city "song-poem" albums, with heartfelt compositions by a dozen-plus amateur songwriters arranged and performed by Paul Jackson -- an obscure, rugged-voiced singer living in Athens, Alabama, with harmony vocals by an unidentified female singer. Most tracks have simple but effective accompaniment by acoustic guitar and modest percussion, though a couple also have some nice steel guitar. The album art is minimal: only the plain title on the front cover, with nothing on the back, though all the song credits are included on the inner label. Fans of oddball hillbilly singers such as Eddie Noack might really enjoy this one: there are sentimental numbers, gospel songs and even a Cold War novelty-gospel number about the spectre of nuclear Armageddon. A humble gem of anachronistic, uber-indie Southern twang.
Paul Jackson "...Sings Country and Gospel" (Jarelco Records, 1972) (LP)
Okay, so here's the deal: Mr. Jackson ran an ad in Billboard magazine, on September 23, 1972, offering this album for $5.00 per copy (or free to radio stations) and soliciting lyrics from aspiring songwriters, promising them fifty-percent publishing rights. So, yes, he was a song-poem artist, and this was his general time frame. I'm not sure which of these two records came out first, though...
Wade Jackson "Daddy's Baby Girl" (Tennessee Records) (LP)
A fun, super-twangy album with kind of unfortunate, unintentionally creepy album art. A 20-year career veteran who served in both the Army and Air Force, singer-guitarist Wade Jackson organized several military bands in the 1950s and '60s. At the time he recorded this album, he was apparently a part-time member of the Grand Ole Opry's road show, touring with them in the summer while making "his winter headquarters" at home in Gallatin, Tennessee. Jackson was a real throwback to the late-'50s/early '60s merging of hillbilly and honkytonk, a rugged singer belting it out over a pure twang band: Texas shuffle rhythm, squeaky fiddle, pedal steel, and twangy lead guitar on a bunch of fun novelty numbers. There's lots of original material on here, with Jackson claiming composer credit on the entire album... These songs were probably recorded over a number of years, since the production sounds noticably different from track to track, and in a few cases they even sound like on-the-fly jam sessions, such as on "Honky Tonk USA" and "Please Be Mine," where the lead guitars go a little nutty and drown out his vocals. Jackson wasn't an A-list Nashville star by any means, but if you like chunky, old-school twang, this indie outling is definitely worth tracking down.
Jada "Introducing Jada" (Coyotee Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Beck)
Singer Jada Vaughn was born in Searce, Arkansas but was working in Corpus Cristi, Texas when she cut this album. It features four songs written by Vaughn -- "Haven't Heard A Good Love Song," "I Want You To Know," "Never Been Alone," and "Where Are You Waylon" -- as well as several by producer-arranger Gary Beck: "I'm Trying," "I've Quit Hurting Over You," and "Tell Me Why Why Why," rounding things out with a Hank Williams medley. The band seems like they were all locals -- I don't recognize any of the players -- including Gary Beck on keyboards, pedal steel by Tommy Roots and lead guitar by Allen Hunt.
Jana Jae -- see artist profile
The James Brothers Band "Wanted" (JABRO Records, 1978) (LP)
An absolutely dreadful, horrible album and one that made me think -- man, maybe I've really bottomed out on this whole obscuro country thing. Perhaps it's time to stop? Anyway, the first thing to know about this record is that there's no one named James in the band, although all the songs were written by a J. B. Kimberel, who presumably was related to the band's singer-keyboardist Burt Kimberel and may have been named James(?) so maybe it was some kind of in-joke based on that. The second thing to know is that Burt's keyboard playing is really irritating -- terrible tones, cheesy riffs, consistently overpowering in the mix -- and it's the dominant factor throughout the entire album. Third thing: can't judge a disc by looking at its cover. I was sure that with its wood planks-and-crossed-pistols artwork that this was a hippie-era, country-indie relic, but there are only a couple of tracks that really make the grade, while the rest of it's some kind of watered-down, amateurish, self-indulgent, rock-pop, I'm-not-quite-sure-what-to-call-it mish-mosh. Now, many of you out there will know that I'm not all that big on the hipster habit of mocking "bad" records of the past and making sport of the well-meaning people who made them. But occasionally even I will have to admit defeat and chime in. This is a very bad record. And people who like to make fun of very bad records will love this album and delight in its existence. Have at it. In fact, anyone wanna buy my copy? Okay, there are a couple of songs to keep track of, twangwise -- "I've Been Around" has a galloping trucker music feel, while the album's closer, "My Love's Getting Hard" features some not-too-subtle sexual double entendres and both tracks showcase steel guitar from Randy Shellnut, who also produced the album at his studio in Pensacola, Florida. (Alas, despite its promising title, the song "Funky Country Music," misses on all three counts...) Oh, well. Ya win some, ya lose some.
Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion "Elvis: A Tribute To The King" (Springboard Records, 1977) (LP)
This is one of those el-cheapo fly-by night specials... Bucky Dee James may or may not have been a real, actual person, but Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion are credited with several mid-'70s tribute albums, including the pair of Elvis albums that started it all. The only biographical references I could find online came in some snarky music blog which seemed more interested in make clever putdowns than actually talking about the music, so I'm gonna take that one with a grain of salt as far as its historical value goes. Anyway, this was the brainchild of the LA-based Springboard/Buckboard label, which shifted at some point from presumably bootleg reissues of established artists to commissioning iffy original recordings such as this... I'm guessing there's overlap from the musicians in this "band" and players on other Springboard releases, but there's no info about who the session players were, so that's just conjecture on my part. Any actual info is welcome.
Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion "Hits Of Elvis Presley, v.2" (Springboard Records, 1977) (LP)
Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion "The Hits Of Glen Gampbell" (Springboard Records, 1977) (LP)
Bucky Dee James & The Nashville Explosion "Waylon Jennings Songbook" (Buckboard Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Walker)
Well, actually, this ain't bad. James had a gruff, smoky, old-dude-sounding voice that mustered a credible approximation of Waylon, and the Explosion band were competent as well, even if their note-for-note recreations of Waylon's hits don't exude the same primal power as the Waylors. But, hey, it still sounds good. You kind of have to wonder what the point of a record like this was, but it was the peak of the Willie & Waylon years and I guess if you could cash in, why not? The funniest moment comes with their cover of "Luckenbach, Texas," where one of the guys in the band even goes as far as trying to do a Willie Nelson imitation... This is definitely not a dazzling oe genre-defining album, but it has its moments.
