Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "We Love Our Country" (Rome Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by James Krause & Kevin Mabry)
A popular local artist and concert organizer, singer Kevin Mabry led the band Liberty Street for several years before becoming born again in 1984, after which he devoted himself more fully to Christian music, founded his own ministry later in the decade. Before that, he played plenty of secular music and recorded several LPs and a handful of singles for the Ohio-based Rome Records label. This album includes songs such as "Married Strangers," "Turning The Tables" and "Misery On My Mind," as well as two songs written by Mabry -- "Dreamin (Watchin Time Go By)" and "Before Eight Has Turned To Nine." The musicians all seem to be Midwestern locals, with the sessions cut at the Rome studios in Columbus, Ohio.
Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "Green Scene" (Rome Records) (LP)
(Produced by Kevin Mabry & Jack Casey)
Pointing towards Mabry's later focus on Christian music, this was a Christian/Christmas album with a couple of Dallas Holm songs on it, one by Gary Paxton, and a few secular songs as well, including "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and "Tennessee Waltz." Of particular note on this album is the album's pianist and fiddle player, a very young Lionel Cartwright, an Ohio prodigy who was several years away from his 1990s breakthrough in Nashville.
Kevin Mabry & Liberty Street "Flat Gettin' It" (Rome Records) (LP)
Don Earl Mabury "Cry Along With Me" (Peach Tree Fork Records) (LP)
I have seen this record fondly described by Saint Louis locals as a "classic" and a masterpiece, and I suspect there's more than a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink hipsterism at play here, since Mr. Mabury, a middle-aged crooner of mopey, mournful original country ballads, is a singularly artless singer, hardly an inspiring vocalist, although his performances are obviously heartfelt. And indeed, it's that clunky, earnest, heart-on-his-sleeve quality that creeps up on you and makes this record compelling. As a lyricist, Mabury is pretty rudimentary as well, but this actually transforms his mournful, self-pitying songs into soul-crushing testiments to loneliness and regret -- when he sings "The Saddest Song" or "Can You Hear Me Crying Tonight," it feels real, and it's hard not to be drawn in. Unfortunately, the backing musicians aren't identified, though one suspects they were notable members of the Missouri twang scene... The arrangements are fairly perfunctory, but they do the job... and maybe that's all that was needed. Worth checking out, particularly if you go for naif art -- not faux-naif, but the real thing.
Arlie Mac & Sundance "Po' Folks Music" (Cow Palace Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Arlie MacCowan & Jerry Trammel)
A longhaired band from Lubbock, Texas band, featuring Arlie MacCowan playing bass, Brian Tidwell on guitar, Bobby Ferguson on fiddle, and Jim Adams playing steel. The album features several originals written by various nbandmembers, and some nice cover songs as well.
Billy Mac "Double Clutchin', Guitar Pickin' Radio Star" (Jimtown Records, 1976?) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Ward)
A slightly lackluster but ultimately likeable indie-country album. Despite the awesome album art that shows Mac posed on the hood of a shiny, star-spangled, red-white-and-blue Mack truck, and liner notes that give his gear-jamming bona fides, this isn't the grinding, rhythmic set of trucker tunes you might expect. Instead, Mac sticks more to a mid-tempo, acoustic-based sound, often with an almost folk-ish feel. He's more in the light-toned honkytonk tradition of Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, with a bit of Mac Wiseman-esque ballad singing as well, in a style that reminds me of the artists on Starday. The production sounds a little thin, and some tracks (like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" sound muffled in comparison to others -- I'd guess that this album was recorded over a long period of time, in various sessions. The strongest element, though, is Billy Mac as a country auteur: all the songs on this album are originals, and they are well-crafted weepers written in classic country style. The performances might be a bit sluggish, but the songs are gems, definitely worthy of reconsideration by fans of the genre. (BTW: anyone know what year this came out? I'm guessing '76, but that may just be the Mack truck influencing me...)
The Clay Mac Band "The Clay Mac Band" (Goldust, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Emmit Brooks)
New Mexico fiddler Clay Mac led his band, featuring Ron and Dana Bivens and BoBo Supak, for several decades... In the 1970s they had a regional hit with a song called "Boiler Maker."
Lee Mace/Various Artists "Ozark Opry On Stage" (Century Records) (LP)
A pioneering firgure of the Ozark Mountain tourism scene, Missouri-born bandleader Lee Mace (1927-1985) was one of the first entrepreneurs to open his own musical venue at the Lake Of The Ozarks, which has since become a major hub of the state's live country music industry. An Army veteran, Mace returned to Missouri from Korea in the early 1950s and opened the Ozark Opry in 1953, steadily moving into larger venues as the years went by. In addition to staging live shows year-round, Mace hosted a long-running TV show, from 1956 until his death in 1985, when the private plane he was flying crashed near his home. Despite this tragedy, the Ozark Opry continued to operate until 2006, under the stewardship of his widow, Joyce Mace, who had co-founded the Opry in '53. A number of musicans moved through the show's lineup, although the souvenir LPs seldom mentioned musicians or soloists by name, so that part of the story remains fairly mysterious. Likewise, no release dates on the album art... I'm not sure, but I think this was the first Ozark Opry LP, perhaps released in the early 1960s.
Mackinaw "Legends In Their Spare Time" (GDS, 1979) (LP)
A country-funk-grass band from Morton, Illinois with lively covers of songs from various alt-country types, as well as originals by bandmember Gary Carroll. Instruments include pedal steel, piano, saxophone and the great John Hartford even plays fiddle on one song! Are you interested now...? A pretty wild set of cover tunes, with material from as far afield as Michael Nesmith, Rusty Wier, Amazing Rhythm Aces and ex-folkie Michael McGinnis, balanced by some more rock-oriented originals from bandmember Gary Carroll... The album's first side is strongest and most country; Side Two opens with a pretty lame novelty song, "Chipmunk Boogie," a lightweight funk-disco track with sped-up, Alvin-esque vocals that I guess was their answer to "Disco Duck," and it closes with a meandering, lead guitar-centric rock snoozer, "Band At The Road House." But the good stuff is good, and worth checking out if you're a twangfan. Much less "bluegrass" than you'd think from looking at the stickers festooning the guitar case on the front cover.
Roger & Janice Maddy "The Place Of My Dreams" (Voyager, 1979) (LP)
Roger & Janice Maddy "Become As Little Children" (SPBGMA/John's Recording Studio, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Maurice Killenbeck)
A real gem. This independently-released set of sweet, melodic old-timey/bluegrass tunes features the husband-wife duo of Janice and Roger Maddy who, as far as I can tell were originally from Washington state (where this album was recorded) but moved to Iowa to be closer to family, and where they performed regularly at folk and bluegrass festivals. They dig deep into the sweeter side of the music, with a heartfelt sound that fans of Jim & Jesse, the Stanley Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys should appreciate. To my ears, she had the more rural-sounding voice, although they harmonized nicely and their repertoire is perfect. Most of the songs are covers or traditional material, including a nice version of Don Helms' "Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes," and the Maddys add a few new songs to the genre, including the sentimental "Memories Of Mother," which they co-wrote, and two more that are credited to Rober Maddy, and one track, "Dakota Jane," that was composed by their fiddler, Craig Keene. The picking and fiddling is quite good, including some slick licks from banjoist Dan Young, although this isn't really the drag-racing kind of bluegrass, but rather the more sentimental, old-fashioned style... Which, by the way, I totally love. This album is definitely worth looking for!
Roger & Janice Maddy "Become As Little Children" (CD Baby, 2003)
Though I discovered the Maddys on vinyl, I was surprised -- and quite pleased -- to see that this old stuff is also available on CD. This disc includes the music from both of the albums above, Become As Little Children and The Place Of My Dreams. Sweet!
Bill Madison "Sunday Mornin' Hayride" (Saloon Records, 1973)
Authentic spaced-out, meandering, longhaired, hippie folk music from a New Hampshire-based troubadour who mixed blues-based acoustic picking with a bit of country-flavored pedal steel and whatnot. The songwriting doesn't seem super-focussed, but the album oozes authenticity... After this album came out, Madison started a country-rock group called Them Fargo Bros... and while the band never put out an album(?) they toured widely over the next decade or so.
Liz Madison "Doin' Time: Live!" (Treehouse Records, 1978-?) (LP)
A country gal from Indianoplis, Indiana going the Johnny Cash route with a prison concert recorded live at the nearby Pendleton Reformatory. The set list was all cover songs, including both country and pop numbers such as "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," "You Light Up My Life," "I Got The Music In Me," a couple of Fleetwood Mac songs, Dolly Parton's "Two Doors Down," and "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue." She also covers one by Kenny (Sauron) Rogers, but it was the 'Seventies, so we'll forgive her. We have to. Oh, and there's also a version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" -- of course!
Maffitt/Davies "The Rise And Fall Of Honesty" (Capitol, 1968) (CD)
Maffitt & Davies "October In Oxnard" (Mal Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Kin Vassy)
Yeesh. Ten years after their debut, the Southern California acoustic duo of Clark Maffitt and Brian Davies was still chugging along, but sounding just a little too earnest-folkie for me... Well, actually, way too earnest-folkie for me. A couple of fun songs on here, like the Tom Lehrer-y title track and maybe their cover of Paul Siebel's "Louise," but most of this album is dreadfully serious and lofty, including the muddled "Tribute To Hank Williams," which tries to project too much existential profundity onto Hank, Sr., and lacks musical punch as a result. Not my cup of tea, although I did like Brian Davies' wistful "Wisconsin," which reminds me of Badger State days as well. Definitely the album highlight.
Mack Magaha "The Dancin' Fiddle Man" (RCA Victor) (LP)
Fiddler Mack Magaha (1929-2003) was a longtime member of the Reno & Smiley bluegrass band, a gig he left in 1964 to join Porter Wagoner's road show, back in the Norma Jean and Dolly Parton years. Along with his gig in the Wagonmasters, Magaha also worked at the Opryland theme park, in one of their many house bands
Mack Magaha "Live With Porter Wagoner" (Fireside Records) (LP)
Mack Magaha & Mark Barnett "Country And Bluegrass Show At The Opry" (MM Records) (LP)
Taj Mahal "Giant Step/De Old Folks At Home" (Columbia, 1969)
(Produced by David Rubinson)
This is one of the signature records of my youth, along with all the Beatles albums, Joni Mitchell and the Stones... A magnificent double album, divided into two part, and electrified "pop" disc and an all-acoustic companion which was probably my main introduction to the rich sounds of Delta blues and other acoustic styles. On the "pop" disc there is, of course, Taj Mahal's slyly magical cover of Carole King's "Take A Giant Step," as well as a jaunty runthrough of Dave Dudley's country trucker classic "Six Days On The Road" and sexy blues grooves like "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond" and "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," all of which were staples of 1970s "free form" radio. The early '70s were a peak time for Mahal, and his presence on the hippie music scene was unique, for his mix of styles and cheerful, larger-than-life personality. A more modern remaster of Giant Step is certainly long overdue, but no matter what format you discover this album in, it'll be a joyful revelation.
Taj Mahal "The Hidden Treasures Of Taj Mahal: 1969-1973" (Sony Legacy, 2012)
(Produced by David Rubinson, Jerry Rappaport & Taj Mahal)
This 2-CD odds/ends/outtakes collection draws on the same era as Giant Step, and it is a potent set of groovy, compelling material that will remind old fans of what an amazing musician this guy was... Youngsters will get a lot out of it, too: if you're into those funky jug band/old-timey tunes from the Carolina Chocolate Drops, this guy is their spiritual and musical granddaddy. Disc One unearths a dozen studio session gems featuring the same band that backed Taj on his albums, with alternate versions of beloved oldies, while Disc Two presents a full concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. The live material tilts towards more upbeat, rock-oriented party material, "boogie rock," they called it at the time, while the studio tracks reveal Mahal's true genius, his visionary balance between acoustic roots music and modern, hippie-era pop -- most notably his use of the bright tones of a dobro guitar as a lead instrument in an electrified music mix. Listening back, I am struck by how much he managed to bypass rock'n'roll altogether, instead fusing deep-roots acoustic music with smouldering soul and serious funk. There are, to be sure, some spaced-out jam-band excesses, but in a good way: the smoky, erotic groove of "Yan-Nah Mama-Loo" and the sizzling, butt-shaking rhythm of "Chainey Do," are pure gold. The tracks at the end of the first disc were produced by New Orleans soul pioneer Allen Toussaint; the best of these is an experimental psychedelic banjo/wah-wah jam on the Appalachian oldie, "Shady Grove," which adds some unexpected twists to of this old-timey chestnut. Perhaps the best news of all is that this album is the herald of a reissue series that will include all of Taj Mahal's old Columbia albums... and a modern remaster of Giant Step is certainly long overdue. I'm looking forward to days to come!
Bruce Mahan "Cancel The Ransom... I Escaped" (Pas, 1983) (LP)
An all-original set of alterna-twang from San Antonio,Texas, with backing by The Walker Colt Band...
Larry Mahan "King Of The Rodeo" (Warner, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Snuff Garrett & Steve Dorff)
A fine novelty offering by six-time National Rodeo champion Larry Mahan, who didn't have a tremendous voice or anything, but still had the charisma and affability to carry these tunes and make 'em work. Includes a few great half-recited novelty tunes that might fit well on a Dr. Demento show: "Stunt Man," which laments the hardships of the Hollywood life, "Ha Ha," which sings the praises of getting bloodied up in dumb-ass barroom brawls, and "Rosie's Palace Of Pure Love And Fingertip Massage," which tells the tale of two drunk cowboys getting scammed at a Los Angeles brothel. They don't make records like this anymore. Snuff Garrett co-produced this disc, and some of the songs bear the stamp of his orchestral cowboy aproach. Yeeee-hawhawhaw.
