Hippiebilly twangster Larry Hosford has been a fixture on the Central California coast/Santa Cruz music scene since his highschool days when he wrote some songs for a '60s garage band called the E-Types; in the '70s he recorded two of the finest independent country albums of the decade, and reemerges from time to time to keep the indie flame alive. Personally, I love Larry's voice, and it's always a pleasure to hear his creaky crooning, as well as his unique lyrical sensibility. Here's a quick look at his work...
The E-Types "Introducing The E-Types" (Sundazed, 1996)
Inspired by the Beatles, the E-Types were a popular rock band in California's Central Coast region (playing from Santa Cruz by the ocean into the farmland interior as far afield as Fresno...) When Hosford joined the group in 1965, they were already well-etablished, and his contributions are documented here in a few songs he wrote for the band. He stayed with the E-Types until they disbanded in '68 or so, and played with various local musicians and a few bands. In the early '70s Hosford signed with Leon Russell's Shelter Records label, producing the two gems listed below...
Larry Hosford "AKA Lorenzo" (ABC/Shelter, 1975) (LP)
A classic! Larry Hosford is one of the great alterna-country MIAs, and the songs from his two classic albums just scream out for a single-CD reissue. This album, in particular, is packed with great tunes, including "Taking Applications," "Kings and Queens" and "Wimmin's Got Me Swimmin" ("...in a pool of tears/my baby's got me started, but she won't shift my gears...the lights on Lover's Highway all say stop/if I had another beer, I'd pop its top"). Also worth noting is the pedal steel from Salinas-area pedal steel player Ernie Hagar, who worked with Hosford on his first two albums. If you ask me, Hosford's best songs were easily on a par with Harlan Howard's work from the late '50s and 1960s, demonstrating a wily understanding of the craft of the novelty song, mixing clever couplets with slice-of-life asides. Combined with Hosford's distinctly un-slick hick vocals, it's a winning package. Highly recommended.
Larry Hosford "Cross Words" (ABC/Shelter, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Dino Airali & Larry Hosford)
Another great, great indie country record. The gimmick with this album is a series of short acoustic bookends, crossword puzzle clues to words a relationship on the skids ("fight," "goodbye," "the end", etc...) In addition, there are several great Hosford originals, though the writing is a little bit denser than on the first album, and only a couple that are just plain outright catchy toe-tappers. A shame his Okie-billy ode, "Salinas" never made it onto LP, too... Plenty of great musicians on board as well, including a mix of Northern California locals and studio pros. Highly recommended!
Larry Hosford "Right On Time" (1995)
(Produced by Beans Sousa, Jim Matteson & Larry Hosford)
Larry Hosford "Windjammin' " (Windjammer, 2000)
Well, it looks like Hosford isn't exactly as "M.I.A." as once believed... (Somebody told me once that he'd moved to Vegas and was driving a cab there or something like that...) Anyway, turns out he moved back to Santa Cruz and holds down a regular gig as the house band at a local bar called the Windjammer. I'm not as into this album as the classic discs above -- the production is too poppy and detracts from his otherwise still-groovy songwriting. But old fans might wanna check this out... Any Hosford is good Hosford, if you ask me!
Larry Hosford "High On Livin' " (Hoe Maid, 2007)
Santa Cruz, California's legendary alt-country pioneer Larry Hosford is still keepin' it real, recording kooky songs with his signature sense of humor. This disc, which was originally recorded in 1987, is classic Hosford country: playful, willfully goofy, steeped in old-school country but clearly anchored in the present-day, this is real-live DIY twang, just as all his other records have been. This may mainly appeal to long-time fans, but if you count yourself among that number, you'll definitely want to pick this disc up, not just for "new" gems like "Ben Henry" and "February Weather," but also because Hosford has added newly-remastered bonus tracks from his notorious, long out-of-print 45, which has the hilariously un-PC "Salinas" (a huge KFAT classic, back in the day...), backed with the still-uncomfortable "Hitchhiking In Guyana," about the Jonestown massacre. It's worth it for "Salinas" alone, but it's also a nice signpost to check out the earlier work of one of alt-country's elders.
Larry Hosford "Momentarily Yours" (4th Street Records, 2012)
(Produced by Larry Hosford & Adam Zerbe)
Another great, idiosyncratic set from this oddball old-timer. Here, Hosford is backed (as usual) by talented but little-known players -- I recognized Rick Shea's name, but that's about it -- and the locals-only vibe just adds to the authenticity and charm of his work. Nice guitars and pretty pedal steel are framed by unassuming, understated accompaniment, and the lyrics are classic Hosford, a mix of comedy and easygoing reflections on the imperfections of humanity. Hosford is one of those guys who's always had an "old man" voice throughout his career, and now has really grown into it -- not sure how old he is, but he must be pushing about 70 -- and he wears it well, sounding pretty much exactly like he did thirty-plus years ago. Hosford is, admittedly, an acquired taste, but longtime fans will love this record -- you youngsters might like it too, and if so, you'll want to track down those old LPs, too. Welcome back, Larry!
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