Daniel James "Country Music By Daniel James" (Allstar) (LP)
A very cheaply-made, super-obscuro, no-art LP pressed in Houston, Texas... Not sure what year, though... Apparently "Allstar" was a song-poem label, which means a company where people would send lyrics for songs they had "written" into the label, which would then cook up an arrangement and make a quickie recording using their own in-house musicians. Apparently, Daniel James Mechura owned the label and recorded some of his own rockabilly and country songs under its banner, as well as releasing singles by honkytonkers such as Link Davis, Jerry Jericho and Eddie Noack, pressing actual singles by established artists as well as vanity singles for the song-poen clientele. This early-1960s(?) album was one of the few Allstar releases that was a full-length LP, otherwise the output was all singles. (Thanks to songpoemmusic.com for their wealth of info on this label...)
Frank James "Here's Frank James" (Elm Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Edd McNeely & Lloyd Green)
Singer Frank James was a native Missourian who did club gigs in Kansas City for several years before heading out West to play Vegas and Reno, and eventually settled down in Orange County, California, where he was living when he cut this record. There were a couple of different sessions, one with some locals in SoCal, and another in Nashville with a bunch of "usual suspect" Music City heavyweights -- Lloyd Green, Dave Kirby, Pete Wade, those kinda guys. James wrote four of the songs on this album, and all the others were originals by folks such as Larry Bales, Geanetta Brown, Gail James, John Lacy, and others, all published by the same publishing company. John Lacy was one of the musicians on the local sessions, though I think he's the only one who was as directly involved... I think James may have made several singles as well, though this might have been his only full album.
Garrison James "...And Prairie Fire" (DLS Records) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Grogan)
This Los Angeles-area band featured original material by someone whose last name was Scott, published by "Dee Ellis Music" (which I'd guess is where the label name comes from?) and I'm guessing that Scott was the given name of singer Garrison James, who fronts the band. Anyway... James was an amateur, for sure, but he had high hopes. He covers tunes by Roy Orbison and Marty Robbins, and possessed a definite Orbisonesque tone, if not quite the same level of charisma or command... Most of the material isn't that great though one of the originals, a tounge-twister novelty number called "My Tang Gets Tongled Up," is pretty fun, sort of in the same vicinity as Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere," Leroy Van Dyke's "The Auctioneer," or Steve Goodman's "Talk Backwards." No date on the album cover - anyone know when this came out?
Jimmy James -- see artist profile
Mary Kay James "Sweet Lovin' Time" (Avco Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Allen Reynolds & Garth Fundis)
A very nice, very understated set of country heartsong ballads... This appears to be the only full LP by Ms. James, a fine singer from Atlanta, Georgia who bore a strong vocal likeness to Loretta Lynn, and was a very confident and compelling performer. The band and studio crew is basically the same cadre that backed Don Williams on his first few albums, including producers Garth Fundis and Allen Reynolds, who would go on to be dominant figures in the country-pop sound of the 1990s, but here were plugging away as young'uns at the Jack Clements studios in Nashville. They also sing backup and play on some of the tracks, along with guys like Danny Flowers and Jimmy Colvard, as well as seasoned A-list studio pros such as Lloyd Green and Buddy Spicher... This record was at least partly a songwriter showcase: Allen Reynolds wrote or co-wrote over half the songs, including one composed with Don Williams; there are also a couple of penned by Williams' longtime collaborator Bob McDill, and the album as a whole feels similar to Williams's own gentle, unhurried folkish-country sound. And that's high praise in my book: this is the kind of record I delight in discovering, nice from start to finish. Mary Kay James also released a fair number of singles on various labels, including some off this album with non-album B-sides. James didn't click as a solo star -- she sang at the Opry, and moved briefly to Columbia Records, then over to Gusto by the decade's end, and seems to have quit show biz around 1980. Later she performed and recorded with some gospel and contemporary Christian bands. This old album is a nice memento of her secular career, though!
Tommy James "My Head, My Bed, And My Red Guitar" (Roulette Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake, Bob King & Scotty Moore)
For his second solo album, pop star Tommy James -- yes, he of Shondells fame -- decamped to Nashville to cut this rural-tinted record. James and co-composer Bob King wrote most of the material, then hunkered down in the studio with an A-list crew of usual-suspect superpickers: Pete Drake, Ray Edenton, DJ Fontana, Dave Kirby, Charlie McCoy, Hargus Robbins, Buddy Spicher -- them fellas. Also on the sessions was songwriter Linda Hargrove, before her solo career blossomed -- she plays acoustic guitar and also contributed a song, "Rosalee," one of her earliest successes in Nashville.
Anna Jane "Love/Life" (K-Ark Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by John Capps)
Hailing from Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, Anna Jane Hresko was an accountant by profession, though she found time to perform regionally in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, making appearances on WWVA's "Jamboree" program, the Dickie Shock show in Sandusky, Ohio and the "Country Junction" TV program. She wrote much of her own material, and recorded several singles for K-Ark before cutting this disc, around 1971. Her band, the Westernaires, included Chuck Rhodes on steel guitar, Lou Rega (lead guitar), Greg Reynolds (drums) and her husband, Andy Hresko, on bass. He was a well-known musician playing in several polka bands, and the Hreskos co-wrote country songs together starting in the late 'Fifties. For several decades they also performed in a multi-generational ensemble called the Anna Jane Allen Family Band. In the late '60s she played local gigs as a solo artist, mainly around Connellsville, PA, and she cut a string of singles. I'm not totally sure when this album came out, but it includes a version of "Stand By Your Man," which was a hit for Tammy Wynette in 1969, and some folks tag her single version with a 1971 release date... so who knows?
Bobbi Jane "Bobbi Jane" (Pentagon Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Alan J. Dote)
Some Bay Area country, recorded at Alan J. Dote's Side A Productions studio, based in Millbrae, California, just south of San Francisco. As on other albums Dote produced, there's a profusion of material he wrote himself, although Ms. Jane is credited on two songs, "Looking For Mr. Right," and "I Guess It's Crying Time Again," both songs also published by Dote's own company. Singer Bobbi Jane was decidedly a back-bencher, really not a very good vocalist, although she threw herself into it with great gusto, and a few songs work as rudimentary country thumpers, albeit with a strong whiff of so-bad-it's-good kitschiness. The more straightforward country numbers are best, though a disco-era hangover is present throughout, in the persistent presence of a cheesy keyboard-synth. The keyboards are unleashed in a bombastic solo on "Gone Too Long," a straight disco pop song that's kind of jarring in comparison to the rest of the record. Overall, I have to admit there's not a lot to recommend this record, although obscuro-twang fans (like me) may enjoy it for its very DIY-ishness. The liner notes say she had her own band, and had done gigs in Reno and Vegas, so there may be more to this album than just he pay-to-play vanity pressing it seems to be.