Bonnie Makepeace "I'm A Song In The Wind" (LP)
I could find very little information about this 12-string strummin' gal or about this album, which I believe was her only record. She was originally from Canadaigua, New York, and played there from the mid-1970s to at least the mid-'80s, playing at rodeos and county fairs, as well as venues such as the Lakeview Inn and the California Ranch nightclub. She sang traditional folk and country songs, but was also a prolific songwriter, copyrighting over a hundred songs during her career. She may have moved to Wyoming by the time this record was made, though, again, it's hard to pin down much information about the album itself.
Ray Malus "Country Banquet" (Moebius Records) (LP)
(Produced by Les Gardner)
A New York City native, singer Ray Malus headed out West and did nightclub gigs in LA for several years, with a set list that indcluded a fair amount of country stuff. This album, which features Malus on keyboards and producer Les Gardner on pedal steel, includes a couple of Kris Kristofferson covers, along with '70s hits like "Margaritaville," "Games People Play," and the Jim Reeves oldie "He'll Have To Go."
Ray Malus "Requestfully Yours" (Moebius Records) (LP)
Manassas "Manassas" (Atlantic, 1972)
(Produced by Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman & Dallas Taylor)
Although it's rightfully given a place in the history of country-rock, the first album by the Stephen Stills/Chris Hillman-led Manassas kicks off with a strong blues/boogie rock sound, drifting into cosmic rock on songs like "How Far," "Both Of Us" and "Move Around" then briefly -- and a little abruptly -- into country songs such as "Colorado," "Fallen Eagle" and "Jesus Gave Love Away For Free." Stills is clearly the guiding force here, bringing into clearer focus the subtle Latino-Carribean soft-rock groove that would define many of the later CSN hits of the decade... The country stuff features some swell pedal steel by Al Perkins and fairly salty fiddle as well (courtesy of Byron Berline, I believe...) This double LP offers only a handful of true twang tunes for country fans, but they work well in a country-rock mix, and as a classic dino-rock hippie album, this holds up pretty well. Definitely one of Stephen Stills' finest moments.
Manassas "Down The Road" (Atlantic, 1973)
(Produced by Stephen Stills, Chris Hillman & Dallas Taylor)
This disc was more groove-oriented, and perhaps a bit more druggy and sluggish as well, with Stills sliding into lethargic blues-funk riffs and, more interesting, returning to the groovy Latin-rock of earlier albums. (On "Pensamiento," Al Perkins adds some cool pedal steel licks to the solid salsa arrangement, an experimental touch and a lively track that are highlights of an fairly mundane album. For twangfans, there are a couple of country numbers, the spacy "So Many Times" and the aggressively philospohical "Do You Remember The Americans," an uptempo, bluegrassy number reminiscent of the late '60s Byrds. Not the greatest record ever (the rock-funk stuff is kind of morose and depressing) but there are a few tracks worth checking out. After this, the band broke up -- Chris Hillman had Stills had bigger fish to fry and may have realized that the harmonies with Crosby and Nash were simply better than anything else he was likely to put together with other rockers at the time.
Manassas "Pieces" (Rhino/Eyewall, 2009)
(Produced by Howard Albert, Ron Albert & Stephen Stills)
I suppose, technically, this band -- which featured ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and Crosby Stills & Nash-er Stephen Stills -- counts as a "country rock" forerunner but perhaps it fits more comfortably in a folk-rock/classic rock bracket, of a piece with Stephen Stills' other solo work and his CSN/CSNY years. This album gathers outtakes and alternate versions from the band's brief, 1971-73 lifespan. To be sure, there are some twangy tunes, notably the pedal steel-drenched demo of "Like A Fox" (with Bonnie Raitt singing in the backup chorus!) and covers of "Panhandle Rag," Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" and the Joe Maphis classic, "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Loud, Loud Music," as well as some funky rock riffs and a bit of Stills' Latin American flair as well. If you're a Stills/hippie soul fan, you'll want to check this one out.
Happy Mann & The Country Squires "Fairways Lounge Presents..." (Mark Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Vern Batt)
Pure lounge-band country by a band from Buffalo, New York... Bandleader Happy Mann had a regionally successful band from the late 1950s through the '60s and beyond. I'm guessing this album -- which features backing by a bunch of younger guys -- came out around 1970, since it includes covers of "Statue Of A Fool" and "Proud Mary" which both were hits in 1969. There's one Mann original on here, the novelty-oriented "Coupon Song," though mostly this was a honkytonk/country ballads oriented set. Mann also cut some square dance singles, though this album's a real-deal country record.
Manuela "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart" (CMH, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Martin Haerle, John Wagner & Jack Linnemann)
I'm not sure what her last name was, but despite being a young'un, Manuela was certainly devoted to traditional, old-school country sounds of bygone years... To start with, there's her version of the title track, a cowgal classic by Patsy Montana, along with other oldies such as "Born To Lose," "If You've Got The Money (I've Got The Time)" and "I Forgot To Remember To Forget." This album was partly recorded in Nashville, and partly at John Wagner's studio in Albuquerque, but it certainly shows a devotion to a style of twang that came decades earlier... Not all western stuff, by any means, but a nice echo of the country styles of the 1930s, '40s and '50s.
The Maple River Band "Go For It!" (Eagle Records, 1980)
(Produced by Lyndon Bartell, Steve Tryhus, Ralph Bailey & Larry Cooper)
This humble folk-country foursome from Good Thunder, Minnesota mostly recorded original songs with a few well-chosen covers, such as John Prine's "Whistle And Fish" and The Louvin Brothers' "If I Could Only Win Your Love." The group had mixed male-female vocals, with fiddler Patti Selsvold Tryhus indulging in some Emmylou-esque country crooning (with a slight Judy Collins folkie hangover) while the guys stick to a more old-timey/twangtune style... This album has a nice country feel, though it's a little under-produced: some of these original songs sound pretty thin, and might have had more impact with a richer mix, as it is the album, has an authentic feel though it doesn't really wow you. (It's possible, though, that the tracks sound better on the CD reissue... I only have the old LP...) Still, if you're looking for mellow, hippie DIY twang, this disc is certainly worth a spin.
Mark And Dale "Second Generation Nashville" (Flying High, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Slim Richey & Mark Jones)
That would be Mark Jones and Dale Maphis, sons of country legends Joe Maphis and Grandpa Jones, lookin' pretty darn longhaired and hippied-out. It's a cool record: they each clearly inherited a lot of their dad's talent and personal style, so Jones plays a pretty chunky banjo style and Maphis sure can pick. A bunch of family members are also on this disc, including their moms and dads, as well as a sibling or two, and guest performers that include Steve Scruggs swapping banjo licks on "John Hardy," Marty Stuart playing a lot of lead guitar and singing lead on a version of "Hey Jude" and Ronald White picking mandolin on a version of "Reuben." And of course there are a bunch of Nashville studio pro usual suspects such as Ray Edenton, Gene Wooton and Roy Huskey filling out the sound... A nice, smooth blend of old-timey and old-school country, with just a smidge of new-fangled "progressive" ideas in a few arrangements... Mostly this is down-to-earth, easygoing and quite cheerful... Nothing earthshaking or mindblowing, but a nice, laidback jam session among family and friends.
Ben Marney "Wine, Women And Song" (Southern Biscuit Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Dino Zimmerman)
Marshall Tucker Band "Greatest Hits" (Shout Factory, 2011)
I gotta confess, as a true child of the 'Seventies, even I am surprised at how strong a hold South Carolina's finest, the Marshall Tucker Band, still have on me. One of the most commercially successful Southern Rock acts, these guys softened their sound enough to crack the formula to get into the Pop charts, and tunes such as "Fire On The Mountain" and "Can't You See" remain as effective now as they were when they first came out. There's a bunch of stuff they did on the more rock/boogie/groove end of the spectrum that doesn't really do much for me, but I do like their twang tunes, even after all these years. I also like some of their lesser singles and album tracks such as the Jerry Jeff Walker-ish "Desert Skies" and "This Ol' Cowboy," which I remember hearing on the radio, but didn't realize were from MTB... This is a nice sampler of their work, a dozen-plus tracks concentrating on their best years, and a good introduction to one of the best pop-twang bands of the era.
Marshall Tucker Band "Anthology: The First 30 Years" (Shout Factory, 2005)
Martin & Finley "Dazzle 'Em With Footwork" (Motown, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Gaudio)
I'm adding this as a buyer-beware public service, not as a recommendation. It can be hard to tell just looking at the covers with a lot of early '70s albums just how "country" they might be... I had to check this one out because I noticed Lowell George, Carl Jackson and J.D. Maness listed in the studio crew, but as it turns out, I only should have paid attention to one name, producer Bob Gaudio, best known for his work as the keyboardist for the Four Seasons. This is an overblown, top-heavy, self-indulgent and entirely uncompelling '70s pop outing -- yes, there's some banjo and a little slide guitar in there somewhere, but unless you're on the prowl for bad '70s kitsch, there's really no reason to check this one out.
Bob Martin "Midwest Farm Disaster" (RCA, 1972)
Buzz Martin "Where There Walks A Logger, There Walks A Man" (Ripcord, 1968) (LP)
Buzz Martin "A Logger's Reward" (Ripcord, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Gibson & Rick Keefer)
Buzz Martin "A Logger Finds An Opening" (Ripcord, 1970) (LP) *
Buzz Martin "The Old Time Logger: A Vanishing Breed Of Man" (Ripcord, 1971) (LP)
Buzz Martin "The Singing Logger" (Ranwood, 1974) (LP)
Buzz Martin "Solid Gold" (Ripcord, 1975) (LP) *
Buzz Martin "...And The Chips Off The Old Block" (Ripcord, 1976) (LP)
Candy Martin "Meet Candy Martin: The Man With A Thousand Voices" (Ripcord/Vanco, 1976) (LP)
Hailing from from Vancouver, Washington, singer Candy Martin specialized in celebrity imitations... This album had one side of original songs, while the other is a medley of imitations of various country stars -- Webb Pierce, Roy Acuff, et. al. Apparently he made an appearance on Hee Haw sometime before this album came out...
Jim Martin "Renegade" (Sunbelt, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Lawrence & Jim Martin)
A 6-song EP from this Texas artist...
Johnny Martin "Lay Back Easy Feeling" (History Records) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Martin & Brad Edwards)
I try not to make a habit of making fun of records and artists just for sheer badness, but I have to say, despite the promising album art of the bearded, grinning Mr. Martin reclining in a field of flowers tilting his cowboy hat at a rakish angle, this is a pretty astonishingly bad record. There is some twang, but not enough, and while a couple of tracks make it to near-classic novelty status (like "Stand In Line" and the super-clunky civil-rights-for-Native-Americans song, "Leather Boots And Moccasins") many are just plain awful, and Martin emerges as a vanity-label artist who maybe just didn't know when to quit. Although I don't approve of such things, this is an album best appreciated by folks who get their kicks bathing in the ironies of faux-loving bad records, with Martin appearing as sort of a country music Mrs. Miller. Recorded at the AudioLoft Studios in Macks Creek, Missouri, this is one of several albums on the History label -- anyone know more about this outfit? I think there may have been some connection to nearby Branson, though I'm not totally sure. No release date, either, but I'm guessing around 1976-78.
Marv Martin "Leavin' Is The Easy Thing To Do" (Fox Fire Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Powell & Harold Shedd)
A country singer from Battle Creek Michigan, Marvin Lawrence Martin recorded a number of singles and at least one album (although I don't think he was the same Marv Marvin who recorded for the gospel label, Rainbow Records...) He did some sessions in Nashville, but never cracked into the charts and remained a regional artist... He also had a fairly tragic life, spending years in recovery as a result of severe burns sustained when he was young, and passed away in 1982 as a result of cancer. It's possible that this was his only full album -- it's well produced though workmanlike, with an anonymous Nashville studio crew assembled by veteran producer Harold Shedd, backing Martin's rugged, plainspoken vocals, and some of the songs might grow on you... Anyone out there have more information about this fella?
Michael J. Martin "Windmill" (MJM/Windmill Productions, 1980)
Rough-and-tumble Texas music from Vietnam veteran Michael J. Martin, who was mostly tackling regular old country music themes here, about girls and trucks, but who later recorded a number of albums dealing with war, military service, and the Vietnam War in particular. But if you just wanna pop the top on a cold one and hear a little twang, this would be the album for you.
Paul Martin "Great Country Gold" (Plantation Records, 1978) (LP)
Sammy Martin "Mr. Dynamite: Live At The Longbranch Saloon Roadway Inn, Nashville Tennessee" (LP)
Sonny Martin "Live In Nashville, Tenn." (DeVille, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Price)
I'm not sure if this is the same Sonny Martin as below... Certainly this album is from much earlier. This guy was born George Edward Throckmorton, Jr. and was a protege of country star Red Foley, performing regularly on the Ozark Jubilee. This is an album of country covers, with tunes by Dave Dudley, Merle Haggard and others...
Sonny Martin "Live In Concert" (K.S.E. Records, 1984)
(Produced by Robert Price)
A California-based singer, hailing from the Santa Ana/Irvine area. The repertoire is mostly cover songs, with two songs credited to G. Gentry that I think are originals: "Let Me Go To Helen When I Die" and "Mail Me Home To Georgia."
