The "twangcore" and "Americana" boom of today owes a large debt to the shaggy twangers and no-hit wonders of yesteryear -- this section looks at the hippiebilly and stoner bands and a few odd, random artists from the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, back before there was anything called "alt-country." This page covers the letter "B."
Don Bach "Yesterday & Today" (Network Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by W. R. Crighler & Leonard Shaw)
Singer Don Bach recorded the hit rock/rockabilly pop single of "Cheyenne" way back in 1961, a song he reprises here on the "Yesterday" side of this album, along with some other oldies, such as Carl Belew's "Three Cheers For The Loser." Side Two ("Today") showcases more contemporary material (though mostly pretty obscure stuff) presumably in a more mainstream country mode, although to the untrained ear there isn't that much difference in the still-pretty-stripped-down arrangements. Bach sounds more confident on the slower songs, reminding me of classic country baritones such as Ferlin Husky and Claude Gray, and struggles on the slightly more uptempo tunes. Nonetheless, the last song on the album is a real winner: Jack Barlow's "Rather Fight Than Switch" is a heartfelt anthem sung in honor of traditional, old-school country music, given a pleasantly goofy novelty-song feel with an arrangement that includes perky backing vocals by the Anita Kerr Singers. The Network label was from Des Moines, Iowa, though this album was recorded at Nashville's RCA studios, with both A-list and B-list pickers, including Buddy Emmons, Chips Moman, and Hargus Robbins. Overall, a pleasant, earthy album sung by a soulful old-timer who had a real feel for country soul.
Back Alley Bandits "Back Alley Bandits" (London Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Chips Moman & Dan Penn)
One of those odd, only-in-the-'Seventies kinda albums, this is a mix of (some) twang along with amorphous AOR and echoes of Muscle Shoals soul... The band hailed from Atlanta, Georgia and got caught in the orbit of Southern soul auteur Dan Penn, who produced this album and provided two songs. with most of the others written by lead singers Larry Bowie and Thetis Sealey. The sounds are far-flung, though, and this doesn't really hold together that well as an album -- it veers from decently mellow alterna-twang ("Rainbow And A Pony") to fairly dreadful, loose-knit pop meanderings, including several numbers with female lead vocals that seems to take their cues from Linda Ronstadt or (to a lesser degree) Joan Baez. Larry Bowie I like as a lead singer -- Thetis Sealey and Penelope Webb, much less so. Regardless, there are a couple of songs on here that have a nice, legitimately country feel, though not so much that I'd say you gotta go run out and find this record right away. Might be of more interest to Dan Penn's fans than to us country folk.
Back Pocket "Buzzard Bait" (Joyce Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Pat Robinson & Pat Maroshek)
A one-off collaboration with various Southern California pickers, this band was led by songwriter Pat Robinson, who wrote all the material and sang lead in an amiable, lightly nasal twang that occasionally takes on a fragility that's suggestive of Neil Young. Also on board were the core members of the early '70s country-rock band, Swampwater -- guitarist John Beland, fiddler Gib Guilbeau and steel player Thad Maxwell -- as well as bluegrasser Larry McNeely picking banjo, and drummer Pat Maroshek, who I think was considered the band's co-leader with Robinson. The music is light, bouncy, bubblegummy country-rock material similar to some early Eagles recordings or the airier side of the Byrds -- kinda lightweight and lighthearted, but decent for the genre and a fine example of what the twangsters were up to at the time. This band never really went anywhere, but the album's worth checking out if you're a big fan of the late-vintage Burrito Brothers, or just SoCal country-rock in general. (And dig the so-very SoCal liner notes dedication to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard... groovy, man!!)
Back Porch Boogie Band "Crankin' Up!" (Southern Star Records, 1981-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill HUnter, Joe Spivey & D. W. McKnight)
A down-home twang band from Shreveport, Louisiana, featuring Roland Hall and Jim Buckelew on vocals and guitar, along with bassist Rick Hagler and Kerry Hunter on drums Dunno exactly when thie one came out, but it must have been some time before they (temporarily) broke up in 1982... The group reformed (several times) has been together for years, well into the 2010s, and has self-released a CD or two in their time.
Michael Bacon "Bringing It Home" (Monument, 1973) (LP)
Wait - what? - seriously? This guy was Kevin Bacon's brother? His older brother, the soft-rock songwriter and film music composer? The other guy in the Bacon Brothers band?? No... seriously... That can't be right... That's like... no degrees of separation!! Or... is it one? I was never totally clear on how that worked... Anyway, the Bacon brothers were originally from Pennsylvania, and while Kevin pursued an acting career, Michael went into music, including an early partnership with Larry Gold that resulted in an earlier album back in 1970. Really, he's more of a "pop" guy, but since his later album (reviewed below) had so many cool roots music dudes on it, I had to check it out.
Michael Bacon "Love Song Believer" (Monument, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Bacon, Rob Galbraith & Don Potter)
Okay, consider yourself warned: despite a string of promising names listed in the liners -- Buzz Cason, Fred Foster, Larry Jon Wilson and Mac Gayden, among others -- this is a truly dreadful, overly-slick '70s pop album, evoking a summit meeting of Jimmy Buffett and James Taylor, slumming after hours in some Memphis studio. The songs and the arrangements and the entire general vibe are pretty bland and awful, overblown and underwhelming at the same time, and not much twang, even with songs such as "Texas Cowboy" and "Yodeling Sam." The only tune even halfway worth revisiting is the subtle, acoustic weeper, "A Simple Argument," but mostly this is a pretty skippable record. Really. Not of any real interest.
Badlands "Badlands" (Rite Records, 1979) (LP)
Glen Bailey "First Edition" (Yatahey Records, 1982) (LP)
Jerry Don Bailey & Allyx "One Little Cloud" (Dax Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Don Bailey)
Without doubt, this is a truly oddball indiebilly album. Bailey seems to have been from Russellville, Arkansas and recorded this album there, but released this album on the Houston-based Dax label. Apparently, he eventually moved to Texas (although it turns out there were an awful lot of guys named Jerry Bailey from Arkansas, so I'm not entirely 100% sure if I've got the right guy...) Anyway, this is a tinny, thinly-recorded set, a mix of Jerry Reed-ish raunch and spacy philosophizing, with a few really good honkytonk songs packed in the middle. Particularly noteworthy is a Willie-esque barroom weeper, "That Door" -- indeed, if you can overlook the weak-sounding production, there are actually some pretty good songs on here. By the way, you might be forgiven for assuming that "Allyx" was the name of some female backup singer -- it's not, though: actually that's the name of his band. Go figure. If you're into outsider art, country style, you might wanna check this one out. No date is given on the album -- anyone have more info about these session?
Jerry Don Bailey "Blacktop River" (Dax Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Don Bailey)
Tim Bailey "Her Husband Says I Can't" (Sounds Of Country/Part 2 Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Shockley)
A honky tonker from Manhattan, Montana, Tim Bailey went to Nashville to record this album, with studio assist from pros like Jack Eubanks and Leo Jackson on guitar, Hoot Hester playing fiddle and Larry Sasser on steel... The material is all originals, presumably written by Bailey (although there are no songwriting credits on the album itself...) And it's really good. Some killer weepers and cryin' in your beer music, particualrly the title track, which is a doozy. Recommended!
Gidget Baird "Sweet Memories" (CCHB, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by John Macy)
I have zero info on this Colorado-based artist, except that her band includes indiebilly Timothy P. Irvin of the group Rural Route 3, and based on the quality of his records, I'm guessing that this one's good and rootsy, too.
Becky Baker "Becky" (Southern Heritage, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Boles)
Baker DeCocq "...And Friends" (Mountain Music Company, 1982) (LP)
The Michigan-based duo of Bob DeCocq and Marshell Baker led this small band for about a year, from 1984-85... DeCocq had previously been in rootsy groups such as the Houston, Texas's Shake Russell Band, the Country Line Band, and the TNS Blues Band, in the early '70s.
Johnny Baker "Songs Of The Rodeo" (Audio Arts, 1964) (LP)
In the 1950s, over a decade before Moe Bandy, Chris LeDoux or Pake McEntire hung up their spurs, Missouri rodeo rider Johnny Baker became, as legend has it, the first professional cowpuncher to devote himself full-time to singing rodeo-related music. This was his first full-length LP, with a brace of songs so packed with with rodeo lingo that they had to include a glossary with the album. Keep loose, but hold on tight!
Johnny Baker "Let Her Buck" (1965) (LP)
Johnny Baker "Rodeoin' With Johnny Baker" (1966) (LP)
Johnny Baker "The Rodeo In The Sky" (1974) (LP)
The Baldknobbers - see artist profile
Luke Baldwin "The Tattoo On My Chest" (Flying Fish, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Luke Baldwin, Tom Mitchell, Tony Markellis & Michael Couture)
A classic 'Seventies hippiebilly/outlaw album from a guy who was pals with latterday hobo-poets Utah Phillips and Bodie Wagner, and had David Bromberg and Jay Ungar jamming with him on this disc... Luke Baldwin was originally a Michigander, and like many folks of his era, he wound up heading West and was part of the mid-'70s SF Bay Area's music scene. Before that he was a politico and poet, doing draft counselling for college-age kids and other political work. He worked odd jobs during the '70s but eventually returned to school, getting a doctorate from Harvard and becoming an expert on literacy and childhood development issues. Folk fans may recognize Baldwin for having written the liner notes to Utah Phillips' Good Though album, and Mr. Phillips returns the favor here, lauding Baldwin as a hippie-era Renaissance man and kindred spirit. As far as I know, this was the only album he recorded... though I'd be pleased to hear about any other albums he played on.
Ace Ball "Ace Colorado Country" (JB Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Little Roy Wiggins & John Nicholson)
Born Arthur Chester Balch, Ace Ball was an old-school West Texas honkytonk singer who worked in various regional bands and had recorded several singles as a solo artist before moving to Colorado in the late '60s. He also worked as a country deejay, notably for stations KPUB and KIDN, in Pueblo. Subtitled "...Ace Ball Sings Gene Bloomfield And Some Of His Own," this was his only full-length album. One side of the record was written by Imogene Bloomfield, while Side Two is entirely composed by Ball, who looks to have been an old-timer when this album was made. (Thanks to the Pueblo City Limits blog for additional info about this artist...!)
Jim Ball & The Mountain Boys "I'm A Lonesome Fugitive" (ACA-Album Company of America) (LP)
A country old-timer who just kept plugging away for decades, fiddler James Norman, aka "Jim" Ball (1916-1991) played in a number of hillbilly and mountain music stringbands, dating back to the pre-honkytonk era. On this album, which looks like it's from the early 1970s, be is backed by Roger Mullhollen and Roger Ball, and works his way through a delightful variety of styles, starting off with some Lefty Frizzell-ish vocals on "I'm So Afraid (Of Losing You Again)," moving on to western oldies such as "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" and squeaky fiddle tunes such as "Cacklin' Hen," gospel tunes and even a raspy, rough-cut rendition of Tony Joe White's "Poke Salad Annie." Alongside craggy old-timey tunes we hear loose, rock-flavored, bar-band electric guitars, all suggesting a relaxed, wide-armed approach to musicmaking, which embraces bluegrass, honkytonk and jam-band music alike. Ball apparently cut at least one other album, though I haven't tracked that one down yet...
Marcia Ball "Circuit Queen" (Capitol Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Neil Wilborn)
Although she's now known as a blues player, early on pianist and singer Marcia Ball was singing country music in the Texas outlaw scene, notably with the band Freda & The Firedogs. Her solo debut was an interesting mix of Emmylou-ish country twang, countrypolitan, and a hint of the New Orleans-style blues she came to specialize in, further down the road. The hallmarks of Emmylou's "hot band" crew are easily heard, from the production style (and accompaniment by Emmylou cohorts such as Albert Lee, Buddy Emmons and Rodney Crowell) to some of the repertoire (including a version of Crowell's "Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight"). This album won't blow your mind, but it's an intriguing footnote to Ball's career, and dovetails nicely with other records of the era. Worth checking out.
Larry Ballard - see artist profile
Michael Ballew - see artist profile
Bamboo "Bamboo" (Elektra, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Allan Emig)
An odd and intriguing footnote to the career of acoustic blues revivalist Dave "Snaker" Ray, who took a break from his gigs with Koerner, Ray & Glover to plug in and go electric, teaming up with a fella named with Will Donicht for a rock/folk/country outing that weaves through a variety of styles, including starry-eyed folk-rock and psychedelic blues, along with a smidge of country-rock twang. The Elektra house production sound(s) suffuse these tracks, bringing the work of cosmic balladeer Tom Rush to mind, as well as the Doors' zonked-out, indulgent rock... Twangfans will want to check out the tunes spotlighting pedal steel player Red Rhodes -- notably "The Virgin Albatross" and the spacier "Odyssey Of Thaddeus Baxter," which is one of the most musically rich, satisfying tracks on the album. This is definitely a super-duper, hippie-spacy set, with plenty of questionable moments, but some nice experimental stuff on it as well. Definitely worth a spin, though if you're looking specifically for country stuff, there's only a little bit on here.
Banana & The Bunch "Mid-Mountain Ranch" (Raccoon, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Stuart Kutchins)
A truly groovy solo album by keyboardist Lowell "Banana" Levinger, an original member of The Youngbloods... Here, he indulges a passion for old-time mountain music, ala The Carter Family, including a gorgeous version of "Ocean Of Diamonds." I think I still have a vinyl copy of this floating around somewhere; be great if the powers-that-be put it out in digital form someday... - oh, wait! they did! Levinger also cut an album under the name Noggins, but I haven't heard that one yet...
The Band -- see artist profile
The Band On The Barroom Floor "Recorded Live At The Gilded Garter" (Award Reconds, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Saalwaechter)
A very low-rent live album by a country/rock bar-band with strong bluegrass roots. This set was recorded at the Gilded Garter nightclub in Central City, Colorado, a faux-Gay '90s tourist trap that attained mild infamy for hosting an then-unknown Bob Dylan in the early 1960s. I dunno much about these guys -- their main instrumental ooompf seems to have come from fiddler Harvey Gossman and banjo picker Paul Bretz, adequate pickers who are showcased on the album's bluegrass-y first side, which opens with a torturously long runthrough of "Orange Blossom Special." The second half of the record gets into a more rock'n'roll/outlaw country vibe, with clunky but sometimes charming covers of Waylon Jennings' "Are You Ready For The Country," Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," and yet another country-lounge cover of "Aime" (misspelled as "Amy" on the label...) None of these perfomances are really all that great, but the record oozes authenticity, particularly when you hear the singer try and cajole audience members onto the dance floor, or when you hear the applause echo out into what sounds like a rather cavernous space.