Clifton Jansky "Country Music And Old-Fashioned Love" (CMU Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Melder)
One of the last secular albums by Texas native Clifton Jansky, a regionally popular San Antonio-area performer who had a born-again conversion in 1984 and since became a popular Christian country artist. Jansky was one of several Lone Star musicians -- such as Dennis Ivey -- who were known for singing Terry Stafford's song, "Amarillo By Morning" several years before George Strait made it a national hit. The version on this album was cut three years before Strait's chart-topper came out... The album's title track was written by Jansky, one of three songs he penned for this record... Also noteworthy are a couple of tunes by Mundo Earwood, and among the locals backing him on this album are guitarist Randy Cornor and the record's producer Tommy Melder on steel guitar.
Jerry Jay(e) & The Jaywalkers "Souvenir Album Of Most Requested Songs" (Bejay Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mickey Moody)
This was a seriously-indie, in-between-gigs side session for singer Jerry Jaye, an Arkansas native who had a regional and national pop hit with the 1967 single, "My Girl Josephine" and who toured with both Booker T & The MGs and with the Bill Black Combo in the early '70s. This mostly-covers album seems to be vintage 1972-73, a few years before Jaye's country Top Forty breakthrough, "Honky Tonk Women Love Redneck Men" which is an enduring classic of 1970s honkytonk pop. This disc features Jaye playing with some locals in Western Arkansas on a record that was sold out of the Ben Jack Guitar Store in the K-Mart Plaza of Fort Smith. (Co-producer Ben Jack also played pedal steel on the album.) They cover hits of the day, such as "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "Don't Mess Around With Jim," "Country Roads" and "Don't Get Hooked On Me," and possibly a couple of originals. His name is misspelled on the album cover, but there's no mistaking Jay's funky, down-home mix of soul and twang... A fun record, though a little goofy at times.
Jerry Jaye "Honky Tonk Women Love Redneck Men (Plus)" (Edsel, 1999)
A fine reissue of Memphis local Jerry Jaye's 1976 album, Honky Tonk Women Love Redneck Men, the title track of which was one of the finest, funnest, most melodic redneck anthems of the 'Seventies neotrad scene. Built on a roller-rinky guitar riff that was lifted straight from Billy Swan's "I Can Help," the song offers one of the most jovial portraits of good-timin' good ole boy life ever commited to wax... The album has several other fine tunes, including "Drinkin' My Way Back Home," and "Standing Room Only," as well as several less-impressive cover tunes, drawing from both the country and R&B sides of Jaye's work. This CD augments his country work with ten bonus tracks drawn from some 1969 white soul sessions with a bunch of Memphis pickers and a Charlie Rich-like vibe... This earlier stuff doesn't blow me away, even though twang-bar king Travis Wammack was one of the backup players... But for southern soul aficianados, these unissued tracks and single sides are doubtless a real find. Still, "Honky Tonk Women" alone is worth the price of admission... What a grrreat song!!
Jerry Jaye & Darlene Battles "Kings Inn Presents..." (Bejay Records, 1984) (LP)
I think this album, recorded with his wife, was the last LP Jerry Jaye recorded, going back to his locals-only roots with the Bejay label...
The Jaye Sisters "On Tour With The Jaye Sisters" (Parthenon Productions) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Boles)
The credits list the sisters as Pattie and Darlene Jaye, who I think may have been singer Darlene Battles, wife of roots/country/R&B singer Jerry Jaye... I couldn't find any definitive info about when this one came out. It seems to have been recorded in Nashville, at least as late as 1968, since they cover Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," along with a bunch of 1950s and '60s hits, including "Love Of The Common People" "Act Naturally" and others. The Jaye Sisters may have originally been pitched as a pop duo -- they seem to have also recorded a couple of singles for Atlantic in the early '60s.
JB Dogwood "JB Dogwood" (Twang Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry McMillan)
There's no one in this band named "JB Dogwood," but that would be a cool name. This band from the Pasadena suburb of Tujunga, California was led by songwriter Jim Jaillet and singer-fiddler Jane Grondin. Plus, they had a dobro player named Norman Rockwell... no kidding!
Pamela Jean "A New Star In The Western Sky" (New Pioneer Productions, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Thomas Griep)
La Puente' California's Pamela Jean was about eighteen years old when she cut this album, which seems to be full of original material, including songs such as "City Outlaw," "Outlaw Ladies" and the intriguing "Fallen Little Sister." Looks pretty mainstream, but when I track down an affordable copy and give it a whirl, I'll give you some more info...
Jeanine & The Country Swingers "Nuthin' Sounds Better" (SyDee Records, 1977) (LP)
This is a very odd and decidedly idiosyncratic album, recorded by Dolores and Willie Monington along with their three grown-up children and a few musician friends from the San Francisco Bay Area. The Moningtons lived in Martinez, California and Dolores was known in the '70s as a motorcycle enthusiast -- on the back cover she's pictured wearing her vest for the Wedded Wheels MC -- and the Jeanine of the band name was one of their daughters. Ms. Monington wrote all the songs on here, though everybody takes turns singing them... And it's a weird mix of styles -- old-timey stuff, country gospel, true twang and some nice, straightforward hillbilly stuff. It's hard to get a handle on exactly where they were coming from, but they did seem to have a lot of fun making this album
Russ And Becky Jeffers "Smokey Mountain Sunshine" (Royal American) (LP)
In 1974, this husband-wife duo started a regular gig playing at the Opryland Hotel, and worked on the road playing concerts at crafts fairs and the like... But Mr. Jeffers wasn't just doing cover tunes -- on this album he includes three of his own original songs -- "Smokey Mountain Sunshine," "When The Blue In My Grass Turns Green" and the rather mopey-sounding, "Does Anybody Want To Sing My Song," as well as "Headed South" by Bill McCallie, who used Jeffers' publishing company. Pete Kirby, Roy Huskey and Buck White are among the backing musicians...
Russ And Becky Jeffers "At Opryland" (Lee Ann Records) (LP)
The Jefferses continued their tenure at Opryland for several years, also working the county fair circuit and other gigs as they came along, including work at Busch Gardens and Dollywood. In addition to these 1970s albums, they have self-released a bunch of stuff, well into the digital era.