Marty "Introducing Marty" (Choice Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
Another obscuro offering from the Pacific Northwest, recorded at the Ripcord studios. I think this guy's name was actually Thomas A. Martin: there's one song on here credited to that name, "What You Alone Gave Me," a song he had previously recorded as a single in 1973, along with "Since I Bought My Guitar." This version is a re-recording, but it's still the standout among the usual set of bar-band cover songs, stuff by Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, et. al. Marty's backing band, the Drifting Shadows, were from Spanaway, Washington, a tiny town near Tacoma, though Mr. Martin was originally from Charlotte, SC... The Drifting Shadows were apparently really guitarist Hank Little's band, but they backed Martin for this album, with Martin's wife, Bettye, providing some backup vocals. For his second record he had a different band, also packed with locals from the Tacoma, Washington twang scene.
Marty "Smooth Country" (Choice Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Maurice Killenbeck)
On his second album, Martin sticks mostly to cover songs, with one original from his old drummer Dave Estes ("Easy Does It") and a slew of oldies and '70s hits, stuff by Bob Wills, Jimmie Davis, Charlie Rich Kris Kristofferson and others. Brand new band, too, with lead guitar by Doyle Woodard and Tacoma legend Ray "Shotgun Red" Hildreth on pedal steel...
Marty & Carla "It's Gonna Be Sunny In Nashville" (Nevell Music) (LP)
Minnesota-born keyboardist Carla Elliott and singer-comedian Marty Nevers formed a musical duo in 1969, and performed together for over forty years (with Nevers passing away in 2012). I don't think all their stuff was country, but this album definitely had a twangy twist to it, as seen by the cowboy hats on the cover, and songs such as "Rodeo Cowboy," "Country Boy" and the title track. They were married and lived in Minnesota, but would spend half each year in Mesa, Arizona, performing in the Southwest as well.
Bob Marty/Dakota Outlaws "Southern Comfort" (Self-released) (LP)
Singer Bob Marty couldn't quite decide who should be listed as the artist on this one... Should it be under his own name, or under the "band" name Dakota Outlaws? (The distinction being that's what he called the act when he was performing with his wife, Dee, who also plays bass...) As it turned out, he has it both ways, with "Dakota Outlaws" emblazoned on the front cover, and "Bob Marty" persisting on the back and inner label. According to the liner notes, Marty worked as a traveling performer doing the "supper club trail" in the upper plains states, where he met Dee, who was a native North Dakotan. They settled down in Minot, ND and played together as a duo, cutting this album at some point in the late '70s. The repertoire is all cover songs, tilting heavily towards the contemporary 'Seventies "outlaw" sound -- songs like "Whiskey River," "Put Another Log On The Fire," "I Don't Think Hank Done It This Way" and "I Can Get Off On You." Your basic Waylon & Willie stuff...
Mason Bricke "...With Peter Masi and Donna Brickie" (Cactus Records, 1976) (LP)
This Arizona band takes its name from a composite of songwriter Peter Masi and singer Donna Bricke, who are joined by pedal steel player Gary Morse... This album is kind of all over the map, a mix of hippie country, starry-eyed folk and iffy acoustic blues. Donna Brickie had a very Judy Collins-y folkie vocal style, which doesn't do much for me, particularly on songs such as her cover of Graham Nash's "Wounded Bird." From a country-lover's perspective, probably the best track on here is the album's opener, "Janie," which has some really groovy pedal steel work, but mostly this is a bit too much in folkie territory for me.
Mason Dixon "Homegrown" (Premier Records, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Mitchell)
The Texas trio of Jerry Dengler, Frank Gilligan & Rick Henderson flipped the script on the increasingly corporatized world of 1980s Top Country, cracking into the Top 40 with a single off this indie album... They remained a presence on the charts throughout the decade, but even when they were signed to a major label, they ultimately failed to click on the national level...
Mason Proffit - see artist discography
Von Mason "Just A Memory" (Phantom Chord, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Mitchell & Von Mason)
Chuck Maultsby - see artist discography
Buddy Max "Many Styles And Sounds Of..." (Cowboy Junction, 1980) (LP)
An outsider-art harmonica player from Florida who called himself "the singing, roller skating cowboy..." Though from what I understand, it's pretty hard to rope a calf when you're on rollerskates. Maybe it's a Florida thing.
Buddy Max "Cowboy Junction Opry" (Cowboy Junction, 1980)
Here he bills himself as "America's singing, fleamarket cowboy" and includes several songs about Lecanto, Florida, where I gather he was quite the local oddball.
Maxi Maxwell "Interstate 40" (Custom Fidelity, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Burton A. Decker)
I'm not really that into making fun of iffy, obscuro albums or the people who made them, though I have admit that this vanity pressing from the early 1970s probably has to fall into the "so bad, it's good" category, with nods to Mrs. Miller and the Shaggs. It was recorded at Glendale California's vanity-pressing label, Custom Fidelity back in 1972 or '73, (according to the handy Forbidden Eye website -- thanks, fellas!) and other than that, there's not a lot of info to be found on this one. The brief liner notes mention that Maxwell grew up in Tennessee and that she had what sounds like a fairly religious upbringing, though the songs are generally speaking secular country and country-folk material. Maxwell had a pretty thin voice, with a fair amount of echo thrown on it by the producers, so the closest comparison I can come up with is Skeeter Davis, although this session was hardly up to RCA's standards. The backing band is pretty lackadaisical, providing perfunctory accompaniment to a set of nine original songs and a half-dozen covers... There's some decent, though under-recorded pedal steel from a guy named Paul Barfels, who apparently lived on the Central California coast and played a bit locally; it's possible that this is the only record he played on. Anyway, Ms. Maxwell did put her heart into this album and wrote some goofy songs with searching, philosophical lyrics, but there's not really anything on here that's I'd go back and listen to for fun... It's a curio, but hardly an obscuro-country classic.
Maynard & McEwen "Keep Off The Grass" (Rural Rhythm, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Uncle Jim O'Neal)
A very pleasant set of lively, good-natured longhaired country-rock twang, with strong folk and bluegrass influences... very unlike your typical Rural Rhythm album! The Southern California duo of Richard McEwen and Tom Kuehl (aka Cowboy Maynard) swap lead vocals from song to song and get some nice assists from pickers such as pedal steel player Jim Rice (of the Brush Arbor band), banjoist Dennis Coats and fiddler Byron Berline. Maynard & McEwen had previously been in the band Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party, and various other projects, but this disc is certainly a gem in and of itself, a nice mix of traditional and progressive twang, with a distinctive feel that's not quite that easy to pin down. Recommended!
Bill McAnally "Will You Be There" (Stop Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Miller, John Pearson & Bill Hargraves)
A native of Baldwin, Mississippi, piano player Bill McAnally established his professional bona fides plunking the keys in Memphis before moving to Kansas City in 1963, where he cut this rough-hewn hard-country album using all-local talent and the production crew at the Cavern Sound studios, a regional powerhouse that recorded numerous artists in the KC area. The music is great and although McAnally was a pretty crude vocalist, there's immense authenticity and charm to his chunky barroom style, which varies between a Mickey Gilley piano-thumper vibe and more straightforward old-school honky-tonk. Besides, I'm a real sucker for country album photos that show the pizza parlours the bands played at on the cover. The repertoire is almost all honkytonk cover tunes, with one song by McAnally ("One More Time") and the title track, "Will You Be There," written by producer Lee Miller. It's swell stuff... really!
Chuck McCabe "Pensacola Flash" (Woodshed Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Cass & Chuck McCabe)
Pete McCabe "The Man Who Ate The Plant" (Tumbleweed, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Szymczyk)
A novelty-oriented folkie from Denver who was "discovered" while playing in local clubs, Pete McCabe was flown out to LA to record this album, with backing from a bunch of elite studio session players... On the country side of the spectrum, Buddy Emmons plays pedal steel... McCabe didn't become the next Dylan or anything, but he did gain some Dr. Demento-esque notoriety.
Jody McCauley & His Country Cousins "Grandma's Hill" (World Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Leahy)
Playing a lot of original material, San Francisco Bay Area pedal steel player Jody McCauley is joined by the Bob Meighan Band, a talented but low-key crew, including folks like singers Red Murrell and Buddy Wheeler, and some banjo licks by bluegrasser Elmo Shropshire (later of Patsy & Elmo "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" infamy...)
Delbert McClinton - see artist discography
Dan McCorison "Dan McCorison" (MCA, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Chris Hillman)
The first solo album and biggest commercial success for singer-songwriter Dan McCorison, who came out of Colorado's booming indie-billy country scene, having previously played in the popular hippie twang band, Dusty Drapes & The Dusters. This album was recorded with help from producer Chris Hillman, who brought in some top LA country talent, including guitarist James Burton and Emory Gordy, Bernie Leadon and steel player Al Perkins. The record was promoted as a mainstream country album, though the single, "That's The Way My Woman Loves Me," barely cracked into the Billboard Country Top 100. Still, McCorison was able to get work as a session player in LA, and was part of Al Perkins' usual suspects crew. He's also self-released several indie albums over the years.
Mose McCormack "Beans And Make Believe" (CMH, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by John Wagner)
Mose McCormack "After All These Years" (JWRS, 2009)
Billy McCoy "Introducing Billy McCoy" (Verla Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by J. Andy Thompson)
Radio deejay Billy McCoy was a fixture in Oregon's country scene for several decades, hosting the "Skip-A-Long Show" in Eugene for a couple of decades -- starting in 1950 -- before he cut this album. He formed his own band in 1969, with singer-drummer Linda Jackson and guitarist Ron Wise, and he also was a prolific songwriter, as seeen on this album, which is all original material. He wasn't actually that great a singer -- his plainspoken voice is nice enough, but his phrasing is a little rough. Still, this is a charming album, recorded at the Ripcord Records studios (where else?) but released on a local Oregon label. Lots of good songs with a true-country feel, and plenty of echoes of folks like George Jones, Buck Owens and other classic country stars... Highlights include "Little Earl Made The Big Time," a song about a local bus driver (with some nice local references) and "The Address Was Right," a real weeper about a guy who comes home from prison to find out that his gal wasn't really waiting for him, after all. McCoy might not have been a great singer, but he was a real country fan and put his heart into this album... Definitely worth a spin if you can track it down!
Billy McCoy "Walk On Man" (Verla Records) (LP)
Billy McCoy "We Are Forever" (1997)
Billy McCoy "The Big Picture" (2006)
Wes McCoy & North Country "This Mask That I'm Wearing" (North Country Productions, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Wariner & Mike Schrimpf)
Another hopeful contender in Nashville... This album is notable as another stepping stone in Steve Wariner's early years, when he was doing studio work in the years before his early '80s breakthrough. In addition to producing the album, Wariner plays guitar and bass -- I'd guess this was one of the last projects he did at this level, since he is credited as an RCA artist in the liner notes. The album features one song partially credited to McCoy and three to the band's guitar picker, Rich Blackmore, including the barroom romper, "Crazy Things At Closing Time," which is an album highlight -- a drunken one-night stand novelty song that's like the sad, hungover sequel to "The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." Okay, so here's the thing about this album: although McCoy had a rumbly baritone that could have passably gotten him into Dave Dudley territory, his vocals are uneven and his phrasing is often off the beat and awkward -- he just wasn't the world's best singer, if the truth be told. But he's plenty enthusiastic and the band backs him with admirable gusto, giving a strong approximation of the rootsier-sounding Top Forty country of the era. Not really a great record, but maybe worth tracking down for a tune or two, particularly for "Crazy Things," which is a nice, seedy barroom song.
Ron McCranie & The Three Gents "A Salute To George Jones" (Western News Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Sweeney & Roy Ward)
This album was sponsored by a country music fanzine/newspaper based in Vacaville, California called Western News. They heard about singer Ron McCranie from Capitol Records star Stoney Edwards, whose manager, Ray Sweeney produced this album. The set list is all cover songs -- "The Race Is On," "White Lightning," "Window Up Above," et. al. -- along with one original, a George Jones tribute song, "That Jones Boy From Texas," written by McCranie. The backing band was a little wild and galloping, though McCranie is a pleasantly robust singer, capable and resonant and pretty good at imitating Jones' intonation and style. There are a few rough edges in his phrasing, but I think the producers of this album were right: he really could have made it, if given the right breaks. A nice record!
Chuck McDermott & Wheatstraw "Last Straw" (Back Door, 1976) (LP)
Chuck McDermott & Wheatstraw "Follow The Music" (Back Door, 1977) (LP)
Chuck McDermott & John Stewart "Blondes" (Allegiance, 1982) (LP)
A collaboration with country-folk icon John Stewart...
Chuck McDermott "The Turning Of The Wheel" (Sun Sign, 1986) (LP)
Singin' Sam McDole "When You Think You've Hit Bottom, Just Look Down" (Conestoga Records, 1982)
An African-American country singer who was apparently a longtime bus driver for the Anchorage, Alaska "People Mover" transit system, Sam McDole was known for singing country songs while he drove... This album is mostly cover tunes, mainly oldies and standards, although the title track is a Gail Davies song. McDole contributes two originals, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" and "Set 'Em Up, Bartender."