Bandera "Knights" (MCA, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Leon Tsilis & Pat Higdon)
A little-known Southern rock band formed by California-born jack-of-all-trades Lawrence Shoberg (aka Lore Orion) who started the band while struggling in late-'70s Nashville. These guys tried to go national but fell short, despite signing with MCA and recording their lone album, which is pretty much just a rock record. There isn't much country in their sound, which is mainly build around shrill vocals, a sludgy rhythm section and Allman-esque twin guitars that rarely show a glimmer of originality or a distinctive tone. Fans of .38 Special or Rossington/Collins, et. al., might enjoy this rather workmanlike album, but nothing here really moved me. One of the band's principal songwriters, Lore Orion, was also a visual artist who apparently designed album covers for the New Riders Of The Purple Sage (as well as the one for this album) and also wrote children's books before concentrating on music. He had modest success pitching songs in Nashville, initially with a Top Ten hit for Bill Anderson in 1976 ("That's What Made Me Love You") and again after Bandera broke up, when Chris Ledoux and Tim McGraw covered a few tunes (though nothing that wound up as a single...) One of these songs, "Illegal," is on this album in its original form as a sort of clunky redneck reggae. All in all, a pretty negligible disc, but the iceberg-tip of a remarkable career. Footnote: although Orion wasn't actually from Bandera, TX, he did wind up moving there, following the "outlaw" trail to Austin and putting down roots nearby.
Denzil Bandy "...And The Country Rock" (Johnny Dollar Productions) (LP)
A middle-aged factory worker from the rust-belt manufacturing town of Mansfield, Ohio, Denzil Bandy (1930-2003) was also a founding member of the Ohio Country Western Music Association and led his band, The Country Rock, for several years. This album opens with Bandy singing his own song, "Factory Worker," where he philosophically describes life at the General Motors stamping plant known as the Mansfield-Ontario Metal Center, where he worked for over thirty years. He sings lead on three of the album's songs, and hands over vocal chores on some songs to his guitarist Brad Bogner, and to family members Jerry Bandy and Ernie Bandy on a few tunes. Nothing fancy here, just a nice, earnest set with traces of the country-pop sound of the '70s, a few cover songs and some nice originals -- modest musicianship and a solid, down=to-earth presentation overall.
Moe Bandy -- see artist profile
Banks & Shane "Who Is It?" (Oblivion Records) (LP)
An odd mix of bluegrass and jugband/Dixieland novelty songs, mixing spunky picking with goofy comedy routines, and an eclectic repertoire that ranges from Kenny O'Dell and Bob Dylan to bluegrass oldies such as Don Reno's "Dixie Breakdown," and the anti-billiards tongue-twister "Trouble In River City," from the film "The Music Man." These clean-cut longhairs became fixtures on the Atlanta, Georgia scene, playing at all kinds of venues (several tracks on this album were recorded live at a venue called Joe's Bar & Grill, in Atlanta...) and eventually starting up a restaurant of their own, and recording about a dozen albums over the years. The original group featured Paul Shane on vocals and guitar, Burgess Banks on banjo, Rick Waters on mandolin, along with a bunch of others... The humor's pretty strained, but they sound like they were having a lot of fun.
Banks & Shane "Live At Symphony Hall" (Oblivion Records) (LP)
R. C. Bannon "Have Some R.C." (Aura Cee Records, 1976-?) (LP)
A lesser light in the glossy early '80s Nashville scene, R. C. Bannon had a few minor hits and recorded a handful of major-label albums, but is perhaps best remembered as the guy who married Barbara Mandrell's sister, Louise, and recording a few duets with her. When this indie album was released int eh mid-1970s, Bannon still a struggling local, doing bar band gigs in the Pacific Northwest, mostly around Seattle. It was recorded at the legendary Ripcord Records studio, but released on Bannon's own one-off Aura Cee label. All of the songs but two were Bannon originals, with covers of "Proud Mary" and "Delta Dawn" being the exceptions. Two tracks were recorded in Bakersfield, at the Buck Owens Studios, with Owens protegee Mayf Nutter producing the session.
Rue Barclay "The Nashville Scene: Working Man Blues And Other Country and Western Favorites" (Crown Records, 1969) (LP)
This is kind of a weird and wonderful record, one of the unique byproducts of the fly-by-night ethos of cheapo labels such as Crown Records which issued innumerable knockoff albums alongside odd offerings by little-known artists like Rue Barclay. Unlike many such albums, this one doesn't highlight sketchy of covers of hits of the day: other than a cover of Merle Haggard's "Working Man Blues," the material seems to be mostly original, with kooky permutations of familiar country themes (boozing, losing, etc.) What makes this record really great, though, is its innate not-greatness: Barclay was best known as a bluegrass music producer, and was a dubious vocalist at best, his singing full of all kinds of tics and foibles. Consequently, the band behind him just kind of goes nuts, jamming and improving noodly rock'n'roll riffs like they scored this weird gig but they just didn't care how it turned out. Like many of these old LPs, the band was made up of unidentified, anonymous studio pickers and doubtless included some top country-rock talent - there's a definite hippie-rock undercurrent to a lot of their electrified twanging around. In short, this disc has a nice, so-bad-it's-good flavor to it, and it's definitely worth a spin, both for laughs and for genuine country twang. As seen below, Rue Barclay continued to perform and recorded at least one more album, although by that time he'd shifted to a less secular style.
Rue Barclay "Country And Folk Gospel Songs" (Christian Faith Records) (LP)
The Bar D Wranglers "Live At The Bar-D Ranch" (Frontier Records) (LP)
Beginning in 1969, The Bar D Wranglers were the house band for the Bar D Chuckwagon, a steakhouse restaurant in Durango, Colorado. Their repertoire included western oldies, folk tunes, country comedy, gospel and a smidge of more modern stuff as well. Like many "dude ranch" bands, the Wranglers recorded innumerable souvenir albums, some with distinct themes such as albums devoted to cowboy songs or gospel material. The Wranglers have played continuously, albeit with an ever-changing lineup, for over four decades, and I'm sure a lot of talented musicians have passed through their ranks, although I haven't researched just who was in the band when -- it's hard enough figuring out when each of these LPs came out!
The Bar D Wranglers "Movin' Slow" (Frontier Records) (LP)
The Bar D Wranglers "The Wild And The Lonely" (Frontier Records) (LP)
The Bar D Wranglers "Show Time At The Bar D Ranch" (Frontier Records) (LP)
The Bar D Wranglers "I Believe" (Frontier Records) (LP) #1007
The Bar D Wranglers "Way Out There" (Frontier Records) (LP)
The Bar D Wranglers "Songs Of The West" (Frontier Records) (LP)
Bobby Bare -- see artist profile
Barefoot Jerry -- see artist profile
The Barleen Trio "Country Favorites With Curt Burrell" (Eve In The Sky Sound, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Miotke)
The family band trio of siblings Barbara, Brenda and Jeff Barleen started out singing in their Kansas hometown, but pursued music professionally after the family moved to Missouri and they became park of the Ozark Mountain country scene. They were bolstered by the addition of singer-fiddler Curt Burrell, who married Barbara and emerged as a solo vocalist. By the time this album was recorded, they had moved to a gig in Estes Park, Colorado -- where they ran their own venue -- and they're joined on the recording sessions by steel player Donny Cook and lead guitar Gary Cook. The Barleens recorded numerous other albums, though most of these came out as cassette-only releases.
Don Barnes & The Countrymen "And For Our Next Request..." (Strings, 1974) (LP)
Another one of those singing lawmen that we know and love... Don C. Barnes was the Sheriff of Frederick County, Maryland for nearly a decade, from 1974-1982. During the same period, he also led a twang band called The Countrymen, playing legion halls and county fair gigs, also cutting several albums, at least two of which featured his wife, Debbie Williams.
Don Barnes & Debbie Williams "Nashville 709" (Strings) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Solomon)
Don Barnes was the sheriff of Frederick, Maryland, and also apparently a decent country musician, moonlighting as the leader of the house band of the local Silver Dollar Lounge, with singer Debbie Williams fronting his band The Countrymen. One of my honky-tonk heroes, Melba Montgomery, championed this Maryland-based duo, and got her husband Jack Solomon to produce their album. The record was sponsored by radio station
Don Barnes & Debbie Williams "Yesterday And Today" (Strings) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Troy)
Tom Barnes "Don't Leave Me In The Springtime" (Barnes Stormer Productions) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Casolari)
An all-original set from Illinois, with a dozen tunes by songwriter Tom Barnes, with steel guitar from Bob Menard, lead guitar by Jack Poole Jr., and fiddle by George Portz... A lot of original material, though the best song title is "I Always Write What's Always Wrong."
Will Barnes "Texas Music In My Blood" (Armadillo, 1977) (LP)
Will Barnes "No Place But Texas" (Armadillo, 1973) (LP)
Will Barnes "Texas In My Blood" (Bear Family, 1999)
Don Barnett & The Nu-Jays "Don Barnett & The Nu-Jays" (Brave Records) (LP)
Bandleader Don Barnett was a regional performer from Illinois with a reputation as a hotshot guitarist... After recording several singles, he self-released a series of LPs with his group the Nu-Jays. These included a mix of country and surfy/garage-y rock, and a number of showcase instrumentals... I'm not sure, but I think this was his first album.
Don Barnett & The Nu-Jays "Just Another Good Time... At The Lake N' Park Inn" (Medallion Records) (LP)
Home base for the Nu-Jays was a place called the Lake N' Park Inn, in Palos Hills, Illinois, where they apparently played for several years. I'm not sure when this album came out (no dates on any of his records) but from the fashions and choices of cover songs, I'd guess it was somewhere in the early-to-mid '70s.
Don Barnett & The Nu-Jays "Live At The Lake N' Park Inn, Volume Two" (Medallion Records) (LP)
(Produced by Don Barnett)
This disc includes lots of country cover songs, with different bandmembers singing lead, including Barnett, as well as Lois Kaye and a guy named Jim Lauderdale who was apparently NOT the Jim Lauderdale we know, since the liner notes say this guy passed away during the making of this album.
Don Barnett "The Magic Guitar Of Don Barnett" (Medallion Records) (LP)
Don Barnett "They Call The Wind Maria" (Ovation Records, 1976) (LP)
Mark Barnett "Opryland USA" (Nashville Album Productions) (LP)
(Produced by Porter Wagoner)
Banjo picker Mark Barnett was a cast member at the Opryland USA venue, and musical partners with fiddler Mack Magala, who was a longtime member of Porter Wagoner's band. Magala plays on here, as well as other Nashville regulars such as Stu Basore, and Fred Newell... There are a lot of showcase instrumentals, also an outlaw tune or two, like "Luckenbach, Texas" and some scary stuff, too, like a version of "The Gambler" and Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are." A good portrait of real working musicians plugging away in the heart of Music City.
Mickey Barnett "Country Hits" (Little Giant, 1965) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "...Sings The Hits Of Johnny Cash" (Hilltop, 1966) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Pickwick, 1967) (LP)
More of a folk-pop covers album. One nice touch: the liner notes consistently misspell Art Garfunkel's last name.
Mickey Barnett (And Country Road) "Folsom Prison Blues" (Design, 1967) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Rainy Night In Georgia" (Design, 1967) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Galveston" (Design, 1968) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Orange Blossom Special" (Design, 1968) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" (Design, 1968) (LP)
Mickey Barnett "Sings 18 Yellow Roses" (Little Giant Records/Pickwick International, 1976) (LP)
Budget label singer Mickey Barnett recorded several el cheapo specials for labels such as Design and Hilltop, though oddly enough this one seems like it was kind of a real album, with original material, a visible release date and an actual single released off the album(!) Pickwick even assigned this to a private custom imprint... what was up with that? Well, I guess somebody thought that Barnett had paid enough dues to merit the deluxe treatment...
The Barons "Featuring Smith Center Kansas" (Exceptions Studio Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Wills & Exception Studio Productions)
A vanity album from a foursome in Smith Center Kansas, a tiny town about ten miles away from the geographic center of the continental United States, near the Nebraska border. For my money, this is about as good a "private pressing" country album as you'll ever hear -- it's got exactly what you want in this kind of record -- pure amateurism, a distinctive local flavor, sincerity and enthusiasm, and an original novelty song about hippies getting beaten up by war veterans. That last one would be the album's opener, "The Smith Center Kansas Moratorium Day Rock Festival Car Race And Barn Dance," a timeless tune ripely deserving of compilation or reissue. It in, all the locals (and maybe a few long-haired out-of-towners) get together for a big party and parade, but when one of the freaks starts getting all, "no more war!" a World War One veteran bops him over the head with his cane, and eventually life gets back to normal, albeit without those pesky hippie oddballs. Along the way, songwriter Jim Fetters also manages to take a few digs at lawyers and judges, expressing a bit of that good old Midwestern libertarian spirit. Fetters was the band's guitarist, and the liner notes inform us he "uses his music as his hobby," which was doubtless true of the rest of the guys. All the other songs are cover tunes, ranging from "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" and "City Of New Orleans" to "Good Hearted Woman" and "Please Mister Please," and all delivered with a clunky, see-the-gears-turn simplicity which I find very, very appealing.
Tim Barrett "I've Done Some Thinkin' " (Belmont Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by John Penny & Fred Mueller)
New England troubadour Tim Barrett was born in Maine, moved to Massachusetts, and performed regionally for many years, including gigs at the Lone Star Ranch in Reeds Ferry, New Hampshire. This was his first album, recorded with the help of Boston twangster John Penny, and is packed with originals, with three songs written by Tim Barrett and two by Richard E. Long... There are also some cover tunes, including a version of "Rocky Top" and "Me And Bobby McGee."
Tim Barrett "Dreaming Of You" (1986)
Tim Barrett "It's A Matter Of Time" (1992) (CD)
J. J. Barrie "Did I Forget To Say Thank You?" (Power Exchange Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Shel Talmy)
Joe Barry "Joe Barry" (ABC-Dot, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux)
A veteran performer from the Louisiana music scene, Barry worked as a producer and session player alongside Mac ("Dr. John") Rebennac and performed with musicians such as Clarence Henry and Smiley Lewis, Bobby Bland and T-Bone Walker, and was one of the first artists to record for the Smash label in the early '60s. He had been retired for several years when Huey P. Meaux asked him to record this album, which is a mix of country and R&B songs and styles.
The Bars Ferry Band "Bars Ferry Band" (Kar Wood Records, 1984-?) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Maddox & The Bars Ferry Band)
Wasn't able to find out much info about these guys, a twangy bar band from Tupelo, Mississippi who were the house band at a place called the Niteliter Bar. The group included Johnny Wigginton (vocals and guitar), Jim Roby (vocals, steel), Tommy Horton (drums), Dean Koon (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jimmy Kreson (keyboards), and Gary Chandler (bass) with backup vocals by the Shoal Sisters (Muscle Shoals studio pros Ava Aldridge, and others) along with the Cates Sisters... Apparently Jim Roby was still playing gigs around Tupelo as late as 2000 or so...
Steve Bateman "Someday" (Amherst Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Vic Clay & Larry Ratliff)
A surprisingly strong set, with several memorable songs. Though originally from Louisiana and Texas, Bateman seems to have been living in upstate New York when he cut this album... It's a nice, self-assured set of gentle, reflective country-pop, all originals except for a couple of so-so Beatles covers ("I've Just Seen A Face" and a bluesy spin on "Drive My Car") with a good band providing down-to-earth backing. Bateman's vocals remind me of Dick Feller -- not a resonant singer, but appealling and good at conveying his lyrics. He seems to have used several different publishers, including a couple of songs credited to Crazy Cajun, so I'd guess he was in Huey P. Meaux's orbit for a while... Anyway, I like his songs. Bateman has a good sense of songcraft and his tunes are all catchy and intriguing, in an odd, slightly off-center way, with subtle but effective hooks. Some seem more commercially viable than others, notably "Full House" and "Stronger Than You Think," but really I like 'em all. Too bad the musicians aren't identified -- the steel player in particular provides some great accompaniment.