Bob Jenkins "Bob Jenkins Sings" (Twentieth Century, 1974) (CD)
(Produced by Michael Taylor)
Slick, heavily orchestrated countrypolitan/country-rock, recorded outside of the Nashville studio system. More '70s AOR than "country." I don't know much about this guy, and I'm not sure if he's the same Bob Jenkins who had a minor country hit a decade later with a novelty song about the Rubik's cube... Anyway, Jenkins and his producer Mike Taylor each wrote about half the songs on here, and I'm assuming they were in a band together or something. Nothing charted from this album, but if you like the smoother side of the country-rock sound -- bands like Poco and Firefall -- you might enjoy this as well. (BTW, if anyone has more info, feel free to contact me.)
Buster Jenkins/Various Artists "BUSTER JENKINS PRESENTS: ROCKY MOUNTAIN JAMBOREE" (Band Box Records, 1962-?) (LP)
Fiddler Buster Jenkins was a deejay at Denver radio station KLAK, and also the host of the station's Rocky Mountain Jamboree, a venue that included performers such as Max Allison, Johnny Chase, The Flying W Wranglers, Charles Gordon, Edie Hammons, Jim Moore, Roy Queen... not household names, to be sure, but that what makes records like this so much fun.
Chuck Jennings & The Travellers "Under Your Spell" (Sandy Land Records) (LP)
Chuck Jennings & The Travellers "Look Out For Me 'Cause I'm Falling" (Sandy Land Records, 1980) (LP)
Tom Jennings & The Nashville Session Band "No. 1" (T.J. Productions, 1984) (LP)
Not to be confused with Waylon's brother Tommy (below), Irish pop singer Tom Jennings has been leading his hard-working wedding band for decades, dating back to the late 'Sixties. Though he also sings rock and soul, here Jennings concentrates pretty strictly on country stuff, covering hits like "Thirty-Nine And Holding," "Is Anybody Going To San Antone," "Margaritaville," and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." I'm not sure where Jennings grew up, but he seems to have been based in London for most of his career... And, by the way, I believe you can still book his band if you go to his website, and pick a date!
Tommy Jennings "Then There Was One" (Dimension Records, 1980) (LP)
Yes indeed, this fella was Waylon Jennings' younger brother, and he played in Waylon's band in the early 1960s when the future outlaw was gathering steam for his Nashville career. Tommy Jennings also tried to launch his own career, but met with only middling success -- in the late '70s he had a few songs scrape the back end of the Billboard charts, while this album produced his biggest hit, "Just Give Me What You Think Is Fair," whoch pegged out at #51.
Tommy Jennings "Equal Opportunity Lovin' Man" (Audiograph Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Daniels)
A distinctly commercially-oriented album from the urban cowboy era... On most tracks, Jennings aims for a semi-robust, Johnny Lee-ish early '80s sound, but he's better on the ballads, when he croons a little bit like Don Williams. He's not totally successful in either mode, though -- the truth of the matter is, he just doesn't have the chops and he tries to hit not-that-high high notes that were apparently out of his range. Regardless, this Nashville indie had him cut an album and like many Audiograph releases, it seems to have been a songwriters demo set. There are three tracks written by a guy named Doc Cole, one by a gal named Kim Cole (who also sings backup) and several other songwriters who I've never heard of, either. The studio crew are B- and C-List players who mostly don't ring a bell... I've seen steel player Jim Vest's name a time or two, but that's about it. So, in short, this is a fairly mediocre wannabee Top Forty set, though some of the songs are okay... I think my favorite track here is Byron Hill's novelty number, "Out Of Your Mind," which had been a hit for Joe Sun a few years earlier. Others, like "Lady's Man," "Fantasy Lady" and "Equal Opportunity Lovin' Man" have a little too desperate-for-a-hit feel to them, sensitive studly swagger and all. You can probably skip this one, though it could be worth a spin, depending on what you're looking for.
Waylon Jennings -- see artist profile
Gordon Jensen & Sunrise "The Glove" (Essence Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Wayne Hilton)
As far as I can tell, this was the first "solo" album by Gordon Jensen, a prolific Christian music songwriter who had previously been in a '70s Southern Gospel band called the Orrells, which he transmuted into the group Sunrise. Jensen was born in Canada, but emigrated to Nashville to be part of the Southern Gospel scene. In 1969 he helped revive the Orrell Quartet along with Larry Orrell and Wayne Hilton, with Jensen as the group's primary songwriter. On this album, Jensen pursues a country-rock sound, and Hilton is still on board as rhythm guitarist and producer. Also, I'd be willing to bet that the "Marty Stewart" credited as playing flat-top guitar and mandolin is in fact Marty Stuart, future country star, probably doing some session work after leaving Lester Flatt's band...
Doug Jernigan -- see artist profile
Sherri Jerrico "County Heartaches" (Crazy Cajun) (LP)
Jerry, Buddy & Zoomer "Volume One" (JBZ Records, 1982) (LP)
Longtime local scenesters, Jerry Boyer, Buddy Winson, and Zoomer Roberts were a trio from El Paso, Texas who were also involved in various bands, including Applejack and the Shade Tree Boys... I think this was the only album they recorded as a trio.
The Lee Jessup Band "We Sing Our Songs" (Back Porch Productions) (LP)
Jim 'N' Anne "Jim 'N' Anne" (Jim & Anne's, 1978)
(Produced by Marc Jaco)
A surprisingly strong offering by a decidely amateur, jes'-plain-folks duo from Garland, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area... Jim and Anne Weaver poured their hearts into this one, which is mostly a set of cover songs, punctuated by two Weaver originals, "Here" and "Take That Truck And Jam It" (which was also released as a 7" single on the Derrick label). The cover tunes include Kris Kristofferson's "Stranger," Freddie Hart's "Easy Lovin'," Jesse Colter's "I'm Not Lisa" and a couple of Shel Siverstein songs: strangely enough they record the male chauvinist anthem, "Put Another Log On The Fire" as a duet, with Anne Weaver mostly murmering her assent to the over-the-top lyrics until she finally chimes in with a few mild "Tramp"-style comebacks. Jim Weaver was clearly the stronger performer, as heard on his confident solo version of "Margaritaville," but the pickin' and singing is generally pretty good. For uber-indie country DIY, this is an album worth tracking down. My copy came with a xeroxed publicity photo with the Shotgun Sam's pizza parlour logo at the bottom; I'm guessing they had a regular gig there(?)