Sharon McDowell "Songs Of Love And Praise" (Benson Sound, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Benson)
This country-gospel singer from Merced, California headed back East to Oklahoma to record an album at the Benson Sound studios, with Okie artists such as Benny Kubiak on fiddle, label owner Larry Benson playing piano, and Billy Walker on lead guitar and Jerry Hall playing steel. The songs are all originals, almost all of them written by Mrs. McDowell, including some written or co-written with her husband and daughter. The arrangements vary between swooping string arrangements and genuine twang -- the Benson Sound label specialized in independent gospel artists -- and some tracks have a genuinely weird feel to them. This is an anthemic, super-Jesus-y, 700 Club-ish album, though what makes it interesting (and a bit kitschy) is McDowell's thick, ultra-rural voice -- this gal was country, even if her music was more old-school Contemporary Christian. Still, some nice pedal steel and chicken-pickin' on some of the tracks... so maybe it's "country" enough.
John McEuen - see artist discography
Ron McFarlin "Ron McFarlin" (Round Robin, 1975) (LP)
This guy is a favorite of the whole "outsider art," laugh-at-song-poem-records crowd... Partly I think his notoriety comes from his having been from LA, heart of all that is irony-driven and seedy-worshipping, but also because the content matter is compelling: McFarlin's ragged, disjointed barfly ballads had kind of a Bukowski-with-twang tang... He released at least three albums, two of them self-titled, documenting a certain strata of Los Angeles seediness...
Ron McFarlin "Vagabond At Heart" (Round Robin, 197--?) (LP)
Ron McFarlin "Ron McFarlin" (Round Robin, 197--?) (LP)
This was his third (and final?) album, also self-titled...
Horrell McGann "April Fool" (TK Productions/Cloud Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Alaimo & Michael Hurley)
Weirdo, oddball '70s outsider rock. Although this album is packed with lush, overly-orchestrated cosmic pop and grinding blues-rock, there's also a significant "country" undertone, particularly with the participation of erstwhile Holy Modal oddball Michael Hurley, and some sweet pedal steel and dobro picking by Joe Hart. The songs are idiosyncratic, kooky and (though slickly produced) decidedly non-commercial... The themes go from low to high and back again: on Side Two, "Gambler's Lament" tells the tale of two dudes betting it all on the Packers, while "Honey In The Negev" is an ode to refugees from the Holocaust, followed by the allusive, poetic "Growin' Your Own," which I assume is a druggie reference, it being the '70s and all. This is a weird, only-in-the-Seventies album, possibly worth veneration if you're already in the orbit of Mssr. Hurley and his crowd... Not enough twang for me, but I do appreciate the high level of eccentricity, combined with state-of-the-art pop production. An odd one.
Wes McGhee - see artist discography
Michael McGinnis "Welcome To My Mind" (Forward, 1969) (LP)
Michael McGinnis "Rodeo Gypsies" (20th Century, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Halverson)
Despite the promising album title and the outlaw-esque artwork, this album isn't as twangy or Jerry Jeff Walker-ish as one might hope... There are a couple of country-flavored songs, most notably "The Great Western Rip-Off," where McGinnis opines about the failed promises of the American cowboy mythology, but the album quickly lapses into lavish, overly orchestrated countrypolitan/orchestral pop, tempered by soulful, bluesy tunes that are a little reminiscent of The Band. (The funky piano and organ work by session player Tom Canning is particularly nice, though not consistently present... The tracks featuring Canning's keyboards add a sort of Muscle Shoals sound to the project...) The other thing that drew me to this record was the musician credits, which includes noteworthy country-rock pickers such as Dean Park, Al Perkins, Dean Webb (as well as bassist David Hungate, later of the pop band Toto...) Overall, I suppose this is worth checking out, though it's not really a lost hippie-country gem. I couldn't find much info about McGinnis, although the info-sphere indicates that he was one of the dozens of musicians who passed through the folk-pop New Christy Minstrels during the mid-1960s, and recorded at least one other solo album besides this one...
Bat McGrath & Don Potter "Introducing..." (Epic, 1969)
This duo from upstate New York only made a few little ripples at the time this album came out, but later on songwriter Bat McGrath and guitarist Don Potter each made big waves in the worlds of Top 40 Country and Pop... McGrath worked as a lyricist for a then-unknown Chuck Mangione, while Potter worked his way into the Nashville elite, becoming best known as the producer behind the slick, synthy sounds of The Judds. McGrath also had a country side (as heard in his solo stuff below) and also moved to Nashville where he became a successful Top Country songwriter...
Bat McGrath "From The Blue Eagle" (Amherst, 1976) (MP3)
Acoustic-based 1970s folk-rock/AOR with a definite country touch... McGrath had earlier been in a duo with Don Potter, but appears here as a solo artist (even though Potter was on board as a supporting musician...) Nice stuff that coasts between country-rock and rootsy singer-songwriter terrain... Certainly worth a spin!
Bat McGrath "The Spy" (Amherst, 1978) (MP3)
The music shifts here, focussing more clearly on a soft-pop sound, closer to Jackson Browne and the softer side of the Eagles, and further away from folks like Jonathan Edwards. A little bland, to be honest, and somewhat same-y and monotonous. Oh, well.
Don McHan "The Country, Bluegrass And Gospel Of Don McHan" (Laurel Records, 1970) (LP)
The title of this album says a lot about singer and guitarist Don McHan, whose early days were spent picking bluegrass, notably with the Jim & Jesse band during the early '60s. He wrote and played country music as well, most notably co-composing Loretta Lynn's topical hit "The Pill" (a controversial single which hit the Top 5 in 1975 but was originally recorded in 1972) as well as a string of gospel songs recorded by Jimmie Davis. Like a lot of country artists, McHan felt the pull of religion more strongly in later years and became more exclusively a gospel artist. I'm not sure if this was his first album, but it was one of several released on his own independent Laurel label...
Don McHan "...Sings Songs Of Home" (Laurel Records, 197-?) (LP)
Don McHan "New Country" (Transworld Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Deaton)
From the looks of things, this was a mid-1970s record, though there's no date on the album... McHan recorded these sessions in Bristol, West Virginia with a local studio crew from "Tandem Studios." He wrote or co-wrote half the songs, with most tracks credited to Tom Keane... The liner notes mention that he had a regular gig playing guitar in the Bonnie Lou & Buster Show, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Don McHan "Country Boy Don McHan Sings The Gospel" (Laurel Records) (LP)
Don McHan "The Wondrous Works Of God" (Songtime Records) (LP)
Ellen McIlwaine - see artist discography
Vern McKee & The Hard Time Band "Fathers And Sons" (Blue Denim Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Blank)
This album was recorded in Vacaville prison, where Vern McKee was a long-term inmate, having been sentenced for murder in 1972. In the late '70s McKee was one of the prisoners involved in helping convince the California Arts Council to create an arts program for the prison system, and helped organize arts programs inside Vacaville. This is an album of all-original material, some of it quite good actually, with desolate lyrics that are more insightful about prison life than many country records that cover similar territory. McKee had a good voice for country, a little thin, but expressive and with some real twang to it. The album includes one track by Steve Grogan, a Manson family member who was in Vacaville at the time, and who also plays lead guitar throughout the album. They slip into hippie/Southern rock jam-band mode from time to time, but for the most part this a more compelling record than you might imagine.
McKendree Spring "Too Young To Feel This Old" (Pye, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mark London)
The seventh album by this folk-rock band from New York... Mostly, this is a commercially-leaning 1970s soft-pop set with distinctly country-rock riffs in the mix. They sound a lot like Top Forty bands such as Firefall and Poco, as well as the mellow, mid-'70s Neil Young, tempered by traces of the progressive folk sound of Fairport Convention. Although there are a few lightly avant touches (notably a six-minute long fiddle medley by Michael Dreyfuff) the overall aim is pretty mainstream and easy accessible. Sounds nice, too, though it may be less challenging than their earlier records.
Sharon McKnight "Another Side Of Sharon McKnight" (Legend Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by John Kniest & Sharon McKnight)
At the time this album was made, singer Sharon McKnight was a star on the San Francisco cabaret scene, but years away from her Broadway breakthrough... Still, she was far enough into her career to make fun of herself by "going country," or as she put it, getting back to her roots ("Modesto, not brunette") and dip into a bit of twang. The songs include "Put A Nickel In The Jukebox And Bring Back Patti Page," "Tapedeck In His Tractor" (written by Ronee Blakely) "Stand By Your Man" and, interestingly enough, Mickey Gilley's "Don't The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time." The band includes Bay Area roots music stalwart Don McClellan on steel guitar.
Harold McLeod "Loving You" (Country Road Records) (LP)
(Produced by Manford Harper)
A (very) private album from North Carolina, with covers of country hits by Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, et. al. I'm not sure if there are any originals on here, though...
Gary McMahan "Colorado Blue" (Tomato, 1980)
(Produced by John Simon)
A well-produced but still rather flawed album... Mostly, it's songwriter McMahan's voice: I guess folks who are into his labelmate, Townes Van Zandt, might be more forgiving about it, but he sounds pretty awkward and strained to me. Also, the songs are kind of overwritten and ungainly. He's sort of a souped-up Bill Staines-style singng-cowboy folkie, mixing yodeling with country twang and plenty of rodeo-themed songs. It sure doesn't hurt having steel player Buddy Emmons adding some super-sweet licks; other notable sidemen include Kenny Kosek on fiddle and Eric Weissberg picking guitar, and even the Jordanaires singing on a tune or two. But despite the sleek, rich sound, the record falls flat. The repertoire includes a few cover tunes, I seem to recall one of his original tunes, "Real Live Buckaroo," being covered by somebody once upon a time -- Chris LaDoux, I think -- so that ain't nothin'. Worth checking out if you're a hardcore fan of modern-day cowpoke music, but it wasn't a keeper for me.
Gary McVay "But... What About Me?" (Sherwood Records) (LP)
With his guileless, mopey album title, the hangdog expression and sideburn-adelic good ole boy looks, Alabama's Gary McVay was a ripe target for the ever-snarky social media Schadenfreude Patrol... So, yeah, sure, this album cover made the rounds on Tumblr and Pinterest, along with predictably vacuous, pointlessly cynical commentary. Hopefully by the time you read this, those companies will no longer exist, though I'm sure you'll still be able to find a copy of this record, if you just look hard enough.
Johnny Meeks "Sings Skip A Rope And Other Country Favorites" (Custom Records, 1968) (LP)
Best known as a longtime member of Gene Vincent's trailblazing rockabilly band, the Blue Caps, South Carolina guitar picker Johnny Meeks (1937-2015) went on to work in nondescript groups such as the Tune Toppers and the Champs. He apparently slid into the cheapie-label vortex as well, cutting this album for the Custom label, which seems to include several originals as well as a cover of Henson Cargill's hit, "Skip A Rope." Although these budget-line albums were sometimes packed with not-quite-as-advertised material, this does seem to Johnny Meeks playing and singing on all the tracks, and the material is really, truly great stuff. The chunky, simplistic style he brought to the Blue Caps band is intact here, adding a primitive, old-school rock'n'roll heft to the country tunes and a country twang to the more pop-oriented ballads. Mostly, this is a twangfest, and although there are no composer credits on the album, it seems likely that the originals were all written by Meeks, who wrote several hits for Vincent. Also, there's no info on the session musicians used here, which is a pity... Mostly the arrangements are pretty minimal, but there's some nice pedal steel on a few tunes, and it could have been someone like Red Rhodes doing a pick-up gig... Anyway, Meeks later did some country session work, including a gig picking on Michael Nesmith's 1972 country-rock record, Tantamount To Treason. This solo album, though, was pretty sweet, and much better than you might imagine.
Meisburg & Walters "See The Morning Breaking" (Parchment, 1975) (LP)
The acoustic duo of Steve Meisburg and John Paul Walters met at an open mic night in Florida, where Meisburg was an ordained minister in search of a new path, and Walters was a music major at Florida State... Becoming pop stars, even minor pop stars, would have seemed like an unlikely path -- for Meisburg in particular -- but somehow they fell into the orbit of the cocaine-and-disco-fueled Casablanca label at the height of its cash-burning glory years, and someone at the label threw a bunch of money their way, backing them to tour college campuses and stadium shows, as well as an album that was as unlike typical Casablanca fare as you could possibly imagine. The duo gained some small notoriety for the single, "Graduation Day," an anti-feminist novelty number with just enough mild profanity (the phrase "son of a bitch") to get it mildly censored (a bleep on the LP version)... In the era of songs like "Junk Food Junkie" or "Werewolves Of London," it was plausible that these guys could have connected with a national audience, but somehow it never happened. After the Casablanca gig ended, they eventually called it quits, though Walters tried to launch a solo career in 1981. Meanwhile, Meisburg reentered civilian life, going into politics rather than back to the ministry, and at one point in the '80s was even the mayor of Tallahassee. after several years on the city council. So, how's that for a day job??
Meisburg & Walters "Just Like A Recurring Dream" (Casablanca, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Thomas Williams)
This is the album that includes "Graduation Day," with much of the rest of the album a collection of super-gentle folk-pop tunes, like a Simon & Garfunkel duo, but made up of John Denver and John Denver. Good for the style!
Meisburg & Walters "Love's An Easy Song" (Casablanca, 1977) (LP)
Terry Melcher "Terry Melcher" (Reprise/Collector's Choice, 1974/2005)
Okay, this isn't exactly what you'd call a "roots" or "Americana" album, but since revered superpickers like David Bromberg, Ry Cooder and Jay Dee Maness were part of the studio crew, and since the music itself has an odd, obliquely hinted-at twangitude, I figure it'll do. What this is, actually, is a fascinating and unique pop album from a remarkable show-biz insider. To begin with, Terry Melcher -- who passed away in November, '04 -- was Doris Day's son (and bore a striking resemblance to her...) which couldn't have hurt when he threaded his way through the thickets of the L.A. music machine... Melcher scored his first hits as a surf music songwriter, then landed a staff job as a producer at Columbia, where he helped mould the early sounds of the Byrds, among others. This is one of only two albums he recorded under his own name, and it's pretty interesting. Melcher's attentuated, half-whiny vocals bring to mind the likes of Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Colin Young, but his musical approach is much denser and more orchestral, making full use of the studio magic at his disposal. His warped reworking of roots music oldies like "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms" and "Stagger Lee," not to mention his bleak, opiated version of Jackson Browne's "These Days" all make this an album well worth tracking down. Recommended.