Skip Battin "Skip" (Signpost, 1972)
Bassist Clyde "Skip" Battin made his mark as a core member of several early-'70s lineups of the Byrds, and kept up his country-rock bona fides as a member of the equally fluid New Riders of the Purple Sage and Flying Burrito Brothers. This was Battin's solo debut, an oddball cosmic country-rock album, with contributions from guitarist Clarence White and Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. The musical end I like, though I can't say I'm a fan of Battin's vocals, which make it hard to really enjoy the record as such. Battin worked frequently with LA scenester and rock uber-weirdo Kim Fowley, and Fowley helped shape this album in his own unique way.
Skip Battin "Topanga Skyline" (Floating World, 2012)
(Produced by Kim Fowley)
Originally recorded in 1973, this would turn out to be Battin's great "lost album," a session booked with the progresssive bluegrass band Country Gazette, along with pedal steel player Al Perkins. The project was apparently ill-starred, as it was scheduled for just days after the tragic death of guitarist Clarence White, a friend and collaborator of Battin's as well as the brother of the Gazette's Roland White, who was injured in the same automobile accident that killed Clarence. Despite all the bad karma, they went ahead and recorded the album, but it stayed in the vaults for almost thirty years; the 2012 CD release also includes some bonus tracks from an album recorded years later with Kim Fowley...
The Battle Creek Boys "Battle Creek Breakdown" (1978) (LP)
(Produced by The Battle Creek Boys & Nick Melnick)
A band from Minneapolis, performing mostly covers, including some Hank Williams, Bob McDill's "Amanda," Paul Siebel's "She Made Me Lose My Blues" and a couple of old Sons Of The Pioneers tunes. Lead singer Robert Gaboury wrote a pair of originals, "Country Rockin' Night" and "Battle Creek Breakdown." Anyone have more info about these guys?
Darlene Battles "I Just Want To Love You" (Bejay Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Mickey Moody)
Born in Wynne, Arkansas, singer Darlene Battles sang backup gigs in Nashville throughout the late 60s and married country/R&B singer Jerry Jaye in the early '70s, working with him on numerous projects. She recorded this solo album with Jaye and his band backing her up, including steel guitar player (and label owner) Ben Jack, Darrell Price plunking piano, and Curly Lewis on fiddle. This was Darlene Battles only solo album as a secular artist -- she got religion in 2003 and has since recorded several gospel albums, both under her own name and with the band On Call...
Chuck Baxter "Chuck 'N' Country" (Kwik Records) (LP)
(Produced by Mike St. Clair)
I go back and forth on this one... Overall, Nashville native Chuck Baxter is an appealing character with a good-natured presence, although it must be said that he does best on uptempo, novelty-oriented material -- when he croons on ballads, it can be pretty painful. The best numbers on here are the album's opener, "Harold's Super Service," a perky number about a guy stuck in a schlumpy job at a podunk gas station, and "Food Stamp Blues," which is kind of a nutty anti-welfare song where some guy keeps going to the county courthouse and giving false names without being asked for ID, and rakes in so much bogus welfare that he is able to buy an eleven-room mansion "with a TV in every room." Because that happens, right? (He sounds a little like Hoyt Axton on that song; elsewhere singers such as Dave Dudley, Ernie Ford and Jim Reeves come to mind...) On the flip side, though, are the slow songs, and his covers of "You Gave Me A Mountain" and "Statue Of A Fool" are truly catastrophic, with Baxter painfully searching for the high notes, and failing spectacularly. Nonetheless, I like this record, and not for sneery, make-fun-of-the-rube reasons -- these sessions had heart, and again, on the uptempo tracks he ain't bad. Unfortunately there's no information about the backing musicians, though the musicianship throughout is consistently good. Also no info on when or where this was made -- from the photos on the back, I'd guess late '70s, early '80s -- possibly 1984, based on the matrix number, NR-11284. The liner notes do say that Baxter was working "on the business side of country music," with a publishing company and record label, although they might have just been talking about this album. At any rate, I thought this was another nice example of a modestly talented, normal guy making a record of music for fun.
Rick Baxter "Cowboy's Dream" (Circle B Records) (LP)
The Baxters "The Baxters" (RMD Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Wild & The Baxters)
The Baxter brothers -- Duncan, Mark and Rick -- originally were child performers in a 1960s North Carolina gospel harmony group called the Baxter Family, which also included several of their sisters... In the late '70s the guys decided to try their hand at secular country, inspired by the success of harmony-oriented groups such as the Bellamy Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys... This early '80s album is mainly cover tunes, including versions of contemporary hits such as John Anderson's "Swingin'," and David Frizzell's "I'm Gonna Hire A Wino To Decorate Our Home," along with standards like "Rocky Top" and "Orange Blossom Special," as well as the hippie rock anthem, "Teach Your Children." I think they also worked as backup musicians for folks like Eddy Raven and Conway Twitty, who they thank in the liner notes, as well as Duane Allen on the Oak Ridge Boys, who contributed the liner notes. Two songs, "Headed Right (For The Wrong Kind Of Love)" and "Hurt" might have been originals, though there are no song credits on the album.
Baywood "Baywood" (Bison, 1981) (LP)
This 5-song EP showcased the early work of a short-lived but ambitious indiebilly band who I believe were from California.
Baywood "Live At The Palomino, '81" (Little Wheel Music, 2008) (CD & MP3)
Issued nearly 30 years after the fact, this fine live album captures an unusually accomplished indie-twang band playing their hearts out in one of LA's premier rock clubs. The band is pretty tight, executing some ambitious country-rock/AOR riffs and complex harmonies -- stuff that echoes the Southern California pop style of the mid-1970s, though perhaps a bit dated by '81. You could really almost imagine them making it big, except that, if the truth be told, the vocals hold them back. Their lead singer was clearly the driving force behind this band, but his gangly, unconventional vocal timbre makes this an un-commercial offering, even though it's also an excellent example of just how polished and skillful these local bands could become, while still hovering on the edge of success. Worth checking out, especially for the wealth of original material.
Beacon City Band "Beacon City Band" (Potato Satellite Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by John Hill & Laurie Hill)
This scruffy acoustic twangband from Gruene, Texas featured Roland Denney (bass), Denice Franke (vocals, guitar), Douglas W. Hudson (mandolin, guitar), and David Wright (vocals, guitar, and harmonica). About half the songs were written by David Wright, with one more from Denice Franke, along with a cover of an old Nanci Griffith song, "West Texas Sun," just for good measure. Years later, Franke would perform on several of Griffith's best-known albums, as well as releasing several albums of her own. Like Griffith, these guys were coming at their music from a fairly folkie vantage point, with flowery-but-not-cloying guitar picking and achingly emotive vocals. Fans of Townes Van Zandt, perhaps, might really dig this one.
Bear Creek "Bear Creek" (Le Fevre Sound, 1976) (LP)
A long-lost band from Georgia, playing mostly bluegrass(?) as well as a cover of Dylan's "Simple Twist Of Fate." Anyone have more info about these folks?
Beau Brummels "Bradley's Barn" (Warner Brothers, 1968)
(Produced by Lenny Waronker)
A groovy country-tinged set from one of San Francisco's great garage-pop bands of the mid-1960s... This was the last album the group recorded in the '60s, as their hitmaking days faded and the group began drifting apart. Singer Sal Valentino guitarist Ron Elliott were essentially the only original members left, and they headed to Nashville to see if the Music City way of doing things would work for them. The duo booked sessions at Owen Bradley's studio, hiring a crew that included usual suspect superpickers such as Kenny Buttrey and Norbert Putnam, as well as hot-shot guitarist Jerry Reed, who adds some of his trademark chicken-pickin' licks. With the exception of a lone Randy Newman song at album's end, the songs are all originals, including several written along with longtime collaborator Bob Durand... This was the band's -Sixties swansong, with Sal Valentino going off to join the bluesier Stoneground, and Elliott doing session work in LA. A nice early milestone in the evolution of mainstream country-rock.
Beaver Creek "Live" (Impresario Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Phil York)
An ambitious album by a teenage trio from Oak Cliff, Texas, led by two gals -- guitarist Marsha Britton and bassist Lisa Burgess -- with Keith Livers on drums. Britton and Burgess wrote all of the songs -- each composing solo -- and sang some nice, spunky duets on material that ranged from honkytonk to slightly rockabilly. The band was formed right after the girls graduated from high school, and they played regionally in North Texas for several years. Lisa Layne Burgess later shortened her name and joined the country novelty band, Vince Vance and the Valiants and was the lead singer on their most successful song, the Top Forty holiday classic, "All I Want For Christmas Is You," and was a member of the band (off and on) for many years. She finally moved into a career as a Patsy Cline imitator, playing Patsy onstage and various venues such as Branson Park. Though less high-profile, Marsha Britton went on to have some success as a songwriter and recorded three indiebilly albums in the 1990s. Whew!
Clyde Beavers/Jim Martin "Country And Western Hits" (Somerset, 1963) (LP)
A cheapo-label split LP of cover songs, with Clyde Beavers playing some tunes by Roy Acuff, and Jim Martin singing a few Hank Snow oldies. Beavers was a Georgia native who recorded numerous singles, including several in the late 1950s that are considered "hillbilly bop" or proto-rockabilly. He recorded for tiny indies as well as for major labels such as Decca and Mercury, Hickory and Dot, and later became known as a Southern Gospel artist. Jim Martin, who sings the Hank Snow tunes, is a bit more of a cypher.
Clyde Beavers "Hallelujah, Amen" (Songs Of Faith, 1964) (LP)
A very twangy country-gospel offering, with thumpy backbeats and pedal steel, and solid, chunky hillbilly vocals... Later, in the '70s and '80s, Beavers specialized in gospel material, producing several albums (including one of his own) for the Jesus Christ Is Lord (JCL) label, which I suspect he may have owned as well.
Clyde Beavers "The Big Country Sound Of Clyde Beavers" (Spar Records, 1969) (LP)
Two albums, issued more or less at the same time on different imprints of the same label. There's significant overlap between the Spar and Kash editions, with a few songs that are different on each one. Bear Family, where are you??
Clyde Beavers "The Love And Hurting Side Of Clyde Beavers" (Kash Country, 1969) (LP)
Clyde Beavers "Southern Gospel Legends Series" (Songs Of Faith, 2007) (CD & MP3)
This digital-era reissue combines all the material from Beavers' Hallelujah, Amen album with a much later release, Mary Had A Little Lamb, which was released on the Jesus Christ Is Lord label (which I think he owned...)
George Beck & His Jamboree Boys "George Beck's Jamboree" (Rodeo Records) (LP)
An old-timer with roots in an earlier era of hillbilly musical variety shows, George Beck used to work with a blind singer named Freddie MacKenna and at one point tried aligning himself with the folk revival of the 1960s, though he seems like more of an old-school country artist. The liner notes to this album, which give a few details of his long career, also tout his juggling skills, so you get a sense of the vaudeville-style era that he came from.
Terry Beck "Live At Bogart's" (TRB, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Woolsey, Jim Blasingame & Terry Beck)
A rough and rugged live album from a club in Long Beach, California where singer Terry Beck seems to have had a long-term residency. The set includes covers of "Aime," "Long Haired Country Boy," "Mr. Bojangles," "Two Horsemen" and "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald." Pretty darn Seventies, even if it was recorded a few years later!
Zane Beck & Julian Tharpe "12+14 = Country Jazz" (Zanbeck Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by A. D. Cummings)
I'm guessing that this duo from Scranton, Arkansas were more jazz than twang, but I'm always in favor of a bit of pedal steel, and Julian Tharpe has a bunch of albums to choose from. The guitar pickin' from Zane Beck don't hurt much, either!
Zane Beck "...Meets Bobby Caldwell" (Mid-Land) (LP)
Johnny Bee & The Bee Family "Happiness And Teardrops" (Totall Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Gary T. Totall & Bill Barber)
A real vanity album, recorded by a Minnesota family who were not, as far as I can tell, professional musicians or even aspiring to be... The group included Johnny Bee, his wife and two kids, with son Erik singsing on a few tracks, as well as daughter Melodie. This album includes some Bee originals such as "Break Down This Wall" and two by S. Emond (?) who provides "Paper Daddy" and "Tiny Teardrops." They also cover Marty Robbins and Buffy St. Marie, as well as "Puka Shells" by Lanakai (I think his wife was Hawaiian). The session was recorded in Minneapolis, though I'm not sure if they were from there or a smaller town nearby.
The Bee Kays "Letter From Home" (Eagle Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by The Bee Kays, Lyndon Bartell & Steve Peterson)
A family band from Good Thunder, Minnesota whose repertoire includes a lot of original material, written by Robert Kittleson, Billye Jane Kruse, and Cindy Bee Kittleson...
Bill And Margaret Beeny & The Westerners "Sonny Boy" (Temple Records) (LP)
The Beenys were, I believe, married couple from Saint Louis, Missouri who evangelized in the area as well as recording several albums of all gospel material, including both standards and songs they themselves wrote. I'm not sure about the time-frame for these uber-indie albums (some of which didn't even have cardboard jackets!) but I think they were made in the early 1970s.
Bill And Margaret Beeny & The Westerners "Heaven's Hall Of Fame" (Temple Records) (LP)
Bill And Margaret Beeny & The Westerners "Circuit Ridin' Preacher" (Temple Records) (LP)
This album includes a twenty-minute long sermon entitled "Are There Communists In Our Churches?" along with the title track and "Heaven's Hall Of Fame" (which appears on another Beeny album) and versions of oldies such as "Did You Think To Pray," "Supper Time," et. al. The sermon sounds pretty fun!
Paul Belanger "You're The One For Me" (White Mountain Music) (LP)
An old-fashioned cowboy yodeler from New England, Paul Belanger was born in New Hampshire and hosted a weekly radio program for over thirty years, as well as performing and touring nationally and internationally for over sixty years, well into the 2010's. Backing him on this album is East Coast country legend Dick Curless, on rhythm guitar with his son, Rick Curless on drums, Jeff Patterson and Chuck Parish (of the John Penny Band) playing pedal steel and lead guitar, respectively. The repertoire's mostly straight-up cowboy music and sentimental stuff, including a couple of Gene Autry tunes, one by Montana Slim and a couple by Wilf Carter, who was a friend of Belanger. There's also a wealth of original material on here, including a pair of Christmas-related songs, the title track and one called "Cash Box For A Heart." Not sure when this album was recorded, but Belanger looks relatively youthful here, and Rick Curless was playing with Chuck Parrish in the John Penny Band around 1978... So, I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that this came out around then as well.
Mirl Bell & Young Country "Introducing..." (Guide Records, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Bell)
Indie country from Houston Texas... This album was recorded at Ray Doggett's studio and includes no release date on the disc or record jacket. Alas. About half the songs are written by Bell, including the forlorn "I Keep Existing." I couldn't find much information about this guy online -- he got a plug in Billboard at the start of 1974, and copywrote some of his music that same year; other than that he's kind of a cypher.
Tommy Bell "Tommy Bell" (Gold Sound, 1982) (LP)
J. J. Bene & Darby Bene "Born To Pick Pick To Live" (Sang It Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Scott Spain)
This duo was from North Las Vegas, Nevada, playing mostly original material, including "Willie's Down At Gilley's," a tribute to Willie Nelson that compliments covers of two Willie songs, "Goin' Home" and "Pretty Paper."