Jim 'N' Anne "Live... Featuring Kristi" (Jim & Anne Records & Tapes, 1981)
(Produced by Dazzlin' Dave Thomas)
Another self-financed album, recorded at the Judge Bean's Restaurant & Cantina, in Addison Texas... You can tell (for sure) this was a self-financed recording because they credit their loan officer at the Town North National Bank(!) and promise to pay him back on time... On this set, they handed over the female vocals to a gal named "Kristi," though I'm not sure who she was -- their daughter, possibly? Anyhoo, I haven't heard this one yet, but when I do, I'll give you a shout.
Jim & Shirley "Sea Of Love" (Tareco, 1974) (LP)
This disc from Seattle, Washington is the very epitome of a custom-printed vanity album, with married couple Jim and Shirley Taylor singing a few of their favorite contemporary songs. It was clearly kind of a family Christmas card kind of album, with photos on the back of her horseback riding and him golfing... The repertoire includes some country-ish stuff, like "Country Roads," "Horse With No Name," "Snowbird" and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon," while on the poppier end of the spectrum, there's more dubious soft-pop material such as David Gates' "If," Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" and "Killing Me Softly." I dunno if I'd call this one a "good" record, but it's definitely very, very Seventies!
Jim & Shirley "Night Time In Seattle" (Topaz Records) (LP)
(Produced by Kearney Barton)
As with their previous album, this may be a bit questionable from a twangfan's perspective, with a dash of country amid more soft-pop/lounge-y vocals. Still, they do cover Kris Kristofferson and Hoyt Axton, along with Billy Craddock's "Rub It In," so they can join the country club. The title track was written by the Taylors, surely in the hope that it would become known as a hometown anthem... Anyone out there know more about these folks? I'd love to hear their story.
John & Dave "...With The Better Half" (Brown Hound Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by John Pete & Dave Rivkin)
A real-deal longhair country-rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota... They cover several outlaw classics, like "Ramblin' Fever," "Whiskey River" and "Willie, Waylon & Me," while bassist Mike Murtha wrote a couple of their tunes, and singer Dave Simonson pens a tune or two as well.
John And Dave & The Better Half "Do Me A Favor" (Artic Records) (LP)
Johnny & Vernon "The New Young Country Sound Of Johnny & Vernon" (Mount Vernon Music) (LP)
This was the duo of Johnny Dubas and Vernon Sandusky...
James J. Johnson "...And The James Boys" (Jay Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Terry Marsh & Jim Johnson)
This album is all cover tunes, with some poppy selections such as John Sebastian's "Welcome Back" and John Denver's "Sunshine On My Shoulder," along with a Sons Of The Pioneers medley and Mickey Newbury's "American Trilogy." This Minneapolis band was mainly the quartet of Jim Johnson (who plays guitar, piano, steel guitar and harmonica), bassist Del Pederson, drummer Bones Carlson and Jerry Hermes on lead guitar and mandolin.
Johnny Johnson "On The Road" (Art Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Terry Marsh & Jim Johnson)
This looks like more of a pop vocals/easy listening country-folk set, ala Glen Campbell or Mac Davis, with covers of "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "My Elusive Dreams," "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and even "Tennessee Bird Walk." The Art label was from Miami, Florida... other than that, this one's a blank.
Larry Johnson "And Now Heeeere's Larry Johnson" (Black Stallion Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Glenn Barber)
This one's actually pretty good! Larry Johnson was born in Iowa and eventually settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he landed a long-term gig five nights a week at the Black Stallion, a popular country bar owned by Bill and Polly Nuzum. Somehow, Johnson got into the orbit of Nashville back-bencher Glenn Barber, who produced this album and has writer's credit on half the songs. And there is some good stuff on here: "Not Counting Tomorrow" is a decent novelty song with a romantic heart, while "Standing Here Watching" is a soul-searing breakup ballad about a guy who just can't do anything to stop his baby from walking out the door -- an excellent song that would've been worthy of Charlie Rich, delivered in pitch-perfect country-soul style by Johnson. Johnson also provides a surprisingly ragged, rural cover of "Take It Easy" by the Eagles, while on other songs he digs into some oldies-rock riffs, with the claim that he can sound just like Elvis (though I'd peg him as more a Roy Orbison/Charlie Rich kinda crooner) Anyway, the rock guitar solos are a little goofy, but enjoyable in a kitschy way. Unfortunately, the album art doesn't include the release date, although the single for "Not Counting Tomorrow" came out in 1975, so I'm assuming the LP did, too, or maybe in '76. It also doesn't list the backup musicians, which is a shame, particularly in the case of the gal who sings a nice, twangy duet on "Just Between The Two Of Us" -- it's possible she was his wife, Sherri Johnson, but I couldn't say for sure.
Larry Johnson & The Dakota Territory "Live At The Black Stallion" (Black Stallion Records) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Johnson & Vaughan Mayer)
Otis Johnson "Country" (Starr Records) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Casey)
A bunch of country cover tunes on this set from Columbus, Ohio... No info about the band, other than who was in it... Connie Sarena (bass), Audie Wykle (lead guitar), Junior Bennett (fiddle), Jim Ebert (piano), Joe Guida (guitars) and Aaron Morris (drums) while producer Jack Casey also plays some bass, with backing vocals by Libby Benson.
Rick Johnson "Gold Fever Blind" (Mountain Ghost Music, 1984)
(Produced by Rick Johnson & David Lange)
Scotty Johnson "Don't Mind Me" (Wagon Tracks Records, 1981)
(Produced by Scotty Johnson)
Easygoing longhair twang from the same scene (and the same label) in Tucson, Arizona that brought us the legendary Chuck Wagon And The Wheels. Johnson wrote and arranged all the songs on this album...
Wayne Johnson & The Deep River Band "Dreams" (DRB Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by John Johnston & Bill Casolari)
Hailing from Indiana, singer Wayne Johnson covers some big hits, songs like "Elvira," "He'll Have To Go" and "Smoky Mountain Rain," and also records several originals. There are three songs written by Johnson: "Dreams, "Tamara" and "I'm On The Road Again," as well as "False Hearted You," by bandmember S. Lawman. Not sure when he started out, but Johnson was still playing local and regional gigs well into the late 1980s. As always, any info about this artist is most welcome!
Wonnie C. Johnson "On Thunder Road Tour '82" (Mountain Music Records, Inc., 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Eubanks)
A resident of Section, Alabama -- near Scottsboro -- Wonnie Johnson (1945-2013) had previously released a single, "Cowboys And Indians Don't Cry/ I'm Coming Home, Louisiana," on the NSD label. This album, which has a lot of original material on it, seems to have been his only other recording.