Terry Melcher "Royal Flush" (RCA, 1976)
(Produced by Bruce Johnson & Terry Melcher)
This moody, multilayered album is perhaps the perfect distillation of the Los Angeles pop/country-rock style, made by one of the city's cultural movers and shakers who most helped shape the sound he's satirizing so effectively here. It's a concept album of sorts, about cosmic-cowboy stoners going for a long lost weekend to party or perhaps sink themselves into oblivion in Mexico, which will forever be the cultural and historical mirror image and motherland of Anglo-dominated LA... There are a lot of songs that ring true here, perfectly capturing certain fragments of the Southern California mindset, particularly "Freeway Close" and "Rebecca," which define romance and reality in terms of traffic and roadways, the humorously cynical "High Rollers," which savagely lampoons the Top Forty-wannabees of the '70s country-rock scene, as well as the more sinister "Down In Mexico," which has a sludgy, swampy density that anticipates the Tom Waits of years to come. This isn't an easy album, but its self-indulgences seem purposeful and perceptive, with arrows that hit home more often than not. Plus, with musical contributions from folks like Red Rhodes, JD Maness, Van Dyke Parks (along with a large, more rock-oriented studio crew) there's some cool music behind the rather bleak, depressing lyrics. One wonders how much Melcher's brush with the Manson Family, years earlier, had to do with the darkness of his musical vision, and how much of it was just plain old show-biz cynicism. At any rate, this is a distinctive entry in the SoCal cowboy sound... definitely worth a spin!
Dale Menten "I Really Wanted To Make A Movie" (MCA/Tally Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Menten)
The mid-'Seventies incarnation of the Merle Haggard-affiliated Tally label was a really odd project... Most of the Tally albums were clearly country-oriented, although this one is much more of a '70s soft-pop outing, with traces of Nilsson, Paul Simon and Graham Nash in its many piano-and-saxophone-strewn numbers. There is some country-rock twang in the mix as well, with Dick Strength providing subtle pedal steel on a tune or two... But really it's soft-rock fans who will want to check this one out. And, woah! It turns out I am familiar with Dale Menten's other work as well: as a kid he was in the Minnesota garage-pop band, The Gestures, whose single, "Run, Run, Run" is a longtime favorite of mine... I guess he also did some movie composing and jingle writing after this, as well as orchestrating the short-lived country-rock band Comfort Station, which put out one album in 1976.
Tee Meroney "35 Years In Country Music" (Kash Records, 1993) (LP)
(Produced by Robert Ulsh)
A teen twang prodigy, Tee Meroney played on WRVA's Old Dominion Barn Dance and went on to work with various country and bluegrass bands, most notably for Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens. In the early '70s he moved to Virginia Beach to start a gig leading the house band for a club called Nashville East, and remained there for nearly two decades. This album looks back at his career, or at least at some of his favorite songs from over the decades.
Mesa "Here To Stay" (Gizmo, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Tom D. Atkins)
Novelty-oriented honky-tonk from Fort Worth, Texas... Original songs by Tom D. Atkins and Clark Reynolds, including songs such as "Asphalt Cowboy," "Condo In Paradise" and "I Hate To Shave."
Roger Messingham "Restless" (Roger Messingham Productions, 1973-?) (LP)
At the time he recorded this album Roger Messingham was the owner of a nightclub in Cedar Falls, Iowa called Messingham's Second Base... I'm not sure when or how long the club was open but it was mentioned in a local newspaper in 1972, which is about when I'd guess this album came out. Messingham covers some top-country hits of the era, tunes like "Shade Tree Fix It Man," "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues," "Games People Play," and "You Don't Have Very Far To Go," as well as (I think) a couple of originals, such as "Restless" and "If You Leave Me Tonight, I Think I'll Cry." Messingham was not a great singer, but he chugged along on in a workmanlike fashion, doing his best to channel Elvis Presley and Charlie Rich, with kind of marginal results. He was backed by the club's house band, the Art Essery Show, which had its own odd spin on the material, trying to replicate the sophisticated "sunshine pop" arrangements you'd hear on the radio at the time, and perhaps struggling a bit against their own ambitions. But don't get me wrong -- I like this record. It's not really that good, but I still find it charming and sincere... Messingham seems to have moved to Tennessee a few years later, though I don't know if he continued playing music there or not.
Paul Metcalf "Country Music Comin' Back" (Belmont, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Gold)
Roger Mews "...Sings Leavin' Town And Other Favorites" (LP)
A rootsy rockabilly/hick artist from Minnesota, Roger Mews cut several singles and at least one album... Not sure of the date on this one, but it looks mid-to-late 1960s, perhaps... Mews seems to have had a connection to South Dakota country bandleader Sherwood Linton -- he recorded some of his music, and possibly played in his band. (Anyone have more info about their relationship?) Anyway, some roots old stuff from the Great Lakes country scene of years gone by...
Liz Meyer "Once A Day" (Adelphi, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Liz Meyer & Obie O'Brien)
This one's a find! Liz Meyer was part of the same Washington, DC folk/roots/country scene as Emmylou Harris and Bill & Taffy Danoff, and this album, which gathers recordings she made between 1975-77, is a testament to the vitality of that scene. It's also a pretty gritty, downright cool hard-country album, with a nice mix of covers and originals. She sings two Buck Owens songs, one by Hank Junior, and an earthy, rough-hewn rendition of Bill Anderson's "Once A Day." The most striking thing about Meyer is her tough, robust sound, both her affinity for true twang and her husky, throaty vocals, a tough-sounding voice that reminds me quite a bit of honkytonk heroine Melba Montgomery. More than half of the songs on here are Meyer's originals, including heartsong gems such as "I Don't Know How To Say Goodbye" and "Someone You Can't Love," which is perhaps the album highlight. Obviously it took Meyer a long time to get this record out, and she must have sat on these tapes for a while before assembling them into an album. The production is a little rough and so are some of the performances, but they are an excellent snapshot of the scene she was in, and among the guest musicians are Emmylou Harris herself singing backup on four of the songs, and superpicker Mike Auldridge playing dobro on two tracks. Meyer moved to Europe in the 1980s and went on to record several albums, many with a bluegrass bent, and had several of her songs recorded by artists such as Laurie Lewis, Del McCoury, and the great Emmylou herself. Meyer passed away in 2011, after a long struggle with bone cancer, but she certainly left a great musical legacy behind, starting with this album of her excellent early work.
Augie Meyers - see artist discography
Danny Michaels & His Rebel Playboys "Go Middle Country" (Vistone Records) (LP)
This late-1960s set features self-described "Mr. Versatily" Danny Michaels on a badass double-necked guitar, playing a bunch of covers of hits such as "Little Green Apples," "Harper Valley PTA," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and "Classical Gas."
Danny Michaels & His Rebel Playboys "Big Time Operator" (Redwood Records)
Midnight Cowboys "Drinkin' And Thinkin' " (Pond Creek Publishing Co.) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Casolari)
Randy Wilson and the Midnight Cowboys hailed from Golden Gate, Illinois... This album is of all original material, with all the songs written or cowritten by Mark Chapman, who interestingly enough was not one of the musicians in the band. Includes songs such as "Nashville Fever," "That One Country Song" and "Ain't No Drunks In Heaven."
Midnight Express "In Session" (MBS, 1978) (LP)
Midnight Flyer "First Flight" (Air Midwest Rescue Music, 1980) (LP)
I'm not sure, but I think this was a country-rock (maybe more rock?) band from the Kansas/Missouri axis... Not a lot of info about them, but I'm all ears if you know more than me...
Midnight Flyer "A Quart Short & Three Bricks Shy" (Air Midwest Rescue Music, 1981) (LP)
Shirl Milete "Shirl Milete" (Poppy Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Lamar Fike & Jim Molloy)
Chuck Millhuff "Feelin' Good Country" (A+R Records) (LP)
Early '70s Christian music with surprisingly robust country arrangements, including Christian folk star Phil Keaggy playing guitar. Milhuff was not a great singer, but this is a legitimately twangy album, with some nice pickin' on it. Worth a spin! Millhuff went on to establish a successful ministry, and continued evangelizing well into the 21st Century.
Miller & Riley "Miller & Riley" (Sweetland Productions, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Danny Miller & Mike Riley)
Hippie-ish country-rock from the Oklahoma City duo of Danny Miller and Mike Riley... The songs are all originals except for covers of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and Tom T. Hall's "Tulsa Telephone Book."
Bob Miller "Jeanie, I'm Coming Home" (Blackbird) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Massey)
A honkytonker from Dallas, Texas with four of his own original songs: "Jeanie, I'm Coming Home" and "Jealous Kind" (which were also released as a single), "Black Mark On My Name" and "Loneliest Star," as well as two that were penned by Texas fiddler Frank Zaruba: "Soap Box" and "Molly Come Go With Me." He also covers Harlan Howard, Merle Haggard, Hank Cochran and Kris Kristofferson, to give you a sense of where he was coming from.
The Miller Brothers Band "Here's To The Women" (No Bull, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Wiggins & The Miller Brothers)
Dale Miller "The Country Singer" (Noma, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden)
This album, recorded at the fabled Ripcord studios but released on an Ohio label, features some of the most awesome liner notes ever, in which Miller goes into great detail about his receding hairline, his hernia, what he likes to eat for dinner, what states and countries he's traveled to, and various aspects of his marriage... They are the most guileless and earnest liners I've ever seen... very endearing. Wish I'd been able to buy a copy when I saw this one, 'cause I'd really love to hear the music, too.
Darnell Miller "Pure Country Sounds Of..." (Deneba Records, 1971)
(Produced by Danny Harridon & Michael Perry)
Ross Miller "No Such Thing As Good Bye" (Mountain Meadow Studios) (LP)
A super-DIY-looking album, with all the songs (I think) written by Ross Miller, with two tracks co-written by Mike Faubion... Presumably he was from Idaho, since there's a tune on here called "Idaho Song." No mention on the album of where this was recorded or when it came out.
Vern Miller & The Versatiles "Some Old - Some New" (LeVern Records) (LP)
Oldies-rock and country twang by a local-only band from Riverside, Iowa. There are lots of cover tunes, stuff like "Johnny B. Good," "Stagger Lee," "Red Sails In The Sunset" and "Swingin' Doors," as well as two originals: "Always The First Love," written by Vern Miller, and "Is It True" by Bob Green. Not sure when this one came out, but the early 1970s is a pretty good bet... Also, I'm pretty sure this guy wasn't related to the Vern Miller who was the attorney general for the state of Kansas, or to Vern Miller, Jr., from the Remains... But then again, who knows?
Will Miller "It's Miller Time" (Century Gold) (LP)
(Produced by Glenn Barber & Cliff Eldridge)
An all-originals country set, with a studio crew that includes Mark Casstevens, Fred Newell on guitars... I couldn't track down any info about this one, though, like where this guy was from, etc. Oh, well.
Bunnie Mills "Only A Woman" (Sagittar, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Kettar)
Bunnie Mills "...Sings Country From The Heart" (Bunjak, 1987) (LP)
Occasionally I come across some weird background stories with the indie artists in these old albums, and I have to wrestle with whether a drug conviction or whatever really has that much to do with the artist or, more importantly, with their art. In the case of singer-songwriter Lillian ''Bunnie'' Mills, the weird story is so overpowering, I have to say, yeah, this is a big part of her life story. Apparently Ms. Mills was a relatively well-known country singer from Bossier City, Louisiana (near Shreveport) and at some point in her 50s she met a man twenty years younger than herself who she started going out with. Tragically, this guy turned out to be a particularly sadistic serial killer, nicknamed "the Gainsville Ripper," who brutally murdered at least seven people in Louisiana and Florida before being caught. Following his arrest in 1991, Mills was called upon to testify at his trial... She had nothing to do with the crimes, but had tried, along with the man's mother, to persuade him to seek help for mental health issues that became apparent in the late '80s. So, did this gruesome case have anything to do with Bunnie Mills' music? No, not really, but it is remarkable that even after her involvement in such a horrible and highly public crime, Mills was able to pick herself up and keep going with her music career. In addition to recording three albums, she also started her own label(s) -- Pot 'O' Gold and Greenback Records -- and worked as a producer of several aspiring young country singers. Still... yeesh. How creepy!
Bunnie Mills "A Simple Country Girl" (Bunjak, 1999)
Bunnie Mills "Foggy River" (Greenback, 2000)
Unfortunately this this disc doesn't include her political single, "Who Is Our President?" which was written after the 2000 elections...
Milwaukee Iron "Milwaukee Iron" (Sutton Studios, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Sutton)
This motorcycle-oriented twangband was from Shell Beach, California, near Atascadero -- a favorite haunt of West Coast bikers. They wrote a bunch of party-hardy vroom-vroom tunes for this album, including "Get Down Biker Music," "If I've Ever Seen A Biker He Is I," "Harley Song," "Cheesy Rider" and the somewhat less-charmingly titled "Jerk Me Off." The main talents in the group were multi-instrumentalist Peter Morin (who played lead guitar, pedal steel, banjo, mandolin and slide) and the singer and main songwriter who was identified only as Rogene, and who I guess is the gal pictured on the cover with her hog up on an oceanside bluff, as well as rhythm guitarist John Bushnell, who also sings lead on the few tunes.