Jane Benger "Something For Everyone" (Stage Four Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Donny Kees & David Martin)
Jane Benger hailed from Ansted, West Virginia and sang in the local church before making a go of it as a professional singer. She fronted a band called the New River Canyon Band that toured regionally and up in Canada a few times.... Benger wrote two of the songs on here: "Billie Lou" and "Smiling Through A Tear," while producer/pianist Donny Kees wrote "I Will Love You Every Morning." She also covers Jessi Colter's "I'm Not Lisa," as well as songs by Kris Kristofferson, Ray Charles, Kenny Loggins, The Beatles, and Errol Garner's "Misty." It's not all twangtunes, for sure, although the overall tilt seems to have been towards countrypolitan pop.
Jane Benger "Why Me Lord" (E Records) (LP)
Benny & The Amigos "Strictly Country" (Siesta Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bud Roedl)
Benny Burch and his band were from Effingham, Illinois and, as the title suggests, played a solid mix of straight-up country stuff, ranging from the Delmore Brothers and Bob Wills to Merle Haggard and Harlan Howard... classic material. They also recorded several original tunes, including two weepers written by bassist L. D. Lankford and an instrumental by fiddler Fay Walls. The band started in the 1960s -- not sure when this album came out.
Benny & The Boys "Benny And The Boys" (Jester Sound Studio, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hale)
Fiddler Benny Milks rosins up the bow and plays some old-timey stuff and good-time country tunes with four of his pals from Malta, Montana -- bassist Bob Fleshe and the LaFond brothers: Craig LaFond on drums, Ed LaFond on steel guitar, and Maynard LaFond playing rhythm guitar. The repertoire includes chestnuts such "Uncle Pen," "Orange Blossom Special," and "Wabash Cannonball," along with some newer tunes from the Top Forty, like Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man," and the Kenny (Sauron) Rogers hit, "The Gambler." Seems to me like these fellas just wanted to have a little fun!
Bent Creek Band "Treading High Water" (Little Beast, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Gilbert & Bent Creek Band)
Country-rock from North Carolina. A perfect example of a rock band "going country" and getting it right: this opens with the wildly manic "Git Down Country Music" and similarly uptempo "School Daze," both quite twangy but with super-jangly rhythm guitar riffs worthy of the Feelies or numerous indiepop bands to come. There's also a chunky, riff-heavy Skynyrd/Marshall Tucker rock influence, but when they decide to play country, they do it well. A slight vocal similarity with the Dreadful Grate's Bob Wier (though it's not that pronounced, and these guys do not sound like the Dead...) and some dips into electric blues as well... They also remind me of the Cornell Hurd Band, though much more rock-oriented. For alt-country fans, there's good reason to check these guys out... they were definitely ahead of the curve on the whole twangcore thing... by about a decade or so!
Bob Bernstein "Country Mobile Home Park" (Bob Bernstein Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Bernstein)
An all-original set from a Southern California indiebilly living in San Diego County... Bernstein started playing in a duet with John Moore, who also sings lead on this album. It's a family affair througout, with Bernstein's daughter, Jaqueline Carol Gordon, singing harmony, as well as Moore's sister Julie on a tune or two, and some steel guitar by Richard Craig and Tim Cook, and banjo by Dennis Caplinger, and picking and singing by various SoCal locals.
Ron Bernard "Friends And Lovers" (Bridgewire, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Hutcherson, DeWayne Orender & Ron Bernard)
'80s indiebilly from the Fresno suburb of Clovis, California... Includes the locally-themed "Raisin City Blues," as well as a bunch of weepers such as "Why Can't Old Lovers Be Friends," "Every Time I Fall In Love, It Falls Apart" and "Pickin' Up The Pieces Of Me." (An interesting aside: this album was partly recorded at the Fresno-based Trac Recordings studio -- the same label that recorded the "Country Revolution" band in 1974.)
Wayne Berry "Home At Last" (RCA, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Norbert Putman)
I'm listing this one not so much because it really fits into the '70s country vibe I'm into, but because I keep seeing it mentioned as a lost country-rock gem, and I'm not so sure I agree. A Nashville native who first tried his luck in folk-era New York City, Berry eventually headed out west, where he co-founded a SoCal country-rock band called Timber and was pals with Tommy Talton, of the band Cowboy. Which all gives him country-rock cred, I guess, but a lot of this is disc just tepid, strained '70s soft rock. There are some pleasantly twangy tunes, though nothing I'd recommend you try too hard to track down: "Black Magic Gun," "Welcome Home" and "Gene's Tune (Blonde Guitar)" are about it for me. This was apparently a big studiofest, with heavy hitters such as Barry Beckett, Johnny Gimble and Pete Carr sitting in, as well as several guys from the Area Code 615 band, and some pedal steel on a few tracks, courtesy of Weldon Myrick. Worth checking out, I guess, but it didn't really float my boat.
Beth & Cinde "Cross Country" (Rising Moon Productions, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Cinde Borup & Beth Pederson)
Folkie-jazzy stuff with a notable streak of country twang... The acoustic-electric duo of Beth Pederson and Cinde Borup were from Sandpoint, Idaho and are backed by a few shaggy-lookin' locals, notably bassist Pat Ball, whose jazzy, electric noodling stands out in the sparsely-arranged, primarily acoustic setting. There are some callbacks to pop vocal oldies and standards such as "Java Jive," "Sea Cruise" and "Route 66," as well as a cover of a Billy Joe Shaver song, "Sweet Daddy," and five songs penned by Cinde Borup, who I assume is also the main vocalist. There's kind of a bluesy throatiness to many of the songs with recalls 'Seventies sires such as Phobe Snow and Ellen McIlwane, with dips into torch song and dewy singer-songwriter folk... Not as country as some would say, but worth checking out, especially if you're looking for female artists of the era.
Amy BeVille "Amy BeVille" (Pyramid's Eye Recording Studio) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Stabile & Lee Peterzell)
Though originally from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, songwriter Amy BeVille settled down in Georgia where she became a well-respected guitarist, as well as an ordained minister and a highly successful organic farmer, raising seedlings by the truckful for sale across the region. Along the way, she played gigs with some of the best roots musicians of the '70s and recorded this album which mixes original songs with some interesting cover tunes. This includes a cover of Ronnee Blakley's "Tape Deck In His Tractor" and Bobby Charles' "Tennessee Blues" along with a slew of original material, although much of it looks pretty folkie. There's no pedal steel or fiddle, though Ed Cullis plunks the banjo and BeVille adds some sweet licks on guitar.
The B. G. Ramblers "They're Cloggin' In The White House" (Orange Blossom, 197-?) (LP)
Safe to assume that "B. G." stands for "bluegrass," as the set list is pretty much straightforward 'grass standards -- "Cotton Eyed Joe," "Fox On The Run," et. al -- but it's that title track that makes this noteworthy for 'Seventies scholars -- a Jimmy Carter reference, no doubt. Not sure where these folks were from, though... Anyone out there know?
Sam Bidwell "Sam Bidwell" (Ricochet Records, 1988) (LP)
Independent neo-trad country by Wichita, Kansas songwriter Sam Bidwell, with songs such as "Small Town Country Boy," "Your Love Hit Me Like A Bullet," "What Excuse Will I Use Tonight" and "Honky Tonk Crazy." This session was recorded in Nashville.
Big Mac And The Outlaws "The Outlaws" (Alvera) (LP)
Back when everyone was talking about "outlaw country," these guys really meant it! This was a prison band from the state penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma, playing rock and country oldies, doubtless as part of a work rehabilitation program... I think may have recorded more than one album, though I'm not sure about that.
John Biggs "The Roads We Travel" (Blue River Valley Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Weir & John Biggs)
A mostly-folkie set, with distinct flavors of bluegrass and country twang from this Manhattan, Kansas songwriter... There's a strong John Denver-ish feel to the gentler tunes, but also some wicked humor ala Larry Groce, as heard on the faux-gospel novelty number, "Send Me To Glory In A Glad Bag," which is probably the album's best-known song. Biggs also includes a couple of real gospel songs, notably a brief instrumental fling at "Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring" and "Talk About Your Suffering," though I'd hardly call this a religious record...) Electric guitarist Dan Kirkpatrick adds some hot licks on a couple of tracks, though most of the other players are true locals-only types... Admittedly, Biggs has a fairly thin voice and many of his songs are pretty goopy, but they are also compelling, in no small part due to his committed, passionate performances. This tilts a little farther into pure-folk terrain for me, but it's still a really nice record. And definitely very "of its time..."
Kenny Biggs "Chasing Rainbows" (Pinnacle Records, 1970-?) (LP)
This is an excellent album of would-be early-'70s Top Forty material from an Ohio artist who was a cast member of the WWVA Jamboree show at the time he recorded this album. Biggs attempts a few countrypolitan ballads, but the best stuff here is the more robust, loping honky-tonk material... He had a good feel for novelty material as well, and overall was a pretty polished, likeable performer. There's no date on the album, but the liner notes are by Ohio country music entrepreneur Quentin Welty, who's identified as the General Manager of WWVA, a job he held from 1969-71, so I'm splitting the difference and calling it a 1970 album. Biggs seems to have been in Welty's general orbit as well: in addition to a three originals written by Biggs, there are several credited to B-W Music (Welty's publishing house) as well as songs penned by Gene Hood, Jim Owen, and even one by 'Fifties hillbilly singer Howdy Kempf. Biggs might have been a little out of step with the times -- a lot of this material sounds like it would have fit in better with the post-honky tonk vibe of early '60s Nashville, but it's a still swell record, definitely worth tracking down. I'll count Kenny Biggs in my list of ols-school coulda-woulda-shoulda artists.
Big John & The Bad Men "Hoe Down Fiddle" (Oxboro Records) (LP)
This looks like a 1960's vintage old-timey set, apparently from Minnesota...
Bill & Don "...Sing Songs Of The Lonesome Road" (Mission Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Floyd)
Although this gospel record was recorded in Nashville, the bluegrass-country duo of Bill Keefer and Don Shaw were, I believe, from Georgia, probably somewhere near Savannah. This is strictly off-the-radar, amateur musicmaking, notable for the wealth of original material, about two-thirds of the songs credited to either Keefer or Shaw, with backing by fellow Georgians Junior Perry (lead guitar), Homer Tew (rhythm guitar) and Glenvis Tyre (fiddle and mandolin) a local musician from Wayne County, south of Savannah. This album looks late '60s, though it's possible it's from the early '70s -- hard to pin down exactly.
Bill Billington "Sex, Drugs And Country Music" (Nu-Sound, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Floyd)
Outlaw novelty twang from upstate New York... All but two of the songs were written by Billington; Gary Harrison provided the others, including one song co-written with Dean Dillon. This album includes tunes like "Sex, Drugs And Country Music," "Bartender Woman," "Always Agree With Your Mother" and "Big Bad 1200 CC Harley."
Bill Billington "All In Life's Game" (Nu-Sound, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Floyd)
Jim Bing "This Is Jim Bing" (Universal Audio, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by John Michaelson)
Originally from Wisconsin, rockabilly/frat rock veteran Jim Bing had been living in Arizona for several years when he recorded this album of pop and country covers. The country stuff includes stuff like "Proud Mary," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "For The Good Times" and "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," placing this undated album somewhere around 1973 or thereabouts. His old band, The Valiants, are faves of the rockabilly/retro set, and recorded several sizzling tunes back in the '60s.
Bobby Bird "T-Bird's Daddy" (T-Bird Records, 1974-?) (LP)
Canadian guitar picker Bobby Bird was originally from near Winnipeg -- a teen prodigy, he took part in national talent contests and played on TV and radio before making his move to the Nashville in mid-1960s. He was headed to Nashville in 1964 to take up a job offer with the Jim Reeves band, the Po' Boys, when he heard about the plane crash that ended Reeves' life, so instead he worked for about a year in Minneapolis with the Houle Brothers band, before finally making it to Music City in '65. He worked regularly, playing back-up in several bands, including for Pee Wee King, Marvin Rainwater, Tex Ritter and Texas Bill Strength... This album's title comes his nickname for his son, T-Bird, who was born in 1974. (Awwww...) About half the songs on this album were written by Bird, with most of the others composed by various artists signed to the Vanjo Publishing company, which probably sponsored this album
Jan Bird "...Sings Down Home Sounds, With Ernie Hagar's Swingin' Steel" (Meagher Electronics/High Hopes Incorporated, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Meagher & Paul Smith)
Singer-guitarist Jan Bird was originally from Weed, California and she'd moved to Monterey and was playing gigs at the Highlands Inn, in Carmel at the time she cut this album. Local steel guitar whiz Ernie Hagar plays pedal steel and dobro on here, as well as arranging the album, with banjo by Bob Cameron and guitar and bass by Russ Allen. Bird balances a few folkie tracks like "Last Thing On My Mind" and "Fire And Rain" against a raft of country tunes -- stuff "Heartaches By The Number," "Cold Cold Heart" and "It's Such A Pretty World Today." Interesting song selection, and a cool cast of characters from California's Central Coast.
Becky Bishop "First Shot... Live" (Grass Roots Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Magid)
A mix of roots blues and twang from this Southern Oregon folkie... This album includes several original songs, including "Truckstop Waitress" and "This Ol' Man Of Mine" written by Bishop, along with oldies from Gene Autry, Ella Mae Morse and Joe Turner. The album was recorded at a studio in Santa Monica, California and released on a label from Malibu, though I'm not sure if Bishop was living in California at the time, or just went to LA to record. The backing band includes dobro playing by Louis Golper and fiddle by Brantley Kearns.
Elvin Bishop -- see artist profile
The John Blackburn Trio "The John Blackburn Trio" (Willie Price Productions, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Willie Price)
A nice, modest set from some Amarillo, Texas locals... Mostly in a folkie/acoustic blues revival mode, but with some touches of twang. They open with a nice, breezy version of the Byrds "You Ain't Going Nowhere," and dip into folk scene cowboy nostalgia ("Ain't No More Cane On The Brazos") and some playful acoustic blues'n'jazz, such as a snippet of "Keep On Truckin'," as well as a bit of bluegrass on Side Two. Blackburn slips into flamenco-style guitar and closes the album with a Spanish-tinged version of Luiz Bonfa's "Manha Da Carnaval." For twangfans perhaps the most interesting track is a cover of an obscure early song by Rodney Crowell, "Home Sweet Home Revisited," which Jerry Reed and JD Crowe popularized, but Crowell left out of his own recorded canon... This is a nice version, too. Not an earthshaking album, but a good snapshot of some just-plain folks having fun making music together.
Black Canyon Express "Black Canyon Express" (1982)
(Produced by Jerry Mahler, Rich Markowitz & Black Canyon Express)
A Colorado bar band led by songwriter Brad Fitch, Black Canyon Express played for several years at various resorts and venues across the Rocky Mountains... Later on, in the persona of Cowboy Brad, Fitch recorded a bazillion self-released albums in the digital era. He also co-founded another regional band, The Elktones, which for a decade or so held down a regular gig at the Elk Meadow Lodge in Estes Park, CO.
The Black Canyon Gang "Ridin' High" (Viking Studios, 1974) (LP)
A Colorado hippie band... might have been more folkadelic than country, but I'm not sure. Anyone heard these guys?
