This engaging collection of unearthed Americana is culled from the moment when the 60s were rolling into the 70s, rock & country were in a prolonged kiss, and Gram Parsons was a melancholy cosmic cowboy struggling to break through in a genre he had helped conceive.
If this album were purely about listening pleasure it would deliver on that merit alone. The songs range from barroom laments driven by familiar country tropes, to warbling love songs that owe a tip of the hat to Joan Baez. Short on polish and long on charm, the record is lush with pedal steel, twang, tight harmonies and satisfying melodrama, laid down in tiny studios and bedroom sessions across the vast landscape of America.
But the pleasure is even deeper in a historical context: it gives you that time capsule feeling. Numero Group are pros at creating engrossing musical ethnographies (this is their 58th such album of mined musical treasures.) This record captures a time and place in American music – below the bright national stage of the Eagles, Dylan, Neil Young, The Dead, these musicians were cranking, hustling, and strumming in obscurity. This compilation shines a light on hyper-local, DIY musicians and cracks open the iron gate of the music biz machine in the 1970s so we can enjoy these gems and consider them as participants in the musical conversation of their time.
Though this record contains no Gram Parsons, the label has positioned all the collected songs under the umbrella of his influence. According to the liner notes he hated the term “country rock,” preferring to refer to himself as a roots musician, gleaning influence from gospel, country, rock, and his southern upbringing. Whether the included musicians directly felt Parsons’ influence, or whether they came to similar conclusions on their own we can’t know, but the tunes survive, and the vibe abides.