Mission Mountain Wood Band "In Without Knocking" (M2WB Records, 1977) (LP)
A classic hippiebilly indie-twang album from a hard-working band that met with a tragic end. The Wood Band was a hard-working regional group which was together for most of the '70s, and this album had farily wide distribution in the plains states and on the West Coast, probably mostly due to their relentless touring. The original band went through a few changes and finally changed their name to Montana (and later The Montana Band) in 1982 when several key members left, and others took up the banner. They kept at it for several years and released several albums (listed below) before the entire band was killed in a plane crash in 1987. It all started out great, though, and this record has some nice stuff on it: I remember hearing some of these songs on the legendary alt-twang radio station, KFAT, back when I was a kid.
The Mississippi Band "Take Your Chances" (1981)
This group from Dubuque were stalwarts of Iowa's independent country-folk scene, starting out in 1972 and keeping together through the rest of the decade. Led by founders Dwayne Fudge and Bill "Cricket" Davis, like many local bands it had a rotating cast of musicians, including folks like Billy McGuire, and Dave Hummel, pedal steel player Mark Oberfell and drummer Charlie Troy. They finally recorded their first album in 1981; that same year they were cast in the movie Take This Job And Shove It, and even though that appearance didn't shoot them to the top of the pops, it's still a cool legacy for a local twangband. The band kept together for years after that, recording a second album in 2000.
Missouri "Missouri" (Polydor, 1977)
I'm really just listing these guys as a cautionary note: despite the promise of their non-coastal bandname, they were not country-rock or country-flavored; they are often cited as a "Southern rock" band but I don't hear any of the hick licks or even the blues riffs that I'd consider hallmarks of the genre. Just a loud, punk-free, twang-free, mainstream American guitar-rock band from the '70s. Twangfans need not apply.
Missouri "Welcome Two Missouri" (Polydor, 1979) (LP)
The second album by this unheralded, cult-fave Midwest band... Still rockin', still not country. Just in case you're wondering.
Missouri Corn Dodgers "Old Time String Band Music" (Davis Unlimited, 1975(?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Davis & The Missouri Corn Dodgers)
Squeaky, raspy, rollicking old-timey music by a St. Louis trio also known as "The Original Missouri Corn Dodgers" -- this longhaired band included Bob Abrams on fiddle and mandolin, Julie Hager playing guitar and Jim Olin on banjo... Plenty of plangent twang on this one: the repertoire and performances are authentic as all getout, but as is often the case with old-timey music, you're either in, or you're out. Fans of the style will love this one, others may find it a bit severe.
Missouri Rain "Country Rock High" (History Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Eddie Panghorn)
Missouri Woodland "Signing Our Lives Away" (Missouri Woodland, 1978) (LP)
Countryfied soft-rock from the Kansas City duo of Royal Scanlon and Gary D. Paredes, along with a modest, unobtrusive backing band. They wrote or co-wrote all the songs on here, with Scanlon contributing the most material. It's nice, innocuous stuff, sort of headed in a Seals & Crofts/Brewer & Shipley AOR direction, but still anchored to a local-folkie sound, with a nice, lazy vibe. Apparently they went up to Minneapolis to record this, and among the studio musicians is session player Cal Hand, who I believe was a Twin Cities local, adding some sweet pedal steel on several tracks. This might not electrify your world, but it's another good, quiet example of Midwestern DIY hippie twang. (Note: this album is frequently listed under the names of Scanlon and Paredes, but was actually meant to be under the band name. If you look at the original inner sleeve, it reads, "Missouri Woodland is..." Just in case it matters.)
The Misterssippis "Sing And String" (Gramophone Recording Studios) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Schmidt)
I'm not sure how "country" this Winona, Minnesota vocal quartet actually was... They definitely recorded some country stuff, like George Hamilton's "Abilene" and "Lone Prairie" as well as gospel tunes and some novelty number such as "The Interstate Is Coming Through My Outhouse" and pop oldies like "Jeepers Creepers." I think they may have been more of a mix between country, pop and barbershop...
The Misty Blues "Please Walk By" (Renovah)
Early '70s country covers on a bluegrass label, including Merle Haggard's "Branded Man" and a loopy "psychedelic" version of "Okie From Muskogee," as well as a covers of "Easy Lovin' " and "Knock Three Times."
Dean Mitchell "Did You Hear My Song?" (Stargem Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Wayne Hodge)
A farm kid from Jackson County, Arkansas, by choice Dean Mitchell stuck to the local scene -- according to the liner notes he turned down invitations to tour nationally because he wanted to stay close to his family. So he played county fairs and other regional gigs, and eventually made his way to Nashville to record this album, which includes several of his own songs, along with a couple by G. Litton ("Looking Back At Luckenbach" and "Early Morning Sadness Of The Rain") as well as the title track, which was written by Terry Carisse, which had previously been a hit for the Mercy Brothers.
Price Mitchell "The Best Of Price Mitchell" (Sunbird Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Nelson Larkin)
Billing himself as "Mister Country Soul," Mississippi-born Price Mitchell specialized in slightly twangy pop-country covers of poppy R&B oldies, stuff like the Motown standard, "I Can't Help Myself" or Lloyd Price's "Personality," which was his biggest chart single. Although "Personality" cracked into the Top 30, for the most part Mitchell met with middling success, and it's the obscuro countrypolitan stuff that's actually the most interesting material. This album is a repackaging of some of his recordings for the GRT label, and also includes a couple of Earl Conley songs, as well as one by Jim Chesnutt.
Sylvia Mobley "My Needs Are You" (Belle Meade Records) (LP)
(Produced by Scotty Moore & Al Gore)
Sylvia Mobley "Songs For Mama" (Ray's Gold) (LP)
Moby Grape "Moby Grape" (Columbia, 1967)
(Produced by David Rubinson)
One of the most musically accomplished (and coolest-named) of the big-ticket bands from the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene, Moby Grape have not fared well over the years in terms of the availability of their music. Their manager royally screwed them, taking both the rights to their records and to the band's name itself, and because of endless legal wrangling their records were unavailable for most of the CD era, and the editions that have come out have been bitter disappointments to fans. That's particularly true in the case of their brilliant debut, a record that consistently surprises me because of it's high content of true twang. Of course, a lot of the San Francisco bands wove country and folk themes into their work, many having cut their teeth as jug band blues groups, or bluegrass pickers (or both) but the early Moby Grape albums were packed with a brand of full-on twang that I would consider one of the first real forerunners of the rock/twang brand of "Americana" that became popular in the 1980s and '90s. It's great stuff, with lots of odd, catchy songs, a lively sense of humor and great musicianship. Alas, the evil ex-manager has only reissued this debut album in what many fans consider an inferior edition -- low budget, high-priced, some would say poorly remastered -- and other records remain in limbo as well. It won't last forever, but it is amazing that this great band's best work has largely eluded proper reissue during the entire length of the great digital reissue boom of the last few decades. Still totally worth checking out, though -- every time I hear this album, I am amazed at how good it is and how well it stands the test of time. And how "country" it is!
Moby Grape "Vintage: The Very Best Of Moby Grape" (Sundazed, 1993)
Molly B' Damn "Last Night In Paradise" (Cowpie, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Ramsey)
Roger Monhollen "Neighbors Lovin' One Another" (ACA Records) (LP)
Recorded in Nashville, this is at least partially a gospel album, though there is a "Hank Williams Medley" included, too. Most promising song titles: "Sin's Dark Alley" and "She'll Never See The Sun Shine Again." Methinks Porter Wagoner would be proud.
Jim Monigold "Idaho Jim" (Luram, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Sal Marullo)
This album was recorded in Monterey, California which was Jim Monigold's old stomping ground before a move to Idaho... As a teen in 1960's Salinas, Monigold played in local rock bands such as the surfy/garagey Fisher Brothers, who recorded a couple of major label singles. Later on he transformed himself into a twangy, country-oriented troubadour... He wrote the title track in honor of his new locale -- Monigold wrote four songs on here, with another original by drummer/producer Sal Marullo, along with covers of Willie Nelson's "Night Life" and the Band's big hit, "The Weight," as well as Jan Crutchfield's "It Turns Me Inside Out," which was Lee Greenwood's first big hit. Later, Monigold moved to Tennessee where he tried to hustle up work as a session player... He passed away in 2011.
Montana "Change In The Weather" (Waterhouse, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Bean)
These guys, at least some of them, were formerly known as the Mission Mountain Wood Band; apparently the named was changed after several of the founding members drifted away into full-time careers or other musical gigs... On this aptly-titled album, they're clearly looking for a hit in the early '80s mode, and while there's some residual twang in the mix, on most tracks they're aiming at a straight-up pop sound, as on "Dreamer" (with it's tinny '80s lead guitar) as well as the dreadful, saxophone-heavy "Sure Fooled Me," and the Dan Seals-ish "She's Never Gone." Founding member Rob Quist clung to his banjo on the back cover and contributes a couple of the twangier tunes, but mostly the ship seems to have sailed, and the whole soft-pop thing wasn't really gonna work. This album was Quist's last hurrah with the band: he left in 1984 to pursue a solo career in Nashville, while the rest of the group continued to tour and perform for several years without him. Sadly, the Montana Band itself ended in a spectacular, horrific tragedy, an airplane crash on July 4, 1987 when the small twin-engine plane that was taking them to their next gig crashed in the woods near Kalispell, Montana. A terrible epitaph for a popular Northern band... Quist moved back to Montana and formed several other bands, including a "re-boot" of the Mission Mountain Wood Band.
Montana Band "Wake Me When That Sun Goes Down" (Lake Song, 1984) (LP)
Montana Band "Long Talk With Myself" (Moore Recording Corporation, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Laney & Dale Moore)
This was a postumously released record, with liner notes that make note of the plane crash that killed the band...
Montie Montana, Jr. "Songs Of Montana: Big Sky Country" (1964) (LP)
A rodeo rider and rancher, Mr. Montana was the son of Montie Montana, Sr., who was apparently an entertainer in his own right... This album was commissioned by rancher Howard T. Kelsey, of the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in honor of the centennial celebration of Montana's being named a territory in 1864 (as well as the diamond jubilee of its statehood in 1889...) About half the songs have explicit Montana-related themes ("Going Home To Montana," "I Love Montana" "Bozeman Trail," etc.) along with others that have more general "western" flair. (Kansans may take exception to the inclusion of their state song, "Home On The Range," on an album honoring the Big Sky State, though they may be flattered by the as well...) Eight of the album's songs were composed by Montana native Gene Quaw to be recorded by Mr. Montana and his band, The Wranglers.
Montana Skyline "Full Moon Empty Pockets" (Snow Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Montana Skyline & Hal Sacks)
Montana Skyline "Big Skies And Sawdust Floors" (Brave Records) (LP)
(Produced by Brien Fisher)
Montezuma's Revenge "First Run" (Prune Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Compton & Montezuma's Revenge)
This San Diego-area longhair twang band specialized in novelty songs, almost uniformly of a puerile, sex-joke or fart-joke variety. They were sort of Southern California's answer to Chuck Wagon & The Wheels... The song "Spring Valley Sally" refers to their hometown of Spring Valley, CA, which is in some hot, desert-y locale.
Montezuma's Revenge "Royal Flush - Live" (Prune Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Jeff Johnson)
This live album opens on a sour note, their cheerfully homophobic "Ballad Of Bengue," which conflates homosexuality, prostitution and S&M, with the lead vocals sung in a mincey "gay" accent. Now, I'm not saying that there are no kinky gay prositutes in the world (particularly around San Diego...) but writing a novelty song about one for a faux-country album... Well, it's a little less than ideal. Plus, it's not a very funny song. Things get better on the banjodelic "Tomorrow I'm On My Way," then go sideways again with the dreadful oldies medley that takes up the remainder of Side One: "Wipeout," "Tequila," "Wooley Bully," etc. It was probably fun at the time, but it doesn't stand the test of the time... particularly when they start queer-bashing again, on "Surfer Joe," calling the fictional Joe a limp-wristed hairdresser, etc. What dicks. And it keeps going: there's also the Jose Jimenez-style "Messikin" accent on "Gringo" (briefly reprised on their jokey rendition of "El Paso"...) The best that can be said for this album, perhaps, is that it's not as mired in poop and fart jokes as their earlier albums, but it's still pretty infantile. These were guys who didn't know when the joke wasn't funny... in a big way. But, whatever. Their fans seemed to have been enjoying themselves, so I guess if you drink enough beer, just about anything seems funny.
Joe Montgomery "Second Chance" (FWI Records, 1977) (LP) *
A singer from Fort Wayne, Indiana who was friends with an older guy named Ernest P. McCarty who wrote songs, but never made a record himself. Montgomery collaborated with McCarty to create this album of all-original material... It's kinda sweet, really!
Carlton Moody "No Hard Feelings" (Lamon, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Williams)
The Moody Brothers -- Carlton, Dave and Trent Moody -- originally hailed from Charlotte, North Carolina. They broke through in the 1980s bluegrass/Americana scene, in part because of their success touring with George Hamilton IV, who was looking for a bluegrass sound at the time. The Moody Brothers had no trouble delivering: their father, old-time fiddler Dwight Moody, was in Bill Monroe's band years before, and their country roots ran deep, with the boys playing gospel music on a local TV show when they were kids. Before establishing themselves as "Americana" artists, however, the Moodys had tried their hands at more mainstream-sounding, secular country music, recording several albums on their father's independently-owned label, Lamon Records, while also producing countless "private press" records for numerous off-the-radar musicians. Carlton Moody went on to become a latter-day member of Burrito Deluxe, the re-re-reincarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers band, while Dave Moody managed the Lamon label and concentrated on a career as a contemporary Christian singer.