J. D. Blackfoot "The Song Of Crazy Horse" (Pye/Fantasy, 1974)
(Produced by Tony Baker & J.D. Blackfoot)
This guy was originally from Ohio, although this record was recorded in New Zealand, of all places... Anyway, the album kicks off with the title track, a dreadful, politically-themed fifteen-minute long folk-prog epic about Crazy Horse and the decimation and betrayal of the Native Americans... Blackfoot's heart was in the right place, and what with the occupation of Alcatraz and all, the issues were timely... But it's so painfully serious and so musically bombastic, it's hard to say anything nice about this track. Not my cup of tea. On Side Two of the album he plows into some leaden boogie-rock, and adds a smidge of sunshine rock, all of which accentuates Blackfoot's shortcomings as a singer. In theory this album has connections to hippie twang, but mostly it's just one song, the obscene, anti-country, faux-redneck novelty number, "Flushed You Down The Toilet Of My Heart," which is un-airable, but also painfully unfunny. Wouldn't say there's much to recommend this one, really. Certainly not enough to inspire me to check out his other records.
Blackhawk "Transitions/Traditions" (Blackhawk Records, 1981) (LP)
Not to be confused with the Top Forty Nashville band of the 1990s, this group came from Colorado where they had a sizeable local following. This record has -- by accident, I think -- two titles: the album cover says "Transitions," while the inside label reads "Traditions." Go figure.
Blackwater "Blackwater" (??) (LP)
(Produced by Anthony J. Ward & Kevin Kelly)
This early '80s(?) twangband from Bayonne, New Jersey played mostly cover songs, but also recorded a couple of their own songs co-written by singer/guitarist Danny Infantino: "Say She's A Child" and "Lazy Sunday," as well as one called "Between The Movies," which wasn't written by anyone in the band, but seems to be original to this album. I'm a little dubious about the guy playing saxophone and flute, but the cowboy hats and fiddles tell me maybe I need to get over it... Nice, mellow, harmony-vocals oriented country-rock, with a gentle early-Eagles/Firefall kinda feel.
Karon Blackwell "Live In Concert" (Blackland, 1977) (LP)
Singer Karon Blackwell was from Ellisville, Mississippi, though she and her husband, comedian Marty Allen did extensive touring and lounge gigs in Vegas and elsewhere... This is a double LP, mainly with covers of '70s countrypolitan hits, a few honkytonk oldies ("Jambalaya") and a couple of Motown and pop standards, stuff like "Shop Around" and "Impossible Dream." The second disc is almost all gospel, including a longer gospel medley, although most of the other songs are secular... This album was recorded several years before she and Allen met and married... One song, "Blue Skies And Roses," scraped its way into the Country Top 100, but that was the extent of Blackwell's chart action on a national level.
Boots Blake "Keeping It Country" (Great Records, 1982-?) (LP)
I could not find out any info on this country gal of yesteryear... As far as I can tell, this was her only album, which was released along with a single, "Here Comes The Bride"/"Leave Your Love At Home."
Ronnie Blake "Country Class" (G.I.F.T., 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Kimble & Jerry Masters)
An enjoyable album from a Florida country-pop hopeful who sang a few cover tunes but also recorded several fine originals. Side One of the album opens with "Don't Marry For Money, Honey," an empty-pockets love ballad, and closes with Bob Adkinson's "Lure Of The Road," an cheerful novelty number about a guy who becomes a trucker instead of going to college (and dreads what happens when his dad finds out...) Side Two has some new tunes as well... Unfortunately, the liner notes don't include composer credits, so though I assume Blake wrote at least some of these songs, I can't say for sure. The cover songs are a mixed bag -- Blake wobbles a little bit on uptempo numbers like "Proud Mary" and "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," but sounds swell on ballads such as "Help Me Make It Through The Night." All in all, this is a nice one, a strong effort by a regular fella with an okay voice and some big, big dreams. Definitely worth a spin!
Ronnie Blake "Key Largo Blues" (RB Enterprises, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Wilma Tackett & Lola Wager)
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan "Birds Of A Feather" (Wayside Records, 1970)
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan "Two Sides Of Jack And Misty" (Mega Records, 1972) (LP)
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan "Life and Death (And Almost Everything Else)" (Omni Records, 2006) (CD)
Johnny Blankenship "Hard On The Heart" (OL Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Don Felts)
A multi-instrumentalist who has had a longtime gig playing at Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California, Johnny Blankenship was also part of Johnny and Sharon Leighton's 1960s/'70s band(s). He cut this album for Overton Lee's ultra-obscuro label, recording a set that was mostly songs written by producer Don Felts, along with two by Blankenship, published through Lee's publishing company. Couldn't find much info about Blankenship (or this album) online, though I gather he's still holding down his day job at the Knott's Berry amusement park...
Billy Blanton "Me And Leroy Live At The Hanging Tree" (1977) (LP) *
Billy Blanton "Little Richie Records Presents Billy Blanton" (Little Richie, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Little Richie Johnson)
Steve Bledsoe "The Many Sides Of Steve Bledsoe" (Superstar Records, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Bledsoe)
A country crooner on a label from Charles City, Iowa, Steve Bledsoe was a hillbilly bopper with a string of singles going back to the rockabilly era of the mid-1950s. At some point he started his own label, releasing numerous 45s and at least these two records. Looks like this one is all covers, stuff like "Never Ending Song Of Love," "Take Me Home Country Roads," "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" and "Me And Bobby McGee."
Steve Bledsoe "You're The Greatest Woman I've Known" (Superstar Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Bledsoe)
There's some original material on this one: Bledsoe wrote four original songs on the first side of this album: "You're The Greatest Woman," "Denver," "Walking In The Footsteps Of The Man" and "I See Lonesome" while Side Two features some interesting covers -- stuff from the Carter Family, Carl Butler and Gary S. Paxton, and a version of "City Of New Orleans," and "Crystal Chandeliers" a song by Ted Harris that was recorded by Carl Belew and Charley Pride... In the liner notes, Bledsoe pays allegiance to Nat King Cole, as well as Elvis and Marty Robbins, so he was in more of a mellow mode by the time the 'Seventies rolled around. There's no date on the album, but I'm guessing '75 based on a reference to an award somebody won in October, '74.
Bluefield "Bluefield" (Mercury, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake & Ronnie Light)
This band featured Lang Scruggs and Joe Scruggs (cousins of Earl) along with Linda Hargrove on piano, Hoot Hester on fiddle, and Paul Franklin playing dobro & steel. The set list includes a few pop covers ("A Taste Of Honey," "I Can See Clearly Now") along with Alan Munde's "Molly Bloom," and a couple of Linda Hargrove songs -- indeed it seems like this was an under-the-radar Hargrove outing, as much as anything else. The Scruggs brothers seem to have grown up in San Angelo, Texas, or at least they went to high school there...
The Bluegrass Band "The Bluegrass Band" (Smoggy Valley Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Dennis Coats)
Not to be confused with the Rounder Records powerhouse, The Bluegrass Album Band, this scruffy quartet from the Spokane, Washington played a lot of bluegrass and country-rock/country-folk covers -- tunes by Bill Monroe, one by Gib Gilbeau, "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers, Steve Goodman's "City Of New Orleans" -- and also recorded a couple of original songs by banjo picker Dennis Coats, "Fiddlin' Round" and "Another Cowboy Song." It's an eclectic mix that certainly earns them a mention in the hippiebilly annals. Sadly, the copy of this album I saw was too thrashed to pick up, but I'm sure it'll float my way again sometime... Anyone have more info about these folks?
The Bluegrass Experience "Live At The Pier" (Roundhole Records, 1976-?) (LP)
A lively, enthusuastic set from these North Carolinians... A little choppy, but with an interesting song selection that had enough grassed-up country and rock material that I figured it could fit in here as well. Apparently the band had its roots in the early '70s, when they won a national old-timey championship, and they were highly regarded in North Carolina. I don't recognize most of the pickers, other than fiddler Al McCanless, who also cut a Folkways album with the Red Clay Ramblers. Anyway, this is some nice stuff from some real locals. Recommended!
Blue Jug "Blue Jug" (Capricorn, 1975)
These funky Southern rockers sounded a LOT like The Band though maybe they stuck more to deep-groove Southern funk... Anyway, they were pretty darn good. Apparently the band's principal songwriters went on to write songs for Molly Hatchet... go figure!! There's some differences of opinion (or mabye just some fuzzy facts) about where they were from -- the label originally said they were from Virginia, though other sources say they were a Nashville band, backed in the studio by fiddler Buddy Spicher.
Blue Jug "Blue Jug" (Ariola, 1978)
Same title, same band, different album, still good.
Blue Ridge "Country Music" (Ridge Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Raymer & Randy Hauser)
A quartet from St. Ann, Missouri, led by songwriter Bill Highley...
Blue Ridge "Country Music" (Ridge Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Raymer & Randy Hauser)
This second album (same title, different songs) was recorded in Nashville with studio musicians Mike Shrimpf on keyboards.
Blue Ridge Rangers "Blue Ridge Rangers" (Fantasy, 1973)
(Produced by John Fogerty)
Awesome!! After Creedence Clearwater Revival imploded, John Fogerty got so fed up with the fratricidal aspects of actually being in a band, that he promptly went off and recorded an album all by himself -- played all the instruments, picked all the tunes, multitracked the album, and totally rocked out. This is the result, a masterful set of country oldies, covering artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Webb Pierce and Melvin Endsley, all with a jocular, rolling bounciness that can't help but win you over. He perfectly captures the wild tang and explosive bang of old-school, rock-meets-hillbilly blues of the 1950s and early '60s. This is a really fun record, the kind that makes you sing along every time you hear it. Fun stuff!!
Bluerock "Bluerock" (Fiddlesticks/Aleatoric, 198-?) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Mrozonski, Tom Dougherty & Bluerock)
Not to be confused with the later modern alt-twang band called Blue Rock, this was an indie twang band from Spooner, Wisconsin which featured fiddler Susan Pederson and her husband, drummer Ken Pederson, who was also owned a local nightclub called Fiddlesticks, where they often played. The songs are all covers, with well-known stuff by Ray Wylie Hubbard, Townes Van Zandt and good old Hank Williams, along with more obscure twang tunes such as George Frayne's "Got To Be One Of Those Nights" (from his Commander Cody days) and "Riding High," written by upstate New Yorker Dick Solberg, a song that Bluerock also released as a single... By the way, anyone know what year this came out? I'm guessing very early '80s, like around '81 or '82...(?)
Bluerock "Style" (198-?) (LP)
A second album by this Wisconsin twangband...
Blue Smoke "Mississippi Maserati Breakdown" (Mansion, 1988)
This is pretty late in the game, but this indie album from Bill Turner and his band Blue Smoke seems so retro that I'd say it deserves mention here, rather than in the modern Americana genre. The band's slick-yet-amateurish sound reminds me a bit of Rockpile,
The Blue Velvet Band "Sweet Moments With The Blue Velvet Band" (Warner Brothers, 1969) (LP) & (CD)
(Produced by Erik Jacobsen)
A smooth but sweet major-label album made when the '70s newgrass scene was still just around the bend. There's certainly a power-packed lineup: Bill Keith and Jim Rooney join up with fiddler Richard Greene (who had just served his own apprenticeship with Bill Monroe) and guitarist Eric Weissberg in his pre-Deliverance days... people often cite this as a pioneering bluegrass record, but I just don't hear much high-lonesome here, rather, it seems like a tradition-oriented hippie country set, with most of the "rock" sensibility set aside in favor of old-fashioned twang and a little bit of Bakersfield bounce. The repertoire is a swell mix of Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, a Luke Wills western-swing oldie and a cover of Merle Haggard's "Somebody Else You've Known," with these guys scooping the Flying Burrito Brothers by a year or two. The also show deep folk scene roots with a reading of "The Knight Upon The Road," and version of the Appalachian murder ballad "Little Sadie." I think it's Jim Rooney singing lead, and I have to admit he's an acquired taste. For the first few tracks you might think there's a hint of parody in his voice -- after a while, though, you'll realize it's just the plain-spoked way that he sings, not some kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink thing. There are only two original tracks on here, including one of the album's strongest songs, "Hitch-Hiker," a cheerful novelty number written by Weissberg that captures some of the feel of the times. I guess this has been reissued on CD, though the original LP is worth tracking down just to enjoy the hilarious "board game" drawing and text that Eric von Schmidt designed for the inside of the gatefold sleeve. A long out-of-print landmark album that is more of a quiet, iconoclastic nugget than a earthshaking stylistic game-changer.
Bo Conrad Spit Band "Bo Conrad Spit Band" (Artronics) (LP)
An early '70s jug band from Saint Paul, Minnesota, the BCSB was founded in 1969 and played gigs throughout the Midwest before disbanding in '75. And, yes, there actually was a guy named Harold "Bo" Conrad in the band -- he played guitar and -- true story -- won the National Soap Box Derby in 1963, when he was just twelve years old. A bunch of their repertoire was original material, too -- fun, good-natured stuff!
Bob & The Bluetones "Presenting The Bluetones" (Pass Time) (LP)
A country-rock cover band from Wonderlake, Illinois. Bob Beaman, his brother Ben and a few of their pals got together in a basement studio to record this set of (mostly country) cover songs -- with stuff by Waylon & Willie, Gordon Lightfoot, a couple of Bob McDill tunes, one by Michael Dinner(!) and two more by Allen Reynolds. It's an uber-DIY-just-for-family-and-friends-looking project, with minimal artwork and even less in the way of liner notes. I'm just guessing, but I'd say, um, maybe 1980-81 for this one? Maybe a little earlier?
Bob & Dean (McNett) "McNett Country" (Jewel Records) (LP)
A legendary local duo from Pennsylvania, Bob and Dean McNett led their band from the early 1960s almost to the end of the '70s, later taking a gig as part of the Hank Williams homage band, the Drifting Cowboys. This was an early '70s album, featuring covers of hits such as Mel Tillis's "Commercial Affection" and "Green Green Grass Of Home," while also dipping deep into older country traditions. Sadly, there are no real liner notes, so I'm not sure if there are any original tunes on here or not, or who was backing them on these sessions... Also, it has to be said that they sounded a bit over-the-hill, or at least low-energy, on this album... Maybe that was just their style, I dunno. They sound tremendously authentic and sincere, but just in musical terms this record might be a little inaccessible to the average twangfan. I like it, though, mostly for their real-hicks vibe. A reconstiituted version of the McNett Country band came together in Y2K, and has been held together ever since, with second-generation singer Shawn and Tim McNett as the front men.
Bob & Marie "Ten Years At The Duncan" (Green Valley Recording) (LP)
The Pennsylvania duo of guitarist Bob Ramsey and piano player Marie Wilcox enjoyed a long residency as the house band at the Duncan Tavern in Antrim, PA, a tiny mining town southwest of Harrisburg. They were certainly conscious of their audience's roots in coal country, with cartoon silouettes of miners on the album cover, and a set list that included songs such as "I'm Just An Old Chunk Of Coal," "Coal Miner's Daughter" along with other country covers, like "Bloody Mary Morning," et. al. as well as a regional-pride song called "Antrim, PA."
Bobbi And Clyde "...And The Seaweed Cowboys" (BCS) (LP)
Southern California's Bobbi McGavran and Clyde Lucas worked in a wide variety of venues, including a stint as the house band at Knott's Berry Farm, gigs with various country rockers and later, work in film and TV. This album was made with Bill Cunningham and J. Scott Hendrickson, who wrote about half the songs on the album. Not sure of the year on this one, but I think it's of late 1970s vintage.