John Johnston "Foolin' Around" (Mr. J Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by John Johnston & Bill Casolari)
A lone acoustic singer from Champaign, Illinois. This looks mostly folkie, though he does have a couple of songs that specifically call out country music, notably "Pure Country Music" and "Favorite C&W Song," as well as a cover of Steve Goodman's "City Of New Orleans." Bill Casolari chimes in on bass, but mostly this is a solo acoustic set.
Tex Johnston & The Co-Stars "Songs Of Alaska" (Golden State, 1967) (LP)
This one has an odd geographical history... Tex Johnston was a Lone Star native who moved up to Alaska in the 1950s, lived there for a while, then moved back to the Lower Forty-Eight and eventually he returned to Texas, although he recorded this homage to Alaska for a label in San Francisco, CA. Go figure. It was meant to commemorate the centennial of Alaska's acquistion by the United States. Lots of regional pride songs, and poetic paeans to the great, wide wilderness up North... Speaking of which, it kicks off with -- you guessed it -- a cover of Johnny Horton's "North To Alaska," although most of the others are originals, new to this album, including five written by Johnston, a couple by Ruth Vreeland and one by Lee Sumpter, who were cohorts of Johnston and connected to his band when he was in Alaska.
The Jolly Brothers Band "Typical Barroom Scene" (Third Planet, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Butch Dillon)
This live album captures these Kansas City-area longhaired country rockers at their peak, in a remarkably diverse but accomplished set that covers a lot of musical territory, from wistful, Jesse Winchester-ish folk-country ruminations like "Typical Barroom Scene" to the funky, Little Feat-styled Southern funk of "Linda Lee," and a lot of country twang, David Lindley-style slide guitar and rough-edged rock in between. Lead singer Norman Jolly's vocals take a little adjusting to get used to, but he proves as versatile as the band, sounding like Jonathan Edwards or Jesse Colin Young on some songs, then digging into some more rugged Allman Brothers-y grooves a little later down the line. I didn't like the album's opening track, "Horseracin' Blues," which had a whiteboy soul vibe that turned me off, but every track after that was much better, and I've found that this album is pretty durable over repeat auditions. An excellent example of late '70s Midwestern roots music, with lots of original material and well worth searching for.
The Jolly Brothers "Masterpiece" (Rebel Rock Records) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Wagner)
I'm not sure when this was made, but I'm gonna guess it was somewhere well into the '80s, with alt-twangsters Norman and Al Jolly going for more of a rock sound on this album, trucking down to Austin to record with the late Dick Wagner, who was best known for his work with Alice Cooper, Kiss, and other Midwestern rockers. Wagner was the dominant force on this album, writing seven out of ten songs while producing, arranging and engineering the sessions. One for Pretty Things diehards, to check out, I suppose.
Dick Jonas "Two Sides Of Dick Jonas" (Goldust, 1973)
Country-folk singer-songwriter, Air Force veteran and political activist Dick Jonas was a surprise hitmaker for New Mexico's tiny indie label, Goldust Records, a financial rainmaker who bankrolled the rest of their obscure country and folk releases for years to come. Jonas was a highly decorated Vietnam-era fighter pilot who flew over 100 combat missions and recorded at least a half-dozen albums for Goldust, starting out with his biggest hits, FSH-1 and FSH-2, which included numerous songs about his combat experiences and about military aviation in general. I guess the records struck a chord with listeners who felt excluded from the national conversation as the war became increasingly unpopular and love of military prowess became seriously uncool. Jonas also became a spokesman for the POW-MIA movement, which was just gaining momentum as the war wound down and it became apparent that many American servicemen -- many of them downed fighter pilots -- hadn't come home and were still unaccounted for. On this album he adds his working-class bona fides into the mix, with songs about plumbing and farming. It's an odd and very particular slice of folkie-Americana, but certainly authentic, and worth knowing about, especially for miltary history and political buffs.
Ann Jones - see artist discography
Bob Jones "Golden Country Hits: Million Sellers" (Spin-O-Rama Records) (LP)
This budget label cheapo disc is actually pretty darn good. I'm not sure who singer Bob Jones was, or when these recordings were made, but the musicianship and twang factor are consistently strong throughout. Jones covers classic country hits of the 1950s -- "Anytime," "Detour," "I Went To Your Wedding," "Tennessee Saturday Night," and the like, with strong accompaniment on guitar, fiddle and steel, in a pleasantly pure honky tonk style. For the most part, Jones isn't a standard-issue "soundalike" singer -- he's in the Ray Price/Hank Williams school and doesn't bend himself out of shape to sound like Webb Pierce, for example, on his version of "Wondering," although he does do a pinched-nose imitation of Hank Snow on "I'm Movin' On." It seems likely these song were cut in different sessions (possibly first released as 78s?) since some tracks sound quite different than others, but they all sound pretty good. Recommended!
Claudia Jones "Where The Heck Is Marfa, Texas?" (Great American 1983) (LP)
Kind of an odd record... Claudia Jones was a commercial airline pilot by day, performance artist by night who was not actually from Marfa, Texas, but was commissioned to do an art piece on the tiny border town, and went on to make an album as well. An affectionate portrait of a small Texas town, dominated by ranching and agricultural concerns and home to "the friendliest and kindest people this side of heaven."
Cletus Jones "Official Arkansas Waltz" (Lawson Records, 1971) (LP)
Fiddler Cletus Jones was also apparently a real estate developer, and is posed on the cover of this album in front of the Diamondhead subdivision, near the Hot Springs National Park. He also appears to have been well-connected politically, as his song was indeed proclaimed the official Arkansas waltz by an act of the legislature on March 10, 1971, a fact that is proudly displayed on the album's front cover. Actually, Jones wrote and sang the words, while a guy named Bill Urfer composed the tune. There appear to be several versions of this album, including one where he's standing in front of the capitol building, and another where he's framed by the outline of the state of Arkansas... By the way, those of you who delight in making fun of what people in old photos are wearing (a practice I frown on) will delight in the the pink pinstripe flares that Jones is wearing on the subdivision cover... Whoa, baby!
Doug Jones "Chasing The Dream" (Dominion Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Ralph Wright & B. Meavis)
Jones was an African-American country singer Chilocothe, Ohio who had been touring with old-timer Pee Wee King for several years before cutting this album in Nashville. It seems to have been a songwriter's demo set, with three tracks written by producer B. Meavis, two by R. Kirkland and four more by Harold Alexander, along with a version of Boudleux Bryant's "Hey Joe," and a Ray Griff song, "Tearin' Me Up." I'm not sure exactly when this was released, but the liner notes mention him doing a Bicentennial-themed medley during one of his shows, and though the nation's birthday was celebrated for roughly fourteen years during the '70s, my first guess would be anywhere from 1975-77. And, of course, there are also some comparisons to Charley Pride... go figure.