Carlton Moody & The Moody Brothers "Carlton Moody And The Moody Brothers" (Sundown) (LP)
Carlton Moody "Gimme A Smile" (Lamon, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Carlton Moody & David Moody)
John Mooney "Comin' Your Way" (Blind Pig, 1979)
Fun acoustic blues from a guy originally from upstate New York, but later part of the New Orleans scene. Mooney went in a more "urban blues," electrified direction in the '80s, but this debut disc has a nice funky, rootsy feel that keeps it in the indiebilly camp, at least in my fevered mind. Kind of fits into the whole George Gritzbach/Bob Brozman/Dan Hicks continuum... Plus, you gotta love that National steel guitar sound!
The Moonlighters "The Moonlighters" (Amherst, 1977)
A "solo" project from roots-rock guitarist Bill Kirchen, a band he started at the tail-end of his tenure with Commander Cody...
The Moonlighters "Rush Hour" (Demon, 1983)
(Produced by Nick Lowe)
A punchy, relentlessly upbeat album with tightly arranged rock-soul grooves straight out of the playbook of producer Nick Lowe, much in the same vein as Rockpile and Nick Lowe's albums, though with a tough American edge that's distinctly Kirchen-esque... Kirchen cuts loose on some gritty guitar riffs on the opening tracks -- the second half of the album gets funkier, with dips into soul and reggae riddims... But there are several songs about cruising and cars as well... It wouldn't be Kirchen-adelic otherwise!
The Moonlighters "The Missing Moonlighters: Live/Studio Closet Tapes" (Globe Records, 2008)
The Moon Pie Daince Band "Enchanted Mesa" (Goldust, 1978) (LP)
A rootsy-hippie jam band from El Paso, Texas with a distinctly Grateful Dead-ish vibe, crossed with Allman Brothers-esque Southern Rock guitars... Funny stuff, though very much of its time!
The Moon Pie Daince Band "Flower In The Sand" (Folklore, 1982)
Bill Moore & Travis Edmonson "The Liar's Hour" (Latigo Records) (LP)
This album features narration by real-life cowboy Bill Moore and music by Travis Edmonson, a veteran 'Sixties folkie formerly of the Gateway Singers and the popular duo Bud & Travis. They recreate the feel of the round-robin, cock-and-bull song-and-joke sessions of cowboy campfires at roundup time. he album has a particularly Arizonan feel -- Edmonson grew up in Nogales, and several of the songs are from Arizona artists. The humor-filled set includes a lot of obscure selections, along with the title track, an original song written by Edmonson that captures the essence of the campfire ritual. A nice one for fans of the genre!
Don Moore & Bob Clear "Tulsa Mountains" (Trayson Records, 1979) (LP)
Dottie Moore "In Memory Of The Golden Voice" (Ranger Records) (LP)
Honky tonk singer and country composer Dottie Moore (1930-67) was a lifelong native of Flint, Michigan who established a strong regional following, but never was able to break out onto the national scene. In addition to this album, she recorded a couple of hard-country singles, one each on the King and Starday label, and found work on radio and TV shows in Michigan and in the South. Moore also recorded a final single for the Ranger label, with a picture cover that shows her wearing dark sunglasses: a victim of childhood diabetes, Moore lost her sight in the final years of her life. (Thanks to hillbilly-music.com for their research on this obscure but outstanding artist...)
Jack Moran "As I See It" (Athena, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Powell)
Socially-conscious but slightly square, songwriter Jack Moran penned the preachy "Skip A Rope" which was a chart-topping hit for Henson Cargill in '67... That success led to Moran making his own album, with a repertoire that was packed with similarly socially-conscious songs, tunes with promising titles such as "Suck Your Thumb," "Tommy's Doll," and "Teenage Kids Of Today." Moran was apparently a blind performer (hence the album title and the poetic liner notes by Billy Ed Wheeler that go on and on about how a blind man can "see" things that other people can't... Ah... That was then, this is now. Anyway, for Nashville in the late 'Sixties, early '70s, this was relatively liberal stuff... See what you think!
Donna Morey & Ron Miller "I Got You, You Got Me" (Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
Sadly, this '70s vanity album doesn't include any background info about either Donna Morey or Ron Miller, nor about their backup band or when and where these sessions took place. It's possible that Ms. Morey was the same Donna Morey who owned a country bar in Seattle called the Buckaroo, but I couldn't find any info to confirm this. Anyway, it's a nice record, with Miller & Morey one of the many early 'Seventes duos who dreamt of being the next Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Miller's a competent, efficeintly masculine singer, but the more emotive Morey is the one in the spotlight. Sometimes she's a dead ringer for Lynn Anderson, sometimes she sounds a little more like Loretta or like Donna Fargo -- overall, her performances feel a bit too controlled, self-conscious perhaps, but she was pretty solid, although when she and Miller harmonized she would shift into a lower register and while they sound good, there's not as much differentiation between their voices as you might be used to in country duets. I liked this record, though: it's not earthshaking, but it's earnest and authentic. It just is what it is. Most of the songs are covers, but the title track, "I Got You, You Got Me," may have been original to this record. The song is credited to composer-producer Ricci Moreno and I suspect that he may have actually been the producer for this album, though again there are no liner notes to verify this...
Al Morgan "...Sings Jealous Heart" (Gateway Records, 1974) (LP)
Piano player and crooner Al Morgan (1915-1989) made a mint when he recorded Jenny Lou Carson's classic "Jealous Heart" way back in 1949, selling over ten million copies of the country/pop crossover, with a big band version that many fans consider to be definitive. Born in Mount Adams, Kentucky, Morgan started his career playing piano in beer halls in Cincinnati and later in Chicago, where he was working when he recorded "Jealous Heart." He went on to work in radio and TV and later lost his money running his own nightclubs, but steadily kept performing throughout the decades. Indeed, according to his obituary, Morgan had a heart attack in 1989, but went back to playing club dates despite his doctor's orders, and had a relapse that finally did him in. This album was one of over three dozen he recorded over the years, and has a more distinctly country feel, with covers of Hank Williams and Cindy Walker songs, as well as a re-recording of "Jealous Heart" and some well-chosen pop-jazz standards, and even one song written by Morgan ("Walls Around My Heart") that's kinda nice. There is some full-band country accompaniment with pedal steel and whatnot, but Morgan and his piano take center stage. It helps to be a lounge/ballads fan to really get into this one, but it works for twangfans as well.
The Morgan Brothers "Mixing It Up Good" (Appleton Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by The Morgan Brothers)
Things were not what they seemed with the so-called Morgan Brothers, who were not Morgans, nor all three related. The trio hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin (near Oshkosh), where brothers Don Stiernberg and John Stiernberg (mandolin picker and banjo plunker, respectively) owned a music store... While at Ripon College, John met guitarist John Parrott, who was a transplant from New York. They formed a trio and delved into bluegrass music, though with an eclectic range seen in this scrappy set of traditional bluegrass tunes (stuff by Jim Eanes, Jimmy Martin and the Easter Brothers) augmented by a bunch of 'grassed-up cover tunes, songs by Dan Hicks, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, folkie Eric von Schmidt, Kurt Weill(!) and the Rolling Stones. If you're up for an evening with a twangy "Mack The Knife" alongside "As Tears Go By," this Midwestern trio might be for you. The one original song on here is called "Blue Missouri Sky," written by John Parrott, though he wasn't a Midwesterner. The band had a musical philosophy they called "pro grass," which meant they indulged in a diverse range of styles, but didn't necessarily bent non-bluegrass material into traditional-sounding styles -- just using the acoustic instruments was enough; they also prided themselves on not taking on made-up Southern accents or singing all twangy, but keeping their own Northern intonations.
The Morgan Brothers "Northern Lights" (Blue Ridge Productions, 1976) (LP)
Jan Morgan "That's Why I Smile" (Gateway Records, 1975) (LP)
A "solo" set by the wife of lounge singer Al Morgan, with him contributing piano and vocals on several songs...
The Jon Morgan Band "Home Town Heros And Honky Tonk Stars" (Golden Eagle Recordings, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Jon Morgan)
A hard-country/Southern rock bar band from Palmyra, Illinois, with some tracks recorded live at the Wooden Nickel Saloon in central Illinois.
Lee Morgan "Telling It Like It Is" (Buzz Records) (LP)
Willie Morrell "Lead Me Not Into Temptation" (Country Artists, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Finley Duncan)
Latter-day honkytonk by a guy from Milton, Florida... Morrell seems to have been the "talent" for a local publishing company -- variously identified as Friendly Finley Music, or Chu-Fin Music -- that was run by producer Finley Duncan, possibly as a kind of "song poem" enterprise. The songs are all by composers signed to that company: Bert Colwell, Jim Foster, Bill Floyd, Bonnie Parker, Gail Sheppard, and three songs by Becki Bluefield, who also sings a duet with Morrell, on her "Lovin' In The Same Old Way."
Nickie Morrison "Watch Your Mouth" (Charles Morrison Sounds Recording, 1975)
(Produced by Charles Morrison Sounds)
A nice example of the kind of under-the-radar recordings to be found on the peripheries of Nashville, balancing covers of hits by Kris Kristofferson and Joe South with a hefty dose of original material... Singer-organist Nickie Morrison recorded and self-released this vanity pressing, I assume, as a songwriter demo -- there are two originals by him on here, as well as three songs by a guy named Ray Marable, who shared the same publisher. The title track, which he included as the first song on both Side One and Side Two, is a little scary, meant to be a jaunty novelty tune in the style of Jerry Reed or Joe Stampley, about a guy who tells his wife, I love you baby but you better keep your mouth shut when I come home drunk -- clearly Morrison hoped that this would become a hit, but I'm glad it didn't. In contrast, the Marable songs are all pretty nice, your basic soulful, downtempo honkytonk weepers that Morrison sings in a robust, Charlie Rich-ish voice, with able backing from a studio crew that included Charlie McCoy, DJ Fontana and Russ Hicks. (...now you can see why I picked this one up, right?) Although he's not credited as a musician on this album, Marable apparently recorded at least one single under his own name -- Morrison never cracked into the big-time, but he did run a music store, selling pianos in Clarksville, TN for many years after this nice little record came out. Amazing how much talent there is in Tennessee, with guys like this as the guys who didn't make it! (Footnote: Mr. Morrison passed away in March, 2014, although this album was not mentioned in his brief obituary.)
Van Morrison "Tupelo Honey" (Warner Brothers, 1971)
(Produced by Van Morrison & Ted Templeman)
It's funny, but I think that looking back I got a lot of my love of country music from listening to my big sister play this hippie rock album (and others of the same era) over and over and over when I was a kid. Irish mystic rocker Van Morrison left his R&B band, Them, in the late '60s to pursue a solo career, scoring some big hits on American pop radio, including the manic single off this album, "Wild Night," which was one of a handful of his actual Top 40 songs. More alluring, and more durable perhaps, are the songs off the album's second side where he forged a canny, unprecedented mix of American country, rock and Celtic folk and soul. The title track, "Tupelo Honey," is a gorgeous recording, one of my favorite-ever songs, and is followed, perfectly, by the lilting "I Wanna Roo You," and the rest of this immortal, magical album. Morrison's music was a key building block in the growth of "free-form" FM radio in the '70s and, as I realized years later, an entry point into country twang for an untold number of rock fans. Great stuff.
Ann J. Morton "My Friends Call Me Annie" (Prairie Dust, 1976) (LP)
Although she didn't make much headway as a chart artist, Oklahoma-born Ann J. Morton had some success as a songwriter, placing a few tunes with '70s stars, folks like Johnny Duncan, Crystal Gayle, Charly Pride and Gene Watson, as well as writing several popular hymns and an advertising jingle or two. She was married to guitarist Larry Morton, who played in Danny Davis's band, Nashville Brass, and is also the sister of singer Jim Mundy, who was also a songwriter and jingle writer. Morton also recorded this fine, commercially-leaning album using an all-star, usual-suspects Nashville studio crew -- Johnny Gimble, Dave Kirby, Weldon Myrick, Hargus Robbins, Chip Young, etc. -- with the Cates Sisters providing some fine harmony vocals, and an up-and-coming Janie Fricke singing backup... It's good stuff, if you like uptempo, mid-'70s country pop. She came within shouting distance of the Top 40, but it wasn't quite in the cards for her, I guess. At any rate, this album, and a few stray singles make a nice recorded legacy. Recommended!
Moses "Live" (Red Dirt, 1972) (LP)
Legend has it that this band was the first to use the term "red dirt" to describe their music, helping define the roots-rock style of the Oklahoma/Texas indie-roots scene... The band was led by guitarist Steve Ripley, who many years later formed the band The Tractors. In the early '70s, Ripley was one of many artists in the orbit of a hippie-ish frathouse/commune in Stillwater, Oklahoma called The Farm, where guys hung out, got high and jammed, melding a variety of styles in a distinctly Oklahoma kinda way. Following Ripley's lead, countless bands began to use "red dirt" to describe their music, naming it after the iron-rich red soil of that region of Oklahoma, and creating a new nexus for roots rock and twang, independent of the major-label hubs of Nashville, New York and LA... And it all started here!