Dick Bodine "America" (Great American Records, 1983) (LP)
This is the kind of kitschy album cover that folks like to make fun of online... and in this case, I say, go for it! Posed in front of Old Glory with a rifle in hand and a pistol on the table, Mr. Bodine was a middle-aged Coloradan who included some overtly patriotic songs, like "The Pledge" "Why Are you Marching Son," and "Our Flag," along with more politically neutral folk tunes like "I Gave My Love A Cherry" and "City Of New Orleans," as well as country stuff like "Sixteen Tons." I'm not into the whole flashing firearms thing, but the twang is fine: accompanying Mr. Bodine was multi-instrumentalist Doc Hoffman and bassist Marty Hill. I couldn't find any biographical info out about this guy, though as far as I know this was his only album. (Thanks to the North Of Pueblo blog for background info on this one...)
Johnathan Boggs "Pretty Words" (Self-released) (LP) *
A privately released album from Grand Rapid, Michigan... Not sure of the year, but it looks 1980s... And, yes, that's how he spelled his name...
Calvin Boles "Favorites And Originals" (Yucca Records, 1960-?) (LP)
A true legend of New Mexico's music scene, Alamagordo entrepreneur Calvin Boles was an insurance agent by day and kooky country singer at night. He started his own label in 1958, Yucca Records, which became one of the Southwest's best-known indies, recording rockabilly singers such as Bobby Fuller and Jerry Bright, as well as numerous obscure country artists, the best known of which was probably Al Sims. In addition to releasing over two hundred singles on the Yucca label, Boles recorded eight albums under his own name, backed by his band, the Rocket City Playboys which included his wife Betty on bass. This first album was an even mix of cover tunes and originals -- though of modest talent both as a performer and composer, Boles was a prolific songwriter and sang with a jovial air, even if his voice was kind of thin. He sings classics by Al Dexter, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb, alongside his own heartsongs and novelty numbers. A couple of the tracks on this album are regional pride songs as well as topical tunes: on "From Arrows To Rockets" cheerfully outlines Alamagordo's history as the site where the first atomic bomb was developed and tested, while "Ballad Of John Prather" takes this patriotic fervor and turns it on its head, telling the story of how one local rancher defied the government's use of eminent domain and kept on his ranch even after Alamagordo became a full-time rocket testing site. The other songs are straight-up country and although Calvin Boles was not a powerful singer, this album resonates with authenticity and good cheer. Definitely worth checking out!
Calvin Boles "This Is Calvin Boles" (Yucca Records) (LP)
This was his second album, and features an all-original slate of songs, most of which are purely his, along with a couple co-written with friends. There's a lot of novelty material, including "Guitar Pickin' Man," "Finally Twenty-One" and "You Giggle Too Much," which he also released as a single. One track, "The Snake," features a long narration where Boles talks in a faux-Latino accent (weech I theenk ees a leetel painful to heeere now, een our enlightened age of thee future...) but other than that one unintentional misfire, this is a good set of rugegd, authentic desert-country honkytonk. Boles still wasn't that great a singer, but there is a certain naif-art purity to his songs which will resonate with fans of old-school twang. The liner notes are great, too, that kind of heart-on-the-sleeve, TMI sort of thing where amateur musicians talk in great detail about their lives -- how he was born in Seymour, Texas, where he went to school, how he worked as a shoe shine and a milk delivery boy as a kid, went into the Army, etc. Boles closes by saying his one great wish is to have a national hit, and while that never happened, he sure made some fun records along the way.
Calvin Boles "New Mexico: Ballads Of The Southwest" (Yucca Records, 1963-?) (LP)
Calvin Boles "Nine Months To Live" (Yucca Records) (LP)
Calvin Boles "Country Dozen" (Yucca Records) (LP)
Calvin Boles "Walkin' Beside You" (Yucca Records) (LP)
Jay Bolotin "Jay Bolotin" (Commonwealth United, 1970) (LP)
The Bonanzas "A Night With The Bonanzas" (Copre Records)
An Arizona-based band, with members Bobby Bower, Barney Carl and John Spaugh... They sang covers of mainstream country tunes, though they were definitely longhairs. Probably a bar-band somewhere, though I haven't dug up their history yet.
Bobby Bond "On The Country Side" (Time Records, 1964)
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, songwriter Bobby Bond headed for Nashville in the early 1960s, after trying to make it as a rock/pop musician on the West Coast. Like many talented pickers, he found Music City pretty tough and worked odd jobs while trying to get his foot in the door. Also, like many others before him, he found work as a sound-alike artist, recording for the kind of cheapo labels that knocked off albums full of cover songs and hits of the day, the original artist's name emblazoned on the cover, while the actual performers (like Bond) were lucky if their names appeared in print anywhere. Bond was one of the lucky ones, getting his own name on the labels, and eventually after several years of this kind of work he came to the attention of country-folk crooner George Hamilton IV, who recorded several of Bond's original compositions, starting in 1968 with the song, "Back To Denver," followed by several others. His biggest success came with the song "Six White Horses," which several artists took into the charts, and though Bond got the chance to record for a few "real" record labels -- Warner Brothers and Hickory -- he never was able to make more than a few minor ripples on the charts. (In 1972, his cover version of "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" peaked at #66 in Billboard, and was his lone entry on the charts as a performer...)
Bobby Bond "...Sings Hits Made Famous By Roger Miller And Other Country Songs" (Somerset, 1965) (LP)
I have to confess, I have a strange fascination with the "sound-alike" artists who recorded entire albums of knockoff imitations of popular hits for shady labels such as Crown, Spin-O-Rama, Somerset and others. Bobby Bond was one of these sound-alike artists, who did, um "tribute" records to Roger Miller and Jim Reeves, but who also scored a minor hit with a 1972 cover of Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim." The sound-alike albums are a real historical curio: often they were packaged in such a way to make you think that the original artist and the real versions were included on the album, and there was an obvious attempt to bilk folks out of their hard-earned cash. Someday I'd love to research them (although I suspect someone already has...) Anyway, here are Mr. Bond's contributions to the genre...
Bobby Bond/Earl Cupit "A Country Boy Looks Down That Lonesome Road" (Somerset, 1966)
A split LP with Cupit singing Side One, and Bond on the flip. All the songs are covers of popular country and folk-country songs of the era, including songs by Bobby Bare, George Hamilton IV, etc.
Bobby Bond "I Remember Jim Reeves" (Somerset, 1966) (LP)
Bobby Bond "On The Country Side" (Time Records, 196-?) (LP)
Eddie Bond "Caution: Eddie Bond Music Is Contagious" (Tab, 1972) (LP)
A pioneering rockabilly star from Memphis, singer Eddie Bond (1933-2013) is perhaps most famous for being the guy who told a teenage Elvis Presley not to quit his day job when Elvis auditioned for a gig with Bond's band, back in 1954. That anecdote naturally overshadows a lot of Bond's own accomplishments and career, but even though he had limited success at the time, Bond was later lauded by rockabilly fans and his early stuff is available in various collections. Also like many first-generation rockabilly artists, Eddie Bond turned to country music when the rock'n'roll scene died down, and recorded a few LPs in the early '70s that were pretty twangy and rural. The title track to this album, "Caution," was also released as a single on the Stax label's imprint, Enterprise Records, leading to a subsequent album tied to the release of the Buford Pusser biopic, Walking Tall.
Eddie Bond "The Legend Of Buford Pusser" (Stax/Enterprise Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Chesnut, Jack Clement & Eddie Bond)
For those of you not around in the early 1970s, when the movie Walking Tall was in theaters -- or in constant re-runs on TV -- let me fill you in on the backstory. Buford Pusser was the hardass sheriff of McNairy County, Tennesee, fictionalized in numerous films and TV shows as an incorruptible, indestructable good ole boy tank of a man, who cleaned up the Tennessee border of the so-called Dixie Mafia, despite numerous attempts to kill him. Indeed, in real life Mr. Pusser was shot and stabbed on several occasions, and during one assassination attempt, his wife was shot and killed, an incident which some say transformed the already-volatile lawman into a remorseless vigilante. The fictional versions of his life were generally fetishistic glorifications of manly retribution and violence, with the portrayal of Pusser as an unstoppable law-and-order reformer making Walking Tall roughly into the redneck equivalent of Serpico. Country singer Eddie Bond claims to have been one of Pusser's deputies, and he really throws himself into this concept album which is loosely based on Pusser's career. The album is packed with jaunty, uptempo, Jerry Reed-esque redneck tunes, as well as a few honkytonk weepers and gospel songs that are sort of shoe-horned into the project. He's got a good band backing him, and though they aren't identified on the album, it's peobably safe to assume that more than a few were from the Stax/Muscle Shoals studio scene.
Jack Bond "...Sings Country Western All Time Greats" (Sterling Records) (LP)
(Produced by William Beasley)
Another cheapo/knockoff album from the Nashville-based Hit Records/Spar/Modern Sound empire... This album was, I think, all cover songs - country oldies and standards such as "A Satisfied Mind," "Candy Kisses," "Just Out Of Reach," "He'll Have To Go," etc., although a couple of tracks might have been originals: "My World's A Blue World" and "Best Years Of Your Life."
Jack Bond "...Sings Phantom 309" (Modern Sound Records) (LP)
More cover songs by Music City hired hand Jack Bond... This disc features several trucking songs, along with more general-purpose country weepers and barroom ballads, such as "The Bottle Let Me Down," "Sam's Place," "Skid Row Joe," "Unmitigated Gall," and others. I don't think there were any originals on this one...
Jonny & Sue Bondz "...Sing Original Country" (Bondz Records) (LP)
Not to be confused with Texas honkytonker Johnny Bond, New York state native John Bondzinski was a multi-instrumentalist perhaps best known for his work as a steel guitar player, and for his song, "I've Played Second Fiddle (For The Last Time)," which he fisrt recorded for Starday back in the mid-'60s. Bondzinski played gigs in and around his hometown of Glens Falls, NY as well as across the border in Vermont, and opened a music store called Bondz Music, which he ran for several years before moving down to Wildwood, Florida with his wife Susan. They were living in the Sunshine State when they recorded this album, which is filled with all-original material, including songs like "Second Fiddle," "Happy State Of Mind" and "In A Redneck Bar." I think they're the only two musicians on here -- they both sing and he played a variety of instruments, through the magic of multi-tracking, and they are "backed" by their pet drum machine, who they nicknamed "Winchester."
The Bonner Family "Finally" (Records & Productions, Inc., 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Russ Gary)
A family album by a country harmonizing family band from Rancho Cucamonga, California. Their father, Jim Bonner, was originally from Buffalo, NY where as a kid he worked playing piano in local groups such as Guy McAdams band, but he moved out West in the early '70s and settled down in San Bernadino County. He taught his kids how to play country music and they were eventually discovered by independent producer Overton Lee who got them gigs at Southern California venues such as the Mule Lip Saloon and the Palomino Club in Hollywood, as well as at county fairs and other events. The Bonners were kind of on a roll when they made this album, doing TV shows and recording at least one album... It looks like there's a lot of original material on this album, with several songs credited to "G. Davis."
Rob Bonner "Start All Over Again" (JVR Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Rob Bonner)
Songwriter Rob Bonner was part of the Sacramento, California folk/bluegrass/stringband scene, and has stalwarts such as Allan Hendricks and the South Loomis Quickstep band backing him, as well as Joe Craven playing mandolin on some songs. As far as I know this was his only album...
Bonnie & Clyde "The Other Side Of Bonnie & Clyde" (Hillside Country Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Williams Earl & Jack Linneman)
I'm not much one on the judge-a-book approach to album art pop-mockery, though I gotta say, this is one scary looking record cover! In this case, Bonnie and Clyde were Bonnie and William Earl, a husband-wife duo from Deland, Florida who worked the Southern coastal resort circuit as well as a lot of gigs in Las Vegas and Reno. Side One of this album features all original material by Billy Earl, while Side Two is cover songs, ranging from "Wabash Cannonball" and "They Call The Wind Maria" to contemporary hits such as "Take Me Home Country Roads" and "Let Me Be There."
Bonnie Lou & Buster "Hymn Time" (Waterfall Records, 1963) (LP)
Bonnie Lou & Buster "...Sing Country Bluegrass And Gospel" (Angel Records, 1977) (LP)
A husband-wife duo who were regulars on the Smokey Mountain Hayride, and whose careers stretched back to the 1940s. Hubert "Buster" Moore (1920-1995) was from rural Tennessee, and worked in various hillbilly and bluegrass bands before and after the war, including stints with Carl Story and Eddie Hill. After Moore met and married Margaret Bell, they formed their own band and changed her stage name to Bonnie Lou, moving from city to city for various jobs at radio stations and concert venues, including gigs in Bristol, Harrisburg, Knoxville, Salem, and her hometown of Ashville, North Carolina. They're best-known for their tenure at the Opry-esque Smokey Mountain Hayride variety show, a venue in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee that opened in 1972. They worked with local musicians including bluegrasser Don McHan, who performs with them on this album, playing banjo, along with Darrell Henry on dobro, and Buster Moore playing fiddle and mandolin. [Note: Mrs. Moore is not to be confused with the nationally-famous singer known as Bonnie Lou (nee Mary Joan Kath) who came from the Midwest and became a pop-country crossover artist in the 1950s.]
Bonnie Lou & Buster "...Sing Gospel" (Masterco Records, 1982) (LP) B0160L3W1G
Bonnie Lou & Buster "Smoky Mountain Hayride Show" (Green Records, 1983) (LP)
Booger Hole Revival "Roll The Woodpile Down" (No Nukes, 1979)
Old-timey/bluegrassy/stringband stuff by a longhair band from Roane County, West Virginia... It's a nice album with fiddle tunes and backwoods oldies from artists like the Blue Sky Boys, et. al. as well as some good originals, too. They had just the right mix of twang and imperfection for me... Nice stuff!
Larry Boone "Larry Boone" (Eeee Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Sacco)
In 1988, Florida-born singer Larry Boone cracked his way into the Nashville scene and became a successful chart artist, recording first for Mercury, and then for Columbia. But several years earlier, he cut this album of all-original material with producer Paul Sacco playing about half the instruments. There's no fiddle or pedal steel or mandolin or banjo on here, but there's still some twang, and that's all that counts, really, isn't it? His brother, Tony Booth, was a successful chart artist and songwriter during the 1970s.
Tony Booth - see artist profile
Borderline "Sweet Dreams And Quiet Desires" (United Artist/Avalanche, 1972)
This short-lived country-rock band was assembled from the from the Woodstock, New York roots music scene, and in particular from the Bearsville Sound Studio, where the multi-talented Jim Rooney joined brothers Dave Gershen and Jon Gershen along with a countless cast of proto-Americana icons, including fiddlers Vassar Clements and Ken Kosek, superpicker Ben Keith and a couple of dudes from The Band. Borderline released only one album, their second effort getting shelved for several decades... Both albums have since been re-released as a twofer CD (listed below). BTW: anyone know what the Gershens did after this?
Borderline "Sweet Dreams And Quiet Desires/The Second Album" (Real Gone Records, 2013)
Fred Bornstedt & The Bunch Grass Band "Take Me Back To The Wallowa's" (Enterprise Distributors, 1980) (LP)
This album of cowboy music was recorded at the Enterprise High School band room, in Enterprise, Oregon, and features a bunch of local musicians, all Wallowa County locals, including Bornstedt's daughter, Dora Mae Bornstedt, playing bass.