Kim Jones "Leave Him Alone" (Bowen-Arrow Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen)
Pretty funky stuff from this Floridian vocalist... She doesn't seem to have composed any of the material on this album, but the song selection is pretty interesting, with a mix of pop and Muscle Shoals-style soul, as well as a hefty dose of modern-day, 'Seventies country-pop. There are songs by Bobby Braddock, Alex Harvey, Dianne Davidson and Jackson Browne, alongside a Holland-Dozier-Holland oldie and some pretty soul-drenched, Memphis-y material.
Larry Lee Jones "Make Me Happy" (Memory Machine Records, 1984) (LP)
A longtime fixture on the early-'80s East Coast country scene, Larry Lee Jones grew up in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, just down the river from Pittsburgh. He launched his professional career as a teen and during the urban cowboy years he held down regular gigs at the now-defunct Ponderosa Park venue in Salem, Ohio and at a West Mifflin honkytonk called the Foggy Bottom Inn, releasing a few singles before cutting this album. The title track has a semi-rootsy/semi-synthy, Johnny Lee-ish feel, sounding like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Neil Diamond, though not all his songs have such a strong '80s pop gloss. The album includes another single, "Sittin' In Atlanta Station," which Jones's son, Todd, also took into the back end of the charts nearly three decades later.
Larry Lee Jones "One Song At A Time" (Savoy Records, 1995) (CD)
Leland Jones "Everybody's Doing Their Thing" (Redcrest Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Logan)
Delightfully twangy hard-country-meets-Nashville material from an energetic second-stringer who started his professional career around 1968. Leland Jones found modest success as a songwriter and performer by the time this album came out... He'd played on the Opry and the Louisiana Hayride, and co-wrote some songs with Nashville star Carl Smith, including "Little Boy Blue," which is on this album, and was also released as a single. The title track, "Everybody's Doing Their Thing," is a shameless ripoff of Joe South's "Games People Play," with Jones trying to sculpt a hip-sounding crossover hit; the rest of the record is more engaging, mostly all originals written by Jones, though he also covers tunes like Wynn Stewart's "Another Day, Another Dollar" and Harlan Howard's "I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today," giving a sense of Jones' jovial, Top Forty-friendly sensibilities. I think this was early 'Seventies outing his only full album, although Jones also released a handful of singles on Redcrest, mostly made up from cuts from this LP. A later 45 from '74 included some later material, "Take Flowers To Mama"/"You Can't Reach Me Anymore" and was plugged in Billboard -- at the time Jones was working shows near Kansas City. He and his wife Carole later opened their own "opry" in 1982, a modest, weekly variety show called the Country Pickin' Opry Show, held on Saturdays in a barn on their land in nearby Richmond, Missouri. Jones also landed a TV gig on TNN, where he performed with a string of touring stars and Nashville regulars.
Lonnie Jones & The New Grass Express "With A Touch Of Country" (Blue Lake Records) (LP)
(Produced by Butch Dillon)
"...Live At The KOA Campgrounds, Nashville, Tennessee." Dude, you don't get more authentic than that. These pickers run through a lot of cover songs, including some country stuff such as "Love's Gonna Live Here" and "Rainy Day Woman." Jones also recorded a few singles, including a couple on Jenmark Records.
Lynn Jones "Roses And Candy" (Arpeggio Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Buck & Happy Wilson)
The first LP by Canadian singer Lynn Jones who had recorded three chart-topping country singles and performed on the "Countrytime" and "The Tommy Hunter Show" TV programs... This album includes songs by Harlan Howard, Curly Putman, "I've Been Down This Road Before" by Gary Buck, as well as a couple written by Neil Merritt, with Lynn Jones credited on one track, "Moods Of My Man," which was co-written with Arlene Gordon.
Mark Jones "Snowblind Traveler" (JRM, 1979)
Reesa Kay Jones "Simply For You" (Kacountry) (LP)
A native of Ottumwa, Iowa, Reesa Kay Jones (1949-2012) performed with various musical groups and stars such as George Hamilton IV, Jack Reno and Tex Ritter and performed on the Opry stage, as well as recording a few records as a solo artist. This album appears to have been from a mid- to late-'70s vintage.
Porter Jordan "Porter Sings Porter" (MC Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Styner)
I dunno what the whole story was on the short-lived, country-oriented Motown Records offshoot, MC Records, but since most of the titles produced under its imprint -- including this one -- weren't released commercially, it was probably some sort of tax writeoff... Anyway, I had no idea what to expect when I picked this disc up, and my hopes weren't that high, but man! what a pleasant surprise! This is a really good, richly produced, fine example of '70s-style honkytonk, with lots of pedal steel and a lazy shuffle beat. He reminds me of folks such as Carmol Taylor or Little David Wilkins, off-the-radar country journeymen who were just a few rungs away from the show biz status of someone like Mickey Gilley, et. al. At any rate, I liked the music a lot -- Porter Jordan didn't have the best voice, but it works for the style, and the songs and arrangements are all pretty good. I couldn't find much info about this album, or about Porter Jordan, but since the song, "Bad Georgia Road," included on this album, was featured in a 1977 film of the same title, I think it's safe to assume that he's the same Porter Jordan who worked on the soundtracks for a series of '70s horror and exploitation films, such as Jennifer, Chain Gang Women and Dixie Dynamite. You'd never think it, though, listening to this fine, rich set of soulful twang. Sadly, the sparse liner notes include no info on the studio musicians, other than Porter and the producer (who also shares some song credits...)
Clyde Joy & Willie-Mae Joy "25 Joy-ous Years" (Soundcraft Associates, 1963) (LP)
(Produced by Daniel N. Flickenger)
New England-based bandleader Clyde Joy started his career in 1938 and built up a regional following for his band, the Country Folks. He married his wife, Willie-Mae, in 1945 and brought her into the band as the bassist... This edition of the Country Folks included fiddler Curly King, a veteran of the Canadian country scene, and picker Mike Longworth from Tennessee, joining Joy's own Maine-based band.