Rich Mounce "Country" (Music Records, 197--?)
A purely private pressing vanity album from the 1960s or '70s, with classic country covers of songs by Hank Williams, Ray Price and Roy Acuff... The label was from Chenoa, Illinois -- other than that, not much info out this guy, though I think he played pedal steel of a number of local/Midwestern indiebilly sessions...
Mt. Airy "Mt. Airy" (Thimble, 1973)
(Produced by Bob Hinkie)
An intriguingly eclectic collaboration between singer-songwriter Tom Chapin (Harry's brother!) and folk/bluegrass multi-instrumentalist Eric Weissberg. There are a few softer folk-grass tunes on here, but this album is more insistently an experimental-psychedelic set, with Weissberg's banjo pushed into some very interesting rock arrangements... There's a hippie-dippie edge, to be sure, but also some very creative musicmaking. Definitely worth a spin!
Mountain Bus "Sundance" (Good Records, 1971)
(Produced by Jim Hurst & Dave Hemphill)
This short-lived Chicago-area rock band was super-ultra-mega Grateful Dead-ish, though on this album they imitate the Grateful Dead of the era, the more accessible, concise Dead of the American Beauty and Workingman's Dead albums, with a distinctively country-sounding undercurrent. Sure, you could be dismissive of how derivative they are, though on the other hand if you like that era of the Dead and aren't all immersed in concert bootlegs and want to hear more stuff like what you enjoy, this album is a darn good option. Apparently they got embroiled in a legal battle with rocker Leslie West whose better-known band, Mountain, claimed infringement on their name, a drag on the Mountain Bus's momentum that pretty much 86'd them, although the Sundance album has remained in print on and off for several decades. Worth checking out if you're into this brand of hippiedelic roots-rock.
Mountain Fever "Mountain Fever" (1972) (LP)
This super hippiedelic band from Georgia was different from the Minnesota band listed below... Their set list included a few originals sandwiched between some of the best longhair roots-music tunes of the era: Michael Nesmith's "Some Of Shelly's Blues," "Helplessly Hoping" by CSN, "Mr. Space Man" by the Byrds, and Dan Hicks' sardonic classic, "How Can I Miss You (When You Won't Go Away?)." They also threw in some country and bluegrass oldies -- "Uncle Pen" and Hank Thompson's "Six Pack To Go." Pretty classy, if you ask me!
Mountain Fever "At The Peak" (1983) (LP)
This band from Brainerd, Minnesota divided their album between country music on one side, and rock oldies on the other... The cover songs are all pretty mainstream, with versions of "Livin' On Tulsa Time" and "The Y'All Come Back Saloon" (for twang) and "Runaround Sue" and "Love Potion #9" and (eek!) "The Rose" for rock/pop. Amid all the singalong stuff, though, there are also a couple of originals written by guys in the band: singer Paul Bloom contributes "Jilted Again" while bassist Jim Hanson wrote one called "Carry Me Back." I don't think any of these guys ever really tried to "make it" in show biz: the liner notes tell us that Bloom already had a day job as an art teacher at the local high school.
Mountain Smoke "On Blue Ridge" (Smoke Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Hurst & Dave Hemphill)
A decent progressive bluegrass band from Oklahoma City, OK... They are probably best remembered as an early band for future country star Vince Gill, who is credited as playing banjo, dobro and guitar, as well as singing harmony vocals (...and possibly lead on a couple of tunes? I think that's him on "Rocky Road Blues," but there aren't song-by-song credits to verify that guess...) These guys were okay, though not dazzling, and at this point were working pretty strictly in the bluegrass style -- their second record had more of an outlaw country vibe, and the closest thing here is a cover of Arlo Guthrie's stoner anthem, "Comin' Into Los Angeles"; otherwise, it's mostly a Country Gentlemen/Seldom Scene 'grass sound. Worth a spin, though, especially if you're a Vince Gill fan. Love that cover photo of him in longjohns and overalls!
Mountain Smoke "Lettin' It Slip Away" (Smoke, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Ford & Brad Smith)
An excellent mix of speedy bluegrass and thumpy, imperfect, pedal steel-laced, Jerry Jeff-styled indie-DIY twang... Dunno if this Oklahoma City band recorded anything else, but this record is a nice legacy. The title track is a nice composition by singer-bassist Russ Christopher, joined by other originals by guitarist Hal Clifford (the nostalgic "Mayes County," which I could hear being covered by some Nashville dude of the era...) and mandolinist/fiddler Jimmy Gyles who contributes an ambitious grassing-up of the classical canon in "Mozart Rondo." Of course there are a bunch of cover songs as well, an eclectic set that encompasses songs from Paul Craft, Bill Danoff, Rodney Dillard and Bob Wills, capped off by a swell medley track that eases its way into a nice version of "Fox On The Run." If you're looking for high-test hippie-era twang, these semi-longhaired Okies delivered the goods! (BTW - anyone know if the Jim Ford credited as the album's engineer was the same guy as the '70s West Coast singer-songwriter, or is that just a country music coincidence?)
Ed & Doris Mucklow "Country Dreamers" (Crystal Clear Sound, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Ed Mucklow)
Independent country stuff, with most of the songs written by Doris Mucklow... This album includes pedal steel by Maurice Anderson, with Dallas,Texas indie stalwart Marc Jaco on bass...
Muddy Bottom Boys "Slaughter On The Highway" (Grassroots Music, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mike O'Rourke)
Huh. I wonder if these bluegrassers from Portland, Oregon got any residuals from the O, Brother, Where Art Thou movie... Nah: they were probably too nice to make a fuss over the band name. Folks from Portland are like that.
Muddy Bottom Boys "Howdy, Neighbor" (Grassroots Music, 1981) (LP)
The Muddy River Ramblers "Where I'm Bound" (Descant Custom Recordings) (LP)
An ultra-indie bluegrass-twang set by a trio of youngsters from Brainerd, Minnesota... The liner notes say the three teens -- Tim Roggenkamp (fiddle, banjo, mandolin), Eric Roggenkamp (bass) and Cindy Kotula (guitar) -- got together as a band in 1978; this album couldn't have come out much later than that. The set list is all cover songs, but a nice range of tunes, ranging from truegrassers like Jim & Jesse and Flatt & Scruggs to Rodney Crowell's "Leavin' Louisiana In The Broad Daylight."
Maria Muldaur - see artist discography
Geoff Muldaur - see artist discography
Muleskinner "Muleskinner" (Warner/Sierra, 1973)
For some reason, I've misplaced my beat-up old copy of the Muleskinner LP. As I recall, though, in my senile haze, it's pretty similar to the Old & In The Way album reviewed below... A spirited, but somewhat raggedy acoustic album, recorded by what was meant to be a pickup band for a Bill Monroe gig on a local TV station. Maybe this isn't the most stellar bluegrass you'll ever hear, but it's certainly not the worst. The players were all top-flight traditionalists: David Grisman, Peter Rowan, flatpicker Clarence White, banjoist Bill Keith, and fiddler Richard Greene, who'd once been in Bill Monroe's band along with Peter Rowan. This is worth tracking down, just to check out what these guys were up to at the start of the decade, and also because it has an early example of Grisman working out his vision on a new acoustic music, on his original composition, "Opus 57," which later became a staple of his famed Quintet.
Muleskinner (David Grisman/Bill Keith/Clarence White/Peter Rowan) "Muleskinner Live" (Sierra, 1974)
I'm not sure what the difference between these two Muleskinner albums is; maybe this "soundtrack" album includes the complete live set or something... Apparently there's a video out, too, which is probably pretty cool. (Probably the best info online about this project comes from the Byrd Watcher website, which talks in great detail about Clarence White's career...)
Muleskinner "Muleskinner Live -- Original Television Soundtrack" (Rural Rhythm, 1998)
Dee Mullins "The Continuing Story" (Plantation, 1969)
(Produced by Shelby Singleton)
If you like bouncy country novelty songs, corny recitations and goofy Vietnam War-era topical songs, this one's got 'em all! The epitome of scattershot, see-what-sticks novelty-songization, this disc includes gems such as "I Am The Grass" (a first-person narrative, sung from the perspective of the lawn covering a cemetary plot); "The Continuing Story Of The Harper Halley PTA" (yes, indeed, a sequel to Jeannie C. Riley's hit, recorded for the same label); "War Baby," a semi-muddled song tying the benefits of the post-WW2 GI Bill to the patriotic efforts in Viet Nam, and "The Big Man," about a guy who was so full of himself he challenged God to prove who was stronger, with predictable results. Watch out for that lightning bolt! There are also a couple of melodramatic cheating songs about small towns and big rumors, all of it worthy of Porter Wagoner at his corniest and most over-the-top. The album's highlight might be "Beers," an endearing, nostalgic Tom T. Hall song about teenage drinking, which has the odd quality that no one suffers or is punished for enabling the underage boozing -- not the kids (who grow up okay, no car crashes or tragic DUIs) or the liquor store owners, who are praised for kindly turning a blind eye and letting the kids have their fun... Mullins, whose vocals remind me of Wynn Stewart, only recorded this one album and a few random singles. He didn't go very far, racking up a few singles in the Back Forty, but this record is certainly a classic of sorts... Country kitsch all the way!
Johnny Mullins "She's A Cheater Too" (Puget Sound Records) (LP)
(Produced by Gene Breeden, David Frizzell & Shelby Singleton)
This was the first album by indie-honky tonker Johnny Mullins, and it looks like it took him a little while to get it made... Three separate sessions were recorded in Bakersfield, Nashville and Vancouver, Washington's Ripcord Studios. I'm pretty sure Mullins himself was from Washington state -- this record label was in Snoqualmie, Washington and his fan club had an address in the tiny nearby town of Packwood. All but three of the songs on here are Mullins originals, with others offered by producer Shelby Singleton and some other off-the-radar dudes. Mullins had some success as a songwriter, composing one of Larry Booth's early singles.
Johnny Mullins "...Featuring Honky Tonk Fever" (Sound Track Records) (LP)
Larry Mullins & The Sugarbush Hill Boys "Close To Home" (Larry Mullins Records, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Hendrick)
Marinette, Wisconsin bandleader Larry Mullins plunked a bit on the banjo, but don't be fooled: this one's solid country, with a little splash of bluegrass on the side. Indeed, it's a great record, solidly in the post-Merle Haggard style of John Anderson and that generation of early '80s neo-tradders, though with a distinctly indie feel. All but two of the songs are Mullins originals, wiht the exceptions being a cover of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose" and gospel tune that closes things out. He pays tribute to his Rhinelander roots on "The Hodag Song," though most tracks have a more universal honkytonk orientation, as well as a couple of sentimental tunes in the 1930's style, most notably "Mother's Song," which is one of the best country homages to motherhood that I've had the pleasure to hear... The sessions were a little flatly produced, but despite the lack of instrumental oomph, these are really good songs, with really nice vocals. Two of his brothers, Marty Mullins and Rick Mullins, add backing vocals, building a fine family-harmony sound on several songs. If you get a chance, check this one out!
Larry Mullins & The Sugarbush Hill Boys "Bringin' It Home" (Larry Mullins Records, 1982) (LP)
Independently released country and country-gospel... Side One features kind of folkie material -- work songs about lumberjacking and in praise of the Wisconsin forests, as well as some old-school heartsongs such as "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again." Side Two includes a huge medley of classic gospel tunes such as "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder," "Farther Along" and "Life's Railway To Heaven..." My kinda gospel, to be sure!
Bob Murphey "Bob Murphey Country" (Lemon Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Andrews)
This is just a plain old, straight up weird record... unique, to be sure. Basically, this is a backporch recording of a grouchy old coot from Nacogdoches, Texas, bitching about everything from the Federal government and insurance companies to rattlesnakes and the price of snuff tobacco... He mutters crochetty bon mots in an old coot accent while young'uns nearby burst into laughter, and acoustic guitarist Cary Banks "accompanies" him, basically just strumming aimlessly while Murphey rambles on and on. I gather that rancher Bob Murphey, who was also a rural lawyer who had once served as the district attorney for Nacogdoches County, was quite a local character... I'm not sure how well his humor translates, though... I guess this is worth listing here, though maybe mostly as a warning to other gulls like myself who see the word "country" in the title and think there might actually be some music on here. There isn't. But at least you can be introduced to one of East Texas's more colorful characters.
Michael Martin Murphey - see artist discography
The Music Farmers Old Time String Band "Nothin' After 1910" (Farmers Records) (LP)
Along with the Whiskey Creek Old Time String Band and fiddler Kenny Hall, the Music Farmers were at the nexus of Fresno, California's 1970/1980s old-timey and bluegrass folk scene, with a fluid membership who were involved in several local music projects.
The Music Farmers Old Time String Band "Things Are Lookin' Up" (Farmers Records) (LP)
The Muskrats "A Freaky Kind Of Country Rock And Roll Band" (Enterprise Records, 1972) (LP)
This British country-rock quartet was formed in 1969 by bassist Derek "Twiggy" Minton, and gigged around in the UK, Germany and elsewhere on the Continent. On this album, they played a couple of Merle Haggard tunes, along with the inevitable run-throughs of "Proud Mary" and "Me And Bobby McGee," and several other popular country covers. The album also includes three original songs, all co-written by guitarists Terry Allen and Pete Willsher, veterans of the UK's early '60s country scene who toured with the band (and may have played on this album.) These song include the title track, "A Freaky Kind Of Country Rock And Roll Band," as well as "Meanstreak" and "Pretty Girl Jane."
Hick Music Index