Both Barrels Band "Ain't About To Change" (Orttel Brothers Publishing, 1981) (LP)
All original material from siblings Danny and Steven Ortell, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Bottle Hill "A Rumor In Their Own Time" (Biograph, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Arnold A. Caplin)
An old-timey band with a modern sensibility, this ensemble from New York State had a repertoire that included covers of Paul Siebel's "Any Day Woman," Gram Parson's "Christine's Tune" and the Rolling Stone's "Honky Tonk Woman." And plenty of weird, craggy stringband stuff as well!
Bottle Hill "Light Our Way Along The Highway" (Biograph, 1976) (LP)
The Boulder Brothers "A Period Of Time" (Sheepeater Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Arnie Goodman & Spook Flanagan)
If you're keeping score in the whole "can't judge a book by its cover" department, feel free to add this one. I was drawn in by the Idaho mailing address, then realized this trio included guitarist Michael Wendling, who I'd come across before. I figured, maybe some twang, more likely bluegrass, let's check it out. By, oh jeez, was I unprepared by the truly horrible '70s folkie-ness of this album. Wendling plays all kind of fancy licks -- banjo, 12-string, slide guitar -- along with bassist Paul Smith and singer William Smith, who was the driving force behind this album. But, oh, lord, is this torturous. Smith was into some sort of spaced-out, cosmic crooning, profound folk-poet vibe, similar to late '60s icons like Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, or Tom Rush... But while all of those acoustic pioneers had their magical moments, I can honestly say there isn't a single track on here I'd want to hear again. It's just too self-involved and goopy for me -- I dunno what they were smoking or toking back then in Hailey, Idaho, but I guess it was potent. So, yeah, folk-freak fans might want to track this one down, though most alt-country types can steer clear.
Boulderdash "Boulderdash" (Shivaree, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Daryl McQuinn)
A country rock/honkytonk band from Collinsville, Illinois, with solid musicianship and a full brace of original material... These guys made the most of modest means -- the studio production was pretty barebones and they are definitely "real folks" locals, not hotshot country music rockstars. That said, this is a fun record with an amiable feel, covering a wide variety of styles -- cosmic cowboy/outlaw stuff, old-school honky tonk, harmony-laced country-rock, cowboy yodeling, and a goofy novelty song about having fantasies of winning the lottery. The set list includes a version of McGuinness Flint's "Two Hangmen," although most of the tracks were written by the band: drummer Paul Jarvis three songs, with pickers George Kershaw and Harry Garber adding a few more... All in all, a pretty solid set, though not necessarily a flashy or electrifying band. Definitely worth a spin!
Ted Boursaw "City Lights" (American Sound Records) (LP)
(Produced by Cliff Ayers)
A singer from Portland, Oregon who traveled to Nashville to record this set... It's all cover songs, generally straight-up oldies honkytonk hits... "City Lights," "Whiskey River," "Slowly," "Saginaw Michigan," etc.
Ken Bower "So In Love With You" (Chaparral Records, 1975) (LP)
Ken Bower "Chaparral Favorites" (Chaparral Records, 1975) (LP)
Dewayne Bowman "Dewayne Bowman" (Antique Records, 1984) (LP)
Good ol' boy Dewayne Bowman was a local star in Southwestern Missouri, near the Oklahoma border, playing main in his own bar, the Paint Stallion, located in Joplin, Missouri. This album was recorded in nearby Pittsburg, Kansas, and is pretty much straight-up honkytonk country, with slightly slick early '80s production. He's a little stiff as a singer, but it's the thought that counts. Fans of Moe Bandy might dig this guy, too.
Dewayne Bowman "Dewayne Bowman" (Antique Records, 2001) (CD)
A reissue CD that includes all the tracks off his 1984 album, along with some more recent recordings.
Don Bowman - see artist profile
Paul Bowman & The Country Showmen "San Francisco's KUDO-TV Presents..." (1972) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Bowman Don Humphrey & Roy Bell)
A Northern California native, born in Lodi, Paul Bowman moved up north to Redding, and then to Oregon where he became a country music radio broadcaster and later was recruited by hillbilly legend Rose Maddox to tour with her mid-'Sixties band. After a few years on the road with Maddox and other musicians, Bowman came back to the Golden State and scored a gig on KUDO-TV in San Francisco. The station gave him a weekly show, which is where he was working when he made this album. Alas, there's no info about the recording sessions, other than that it was at the Skinner Studios, in SF.
Paul Bowman "The Drifter" (Mark Records) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Bowman, Don Humphrey & Roy Bell)
Paul Bowman "The 20/20 Album: 20 Great Years, 20 Great Songs" (Mark Records, 1986) (LP) *
(Produced by Paul Bowman, Jack Daniels & Russ Gary)
Margie Bowman "From The Heart Of Margie Bowman" (Ranger Records)
(Produced by Forrest Green)
This gal from the town of Ozark, Arkansas wrote most of the songs on this album, adding a few cover tunes from the likes of Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Loretta Lynn. Bowman was a rough, rural vocalist -- although she pays homage to Loretta, her roots run a little deeper, back to foremothers such as Kitty Wells and more particularly to Jean Shepard, whose proto-feminist anthems are echoed in Bowman's own lyrics. This is best borne out on the album's second track, "Lord, Did You Think Of Lonely Women," in which she directly confronts God (yes, that God!) about the religious double standards that make it okay for men to seek comfort in sex, but don't allow women to do the same. That's probably the most striking song on here, but there are several that are quite good. Bowman is backed by producer Forrest Green and his band, the Rangers, a veteran of the 1950's country scene and former Arkansan himself, who moved to Michigan and settled into a second act as an indie record producer... His band adds a lively, melodic, steel-driven twang, reminiscent of Lynn's best work from the '60s; the album isn't that well-produced, and Bowman's phrasing sounds a little stiff -- nerves, maybe? -- but it's still a cool record. Not entirely sure when this was made, but I'm guessing it was around 1974-75, based on the album art and on the cover tunes: "Me And Bobby McGee" was from the late '60s, but Haggard's "Holding Things Together" came out in '74. Anyone out there know for sure?
Shell Bowling "Shell's Country Drifters" (Cimaca Records, 1974) (LP)
Singer Shell Bowling was an armed forces veteran who seems to have done a lot of USO-type troop shows during the waning years of the Vietnam War, and some of his records may have been made under the auspices of the military... though I'm not totally sure about that. This is mostly pretty mainstream stuff, including hits of the day such as "Tie A Yellow Ribbon," "Most Beautiful Girl" and "Behind Closed Doors." In 1985 he recorded a topically-themed single on the Jewel label, called "A Warning To Terrorists," which is probably worth tracking down.
Shell Bowling "Shell's Country Drifters: Most Requested Songs, Volume Two" (Rene Records) (LP)
Kenny Boyd & Strawboss "Tommy Collins Is Back, Introducing..." (1983) (LP)
Over the years, singing sheriff Kenny Boyd (1946-2012) worked as a railroad detective, a federal marshal, and as deputy -- and later Sheriff -- of Sumner County, Kansas, where he served for over twenty years. I'm not sure when he formed the Strawboss band, but I think this was their only album, and the title's a little confusing. Were they backing country star Tommy Collins, or was he just being their buddy and lending his name to their debut? Inquiring minds want to know.
Johnny Boyle "Johnny Boyle Sings" (JBS Records) (LP)
Cowboy and western stuff, of completely unknown provenance, though apparently put out by Johnny Boyle's family, possibly as a memorial album. The cover art looks late 1950s, possibly early '60s. The repertoire is mostly western music, along with some gospel, Hawaiian, and some novelty material such as "The Irish Were Egyptians," a song Boyle previously recorded as a 78, some years earlier, a tune that was originally a hit for Irish musichall singer Billy Murray.
The Boys In The Bunkhouse "The Boys In The Bunkhouse" (United Artists, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Snuff Garrett)
A convention of all-star studio pickers, with Al Casey, J. D. Maness and others jamming on some country stuff, but also covering tunes like Ary Barroso's "Brazil." Maybe not very indie, but certainly very '70s.
John Braden "John Braden" (A&M, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Henry Lewy)
Sort of a folk-country outing, with backing on a few tracks from California-based hippiebilly luminaries such as Ry Cooder, Chris Ethridge, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and various acid rock musicians, as well as jazz musician Paul Horn. John Braden later went on to carve a very successful career as a children's music producer, recording numerous albums for the Kids Stuff label, notably working on game-related albums for Atari, as well as the Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony albums. Talk about a long, strange trip!
Junior Bradford "...And The Country Knights" (Big Rock Recording, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by John Montgomery)
Jerry Bradley "Once More For The Good Times" (El Dorado Gold, 19--?)
(Produced by Ed Glass)
A country singer from Medford, Oregon, with Gene Breeden on lead guitar and Terry Crisp playing steel... The repertoire includes covers of Kris Kristofferson and Hank Williams, as well as what looks like three originals: "Oregon, I'm Coming Home" by Jerry Bradley, along with "We Never Ran Out Of Love" and "Whatever We Had" by Ken Wesley.
Paul Bradley & The Wagon Wheelers "Wagon Wheel" (Stop Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Ed Glass)
Some obscure East Coast country... The Wagon Wheel was a club located in Ayer, Massachusetts, near Boston, while singer Paul Bradley was apparently from Lewiston, Maine. I wasn't able to find out much about this guy's career, but I welcome any info!
Terry Ray Bradley "It Just Keeps Getting Better" (J.E.K. Records/Kennett Sound Studios, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Keene)
A nice, mellow set of rockabilly-tinged indie twang from a Missouri crooner who sounds quite a bit Elvis-y, with a velvety baritone and generally relaxed vibe. Mostly these are soft ballads, with a gentle rock backbeat... Some tracks are more country than others, such as producer Joe Keene's "I've Got A Lot To Get Over," which has a pure early '60s Nashville Sound feel. Another album highlight is his version of Bill Rice's "Hand Of Hurt," which is a solid country weeper. Ex-rockabilly-gone-country-star Narvel Felts contributes laudatory liner notes, and that gives you a pretty good sense of where Bradley was coming from... Fans of retrobilly crooners such as Crash Craddock, Narvel Felts and Orion might dig this as well. It's not electrifying, but it's heartfelt and musically solid.
Jim Brady "Brady" (Roc-co Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Otis Blackwell)
Although Arizona rocker "Diamond" Jim Brady had been a professional musician since the late '50s, he worked mostly as a sideman, notably for Roy Clark in the early '60s and several years touring with B. J. Thomas. This disc, from the mid-1980s, was his solo debut, and it has a 'Fifties rock feel, though there is a bit of twang in there as well. The album was produced by R&B legend Otis Blackwell, the guy who wrote seminal rock classics such as "All Shook Up," "Don't Be Cruel," "Fever," "Great Balls Of Fire," and "Return To Sender." Half the songs on this album were Blackwell compositions, but newer tunes, like "Paralize" and "Just Keep It Up." Also of interest (and more off the beaten track) is a song by Jack Quist ("Her Love's On Hold") and one by a guy named O. D. Fulks... (Any relation to Robbie? Lord only knows... but wouldn't that be cool?)
Pete Brady "Sing Me A Smile" (Moonraker, 1984) (LP)
Oh, I had high hopes for this one, but alas, not all indie albums from the '70s with old guys wearing hats turn out to be country records. Mr. Brady was more of a wannabee pop-vocals crooner - a not-quite Jack Jones/Mac Davis kinda guy. There is one track that could plausibly be called countrypolitan, but for the most part, this review is just a warning flag for twangfans: This is okay for what it is, but it ain't country.
Bramble "Bramble" (Creative Arts Studios, 1983) (LP)
Braswell Brothers "Mile One" (LP)
Poking around online, I couldn't quite figure out where the Braswell Brothers were from, but it was definitely somewhere in the South... One of the brothers, Marvin ("Mike") Braswell, moved to Sarasota County, Florida in the 1970s, but I'm not sure if that was before or after they recorded this album. At any rate, this record is a nice set of straight-up country crooning with a smooth finish but a honkytonk core -- George Jones, Vern Gosdin and Jim Ed Brown come to mind. Good stuff. Some swell pedal steel, as well. Recommended!
Sam Braswell "Lookin' Back With Sam Braswell" (Jester Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hale)
An entirely satisfying set of country covers from a longtime Montana local. Louis "Sam" Braswell was born in Mississippi but made his way up North working as an itinerant shot hole oil driller, eventually settling down in Montana in the early 1950s... He was a self-taught musician who led a local bar-band called the Tavern Travelers, and started his own business in Billings -- the Midland Tool And Supply, which he ran for over thirty years before retiring in 2000. As far as I know this was his only record, but it's a nice one. Braswell was a slightly clunky singer, but he's heartfelt and sincere, and his love of the music radiates though each song. The backing band was modest and minimal, with an accomplished steel player named Allen Meade backed by a less-dynamic rhythm section, including Chuck Bell on lead guitar, Red Austin on bass, Rex Rieke plunking piano and Mr. Braswell playing rhythm guitar. He mainly covers standards, stuff by Johnny Horton, Jimmie Rodgers, Porter Wagoner and Lefty Frizzell, with a few newer tunes such as "Catfish John," "Amanda" and Johnny Russell's "Red Necks, White Socks And Blue Ribbon Beer," three of four songs on here written by Bob McDill, who Braswell seems to have admired quite a bit. Real-deal, locally generated old-school country.
The Braun Brothers "Old Cowboy Blues" (Idaho Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by The Braun Brothers)
Likable locals from Boise, Idaho, Muzzie and Gary Braun fronted a long-lived hippie/cowboy country/folk band which specialized -- particularly on this album -- in songs with local twists. Lots of songs with Idaho, Boise and wide, open spaces in the lyrics... Nice, unflashy musicianship with just the right amount of twang to 'em. Nothing mindblowing, but a nice souvenir of an authentic regional band of hometown heroes.
The Braun Brothers "Heart Of Idaho" (Idaho Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Braun & Glenn Nelson, Jr.)
Another modest DIY effort from brothers Gary and Muzzie Braun, who took the Rocky Mountain folk-country style of John Denver and gave it a rural Idaho twist, singing songs about loggers, miners, cowboys and long, cold winters without your best girl around to make you a cup of coffee. Muzzie Braun was the driving force here -- he wrote and sang all the songs, while brother Gary thumped on the drums -- and while Muzzie had his limitations as a singer, this is a charming set of for-locals regional twang. The opening track, "Heart Of Idaho," is a nice upbeat song that hearkens back to the days of regionally-themed country songs, and there are some other songs that were good as well, mostly the uptempo numbers, as Muzzie can show some weakness as a ballad singer. "Weekend Logger Blues" is a standout novelty number, though the whole record has a nice amateurish charm, underscored by the liner notes that describe how various songs were composed throughout the '70s: this album was a long time coming and was obviously a labor of love. Might not be a classic, but it's got its charms.