Joyous Noise Musical Ensemble "Wanderingman: Rock & Roll Road Cowboys" (Capitol Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Elliott)
Despite their proclamation of cowboy-ness in the album title, these shaggy early-'Seventies stragglers were pretty firmly embedded in the rock camp, with little trace of twang. This record is a good example of the eclectic, sometimes overblown, experimentation of the era, and of the see-what-sticks approach taken by the major labels during the height of the hippie era. Although I wouldn't place these guys in the country-rock canon, there are still some notable characters in this act. Lance Wakely later refashioned himself into Doctor Harmonica, a bluesy busker and one-man band, while drummer Dennis Dragon became a prolific rock/pop recording engineer, working with Captain & Tennille in the disco era, as well as the Plimsouls and the Surf Punks at the dawn of the new wave/postpunk/college rock scene. Meant to be at the center of the band is singer Marc McClure who was previously in the folk-rock duo Levitt & McClure, which was also produced by Ron Elliott, who kept working with McClure for years after. The album has a kind of a driving, almost boogie-rockish, folk-psych sound -- nothing really clicks here as a radio hit, and it's a little too aggro for the peace'n'flowers crowd. Side Two is comprised of a massive, seventeen-minute "Wanderingman Suite," composed by Ron Elliott, with is vast and loud and immensely pretentious... Not my cup of tea, but I'm sure hardcore fans of hippiedelic folk-freak and proto-prog might get a kick out of it.
Jubal "Jubal" (Elektra, 1972) (CD)
(Produced by Wayne Moss, Charlie Tallent & Jubal)
Well, looks can be deceiving, so I guess this one is mostly listed as a warning. Not that it's bad, mind you, it just ain't country, despite the very Southern-sounding band name and the Nashville studio connections. I was drawn to this disc because of bandmembers Rob Galbraith and Dennis Linde, who were sort of on the far edges of the country-rock scene, though there's not much overt twang to be heard here. It's more of a '70s soft-pop-meets-Muscle Shoals whiteboy soul kinda thing, and if you're into that shade of Seventies stuff, this is definitely worth checking out. One of the more interesting tracks is Terry Dearmore's uptempo tune, "Not Really A Rocker," which is a slightly twangy power-pop rock song, worthy of consideration by the Nuggets brigade. But country? Not so much.
Judy And Johnny "First Time All Over Again" (Gypsy Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Smith & Jerry Abbott)
A country set recorded in Dallas by the duo of Johnny Carroll and Judy Lindsey, from Arlington, Texas. Carroll was a former '50s rockabilly artist who was signed to Decca in 1955 and cut several singles... And like a lot of those early rockers, returned to his country roots as the years went by...
Judy & Whitey "Pioneer Valley Jamboree" (Jay-Vac, 1968-?) (LP)
The Pioneer Valley Jamboree was a country variety show hosted weekends on radio station WREB, in Holyoke, Massachusetts... It was started in 1963 by a guy named Lee Roberts, and showcased numerous regional artists, including the husband and wife duo of Judy Ann Reed and Vernon A. ("Whitey") Carrier. They were featured performers in the late '60s, professionally nicknamed "the Bluegrass Sweethearts." This album featured mostly bluegrass-y/traditionally oriented material, tunes like "Nine Pound Hammer," "Ashes Of Love," and "Blue Kentucky Girl," with a hefty dose of sentimental mountain songs and gospel tunes such as "Where The Soul Of Man Never Dies." The original Pioneer Valley Jamboree fell apart at some point, but the name was revived in the early 1980s for a local folk/bluegrass festival. Whitey Carrier passed away in 1976, in his late 'fifties.
The Julia Belle Swain Band "Dreamboat" (Undertoad Productions, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Trone, Pete Vrendenburg & Tonky Berkman)
Recorded in Beardstown, Illinois, this album gathers various old-timey and antebellum songs, played by the band aboard the steamboat known as the Julia Belle Swain... Notable among its members is John Hartford's song, Jamie Hartford (misspelled as "Harford" for some reason...) who sings and plays violin, guitar and bass. Along with all the traditional songs are three written by John Hartford ("Natural To Be Gone," "Steamboat Whistle Blues" and "Hamilton Iron Works"). The record also includes some audio recorded on board the Julia Belle Swain -- steam engines, whistles blowing, and the like.
Ed Julius & The Wranglers "Life Is Hard" (Renee Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Comte & Dalton Fuller)
Born and raised in Rock Springs, Wyoming, singer Ed Julius (1941-2007) led this twangband for several decades. On this album they played mostly cover tunes, including stuff like "Bandy The Rodeo Clown" and Bob McDill's "Amanda," but they did their own stuff, too: the title track was written by bandleader Ed Julius, with other originals credited to polka king Ernie Kucera and one by Dan Foral. (About five years earlier, Juius was in Foral's Nebraska-based band, the Drifters, as a singer-guitarist, and sang on his album, which was also on Renee Records, though as far as I can tell, Foral wasn't involved in this later record.)
Jump 'N The Saddle Band "Jump 'N The Saddle Band" (Acme, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by T. C. Furlong & Mike Daniel)
Most folks (myself included) assumed that this Chicago-based band only recorded one album, their pop-oriented album on Atlantic (below) with the overly-wacky "Curly Shuffle," a novelty hit that put them on the map nationwide, but also caused the band to implode under the pressures of success. But, hey! There was another album -- also self-titled -- that came out first, and it's a nice, twangy, indiebilly outing with a strong western-swing sensibility, a lot like Asleep At The Wheel, with maybe a tad more honkytonk in the mix. Good stuff! This will come as a big surprise to twangfans who have only heard the tepid major-label outing that made them famous. Too bad they weren't able to go back to their roots after the MTV salad days...
Jump 'N The Saddle Band "Jump 'N The Saddle Band" (Atlantic/Collector's Choice, 1983/2005)
Hey, these guys aren't really a country band at all! Or at least, they weren't by the time they got around to recording this one-off album in the early 'Eighties. The 'Saddle Band were a veteran Chicago bar-band with early roots in the '70s western swing revival, an early influence you can hear in their song selection, which includes "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens ," "Let Me Go Home Whiskey" and "Deep In The Heart Of Texas," choices that reflected the repertoire of Asleep At The Wheel, the greatest of the hippie hick swing bands. 'Saddle's moment in the sun came with the "Three Stooges"-themed fluke novelty hit, "The Curly Shuffle," which was a staple of the early MTV era. That song, like the rest of the album, was pretty much straight jump blues, leaning towards the bluesy side of things. This disc might evoke some nostalgia for a few MTV babies, but I'm not sure how well it holds up, all these years later...
Junction "Miles And Miles Of Texas" (Brylen, 1982) (LP)
Justin "Bluejeans And Shakespeare" (Lemco, 1974) (LP)
Just Us Brothers Band "J. U. B. And Me!" (TCC, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Keyth Dickerson)
Hick Music Index