The Braun Brothers "Born 100 Years Too Late" (Idaho Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by The Braun Brothers)
A thoroughly charming set of low-key, good-natured twang tunes, with a definite tilt towards novelty numbers like the Willie Nelson tribute song, "Willie's Old Guitar" and the straight-faced barroom ballad, "Honky Tonk Hall Of Fame." Several songs make reference to life in rural Idaho, notably "High Mountain Home" and "I'm Missin' You," which also are heartfelt reflections on life as a parent and talk about "the boys," presumably the second generation of Braun Brothers, who all became musicians themselves (see below...) There's also one topical, political song, "Save It For The Babies," which is about stopping land grabbers and big corporations from despoiling Idaho's pristine natural beauty. These are nice, good-natured tunes, totally unpretentious, all originals, with an all-local cast backing the singers. A great set of local's only, DIY twang.
The Braun Brothers "Vintage Braun Brothers" (Idaho Records, 2011)
This CD best-of gathers almost two-dozen tracks from various Braun Brothers albums, including of course, "Heart Of Idaho" and most of the rest of their first album. After this band, Muzzie formed another family act with four of his sons, called Muzzie & The Boys -- it's probably worth noting here that they went on to form bands of their own: Willy and Cody Braun started the Americana/indie-rock band Reckless Kelly, while Micky Braun is in the red-dirt band, Micky and the Motorcars... Talk about a family tradition!
Brave Belt "Brave Belt" (Reprise, 1971)
From our neighbors up North came this kinda-sorta-country rock band, a semi-solo project from Canadian rocker Randy Bachman, who had just left the band Guess Who after they scored a chart-topping hit with the song "American Woman." Apparently the breakup wasn't very friendly, and Bachman had a tough time getting his career started. The little-remembered Brave Belt albums are often mostly seen as warm-ups to the tighter sounding, vastly more successful Bachman-Turner Overdrive. I guess there's a legitimate argument to be made that these albums have a place in the early history of country-rock, though they are also kind of proggy and poppy, with a heavy boogie-rock undercurrent, as would be expected from the time... The band didn't do well south of the border, and its third album was rejected by the label, which prompted Bachman to change the band's lineup, name and musical direction, eventually leading to the BTO whose hits "Takin' Care of Business" and "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" became integral parts of the oppressively prefab radio landscape of the 'Seventies. Twangfans may find modest rewards on the first Brave Belt album; the second album has more of a heavy-rock sound, and neither one really does that much for me...
Brave Belt "Brave Belt II" (Reprise, 1972)
Dick Bray "Talk With The Man" (Hyland Records, 1972-?) (LP)
This is a major mystery record, with no where, when, who or how about it... The liner notes include the song titles and composer credits, and that's about it. I couldn't find anything out about this guy or who was backing him up online: there are a few Dick Brays to choose from but none of them seemed like a good match. Anyway, it's also an odd record, clearly a mega-private vanity release, though Bray seems to have had a confidence borne of some success singing in coffeehouses or somewhere like that. It kicks off with the title track, a folk-ish gospel song that makes you think, uh-oh, it's gonna be one of those albums, but soon shifts into an otherwise exclusively secular mode. Bray's vocal persona quickly gels into a strong similarity with Hoyt Axton and like Axton, he straddles country, folk and a tiny bit of mildly psychedelic pop-rock... On the surface, this seems to be the kind of record that could easily be mocked by the uber-hip, but after a couple of listens, it grew on me, particularly a couple of the odder, more personal-sounding songs. Side Two features the strongest of these, the evocative "Goin' Goin' Gone" and the weird, rambling "He Packed His Guitar," a cluttered narrative about some guy who tries to make it in show business, moving to San Francisco in '69 and then down to LA, where he leads a "comfortable" life... It's a strange, naifish song, one of several credited to Mick Lloyd, and seems to have an axe or two to grind about the music business: if anyone's looking for songs so include on "private press" anthologies, this one's a great candidate. The record is filled with originals, but none were credited to Bray -- was he writing and recording under different names? Was this a song-poem album? Who can tell? But even though my rational mind screams against it, my heart has to accept this untraceable album as a guilty pleasure. Anyone with more info out there? I'm all ears.
Dick Bray "Touch Of The West" (Hyland Records) (LP)
Some of this album comes from straight-up western-themed sources, songs like "Big Iron" and "Ghost Riders," but a lot of it's more in a pop-folk crooning style, tunes like "Greenfields" and "It Was A Very Good Year." One thing that does become clear, though, is that the Hyland label was Bray's own imprint: he also released at least one 45 single on it as well.
Brazil Country "...Plays Something For Everyone!" (Crown City Recording And Publishing Company, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Szabo)
Oh, I had very high hopes for this one! I mean, just look at it: Brazil...? Country...? Oh baby! This was made for me! A closer inspection, though, revealed no twanged-up bossa nova songs, no samba renditions of Hank Williams oldies... Alas, the band was named for guitarist Tony Brazil, a Central California native whose band paired up country instruments such as pedal steel with trumpet and sax, a combination they applied to songs by Merle Haggard, Buddy Holly, and Bert Kaempfert, along with pop hits of the day such as "Put Your Hand In The Hand" and "Tiny Bubbles," with the most recent song being Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue," which was a hit in '72. According to the liner notes, the group won some kind of battle of the bands sponsored by radio station KLAC, Hollywood, and played gigs at venues such as the Squaw Valley ski resort... Anyway, this may not be the world-music twangfest I'd hoped for, but it's still an interesting souvenir of a Southern California county-fair covers band of yesteryear.
Breakheart Pass Band "Borderline Thrill" (Breakheart Pass Enterprises, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Scott Fronsoe & Steve Fjeland)
A country-oriented bar band from Minneapolis, Minnesota with a wealth of freshly-written material... The album's producer, bassist Scott Fronsoe, wrote or co-wrote all but three of the songs while the remainder were originals as well, including a couple written by guitarist Joe Campbell. Includes songs such as "Burned Out Feelins," "In A Bar Room, On A Bar Stool," and "Minnesota Woman." Pretty solid stuff, in the classic hippiebilly country-rock style. Recommended!
Brethren "Whistlin' With The Wind" (Moonsound, 1979) (LP)
A mix of Christian and secular country from a Minneapolis, Minnesota band founded in 1974. The main members are the trio of Doug Larsen, Bob Hoch and John Williams, with backing by a band called Wildwood, which included pedal steel/banjo player Jeff Dayton... The covers include "Mr. Bojangles," Carole King's "You've Got A Friend," Jimmie Driftwood's "Battle Of New Orleans."
Brewer & Shipley -- see artist profile
Con Brewer "The Country Sound Of Con Brewer" (Blake Records) (LP)
(Produced by John Cook)
An extremely likeable, unpretentious album from a guy with modest vocal talents but deep country roots... Brewer plays some great, bouncy bordello-style piano riffs, strums the guitar and kinda croaks his way through a nice set of all-original material, with several excellent tunes. There are also a few instrumental tracks on Side Two where he jams with the band, with the piano and pedal steel being standouts. I'm not sure where he was from -- this album was recorded in Memphis, though in the liner notes he thanks some friends in Leesburg, Florida who helped him out. I like this record a lot: Mr. Brewer might not have had the greatest voice, but he sure knew about true-country twang.
Michael Brewer "Beauty Lies" (Warner Brothers, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Fogelberg)
This solo album from Michael Brewer sports a ton of LA-scene talent, ranging from veteran country-rockers to diehard soft-pop studio-crew regulars. Although it almost painfully reflects the gooey, ornate sound of mid-to-late-'70s AOR, it still has its charms. Producer Dan Fogelberg leaves a strong mark on the sound (including a few of his own songs in the set list) and there is a certain formulaic feel that may be distracting or, depending on your point of view, a welcome throwback to the pop music of several years earlier. Either way, it's nice to hear Brewer sing, with that distinctive, reedy tone that is still distinctive and strong, a decade or so after his salad days. Worth a spin, if you're already a fan.
Briar Patch "Briar Patch" (Delmarti Records) (LP)
Dunno much about these guys... The band was from Cloquet, Minnesota and though it looks like more of a folkie record, they were signed to a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose, and had some pedal steel on the album. Anyone out there know more about these guys?
Bobby Bridger "Merging Of Our Minds" (RCA Victor, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Bridger & Bob Kramer)
A multi-talented writer, performing artist and musician, Louisiana-born Bobby Bridger made a handful of singles for other labels before recording this lofty, folk-tinged album for RCA-Nashville. In 1970, he moved to Austin and was an early participant in the pre-outlaw independent Texas country-folk scene, eventually becoming involved with the Kerrville Folk Festival, serving on its board of directors for over a decade, and performing there annually for many years. Bridger steadily became more and more interested in Western American history, and Native American rights issues... On this debut, he mixes cosmic-Christian spirituality with mildly bombastic, Jimmy Webb-esque/Glen Campbell-ish folk-pop arrangements and searching, sometimes strained lyrical profundities... On Side Two, he branches out into spacier, gooier, Tim Hardin-style dreaminess, notably on the uber-hippiedelic "Sharing's Just Another Word For Love," and the truly horrific "Sea Chanty." By and large the studio crew was not made up of Nashville regulars, although Pete Drake plays steel and slide, and it's not every day you find a record which features session guitarist Fred Carter, Jr. sitting in on bongo drums(!) Not really my cup of tea, countrywise, but worth checking out if you're in a kitschy or historical frame of mind.
Bobby Bridger "And I Wanted To Sing For The People" (RCA Victor, 1973) (LP)
Bobby Bridger "Heal In The Wisdom" (Golden Egg, 1981)
Bobby Bridger "A Ballad Of The West" (Golden Egg, 2001)
This is Bridger's magnum opus, a concept album trilogy about American Indians, with lots of narration interspersed with songs...
Dick Bridges "Texas Love Affair" (Melody Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dick Bridges & Jerry Abbott)
Leon Briggs "Dreamin' Again" (1987) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Roberts & David Gilmore)
Rough-hewn, stripped-down country story-songs with bare-bones arrangements and straightforward production... Kansas City singer-songwriter Leon Briggs has kind of a Merle Haggard vibe to him, both vocally and in his musical approach, and while this fine DIY album lacks pedal steel, there's fiddle, banjo and dobro adding the right amount of twang, and a loose, chunky sound that gives this album a distinctive feel. Briggs has a few rough edges as well, as heard on "Nothin' In A Name," a novelty song about a guy who can't be bothered to remember (or learn) the name of whatever woman he's with at the moment, or "Old Whiskey And Young Girls," which has a similarly dude-centric point of view that almost drifts into Hank Jr./Toby Keith territory... A nice indie twang set from the heartland... These songs were all originals, written between 1980-87.
Leon Briggs & Peter Fisher "Hang And Rattle" (2008) (MP3)
I'm guessing this is the same guy, just twenty years later... Anyone know if he recorded anything else?
Jerry Bright "Be Mine" (Goldust, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Bright & Emmit Brooks)
Like a lot of early rockabilly artists, Las Cruces, New Mexico's Jerry Bright also recorded some more country-sounding material later in life... Bright is best known for his late '50s single, "Be Mine," which he originally recorded as a single, with his friend Bobby Fuller backing him up. A couple of decades later, he recorded this album, which includes a new version of his old song. It's basically a '50s-style oldies album, though there is a roadhouse/country twang undercurrent and some nice pedal steel on several songs, from local pickers Kenny Trantham and Calvin Turbeville. Nothing earthshattering here, to be sure, but a nice example of the mellow roots music crossovers on the desert twang scene.
Briley & Branch "Briley & Branch" (Prodigy, 1978) (LP)
The lounge duo of composer Pat Briley and vocalist Judy Branch worked in Florida in the mid-1970s, playing largely in a pop-jazz standards mode, though with some country in the mix as well. Branch worked as a singer in the Harry James band for a while, and brought a scat-singing background to the duo's work. As far as I know, this was their only album.
Marc Bristol & The Okie Doke Band "This Feelin' " (King Noodle Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Marc Bristol & Steve Babcock)
Ah, the sounds of pre-grunge Seattle, back when flannel was just flannel, and hippies roamed wild in an irony-free landscape. This album is from a guy who lived in the Seattle suburb of Duvall, Washington (which was probably a lot more rural back then than it is now...) and it's a great example of pure, goofy, amateurish "private press" recordmaking... It's more folkie-oriented than the stuff I like, but there is a little bit of country twang in here, with some fairly unsophisticated lap steel and dobro from Marty Lepore, who went on to become a mainstay of the Seattle-area bluegrass scene. For his part, Bristol plays harmonica and guitar as well as some washboard, wood saw and even a bit of kazoo, which gives you a sense of the whimsical quality of a lot of this album... There's banjo and mandolin in here as well, and the bluegrass-y parts are probably the best. This has a strong feel of an album made by a bunch of friends, though maybe not the best pickers in the world... There's not much on here that really caught my imagination, but it's definitely an authentic DIY relic... Apparently Bristol wrote a column for the old hippie bible, The Whole Earth Catalog, some of which he, ahem, recycled into a book called Homegrown Music. Anyone know more about these folks?
Dan Brock & Louise Brock "Kentucky Songbag" (Donerail Records, 1968) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Brock)
This is one of the earliest examples of bluegrasser J. D. Crowe working as a bandleader, with Bobby Sloane and Doyle Lawson backing him up as Kentucky Mountain Boys, the nucleus of the band that would later be called The New South. It's a slightly odd album, with fairly staid folksong vocals by Dan and Louise Brock, who cite the esteemed John Jacob Niles as their main inspiration... Their singing is hardly bluegrass style, but the shared history of the music helps bridge the gap, although the Kentucky Mountain Boys keep mostly in the background, with Crowe's (or Lawson's) banjo being the most prominent instrument in the mix. They get to stretch out instrumentally on a couple of tracks on Side Two, but for the most part this is kind of a work-for-hire album. Nice set of Kentucky-related folklore, though, with a mix of standards and oldies from popular song (Stephen Foster, et. al.), gospel, and a few contemporary tunes like "Coal Tattoo." Definitely worth a spin!
Jaime Brockett "Remember The Wind And The Rain" (Capitol, 1969)
A folksinger originally from Grafton, Massachusetts, Brockett scored an unlikely "hit" on the underground radio scene with his rambling, 13-minute long song, "The Legend Of The U.S.S. Titanic," which is included on this album...
Jaime Brockett "2" (Capitol, 1970) (LP)
Jaime Brockett "North Mountain Velvet" (Adelphi, 1977)
(Produced by Jack Heyrman & Scott Johnson)
Although his first album gave him some early '70s cred, if you ask me, this record is Brockett's masterpiece. An eclectic set packed with talent from various corners of the roots-music world... Bluegrassers such as Ricky Skaggs, John Starling, John Duffey, Mike Auldridge and various members of the late-'70s edition of the Seldom Scene crew add some sweet acoustic twang, while pedal steel player A. J. Rubino adds a dreamy vibe to a couple of spacey, Byrds-y cosmic country tunes, and there's even a touch of Celtic folk, as on his version of "The Ballad Of Darcy Farrow." Standout tracks include an appropriately laid-back version of Bryan Bowers' "Lost My Stash" and the album's true novelty-song classic, "Just Stopped By To Git A Cup Of Coffee," a cheerfully perky, hippie-trucker hybrid written by folk legend Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who duets with Brockett while the Seldom Scene boys gallop away -- great, hilarious lyrics lampooning the CB-trucker fad of the time, with an irresistibly catchy musical hook. They used to play that one ALL the time on KFAT, when I was a kid. This is a really fun record, definitely worth tracking down.
Broken Bow "Arrival" (Couderay, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Murphey)
James Brolin "...Sings" (Artco, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Hartman & Jim Spence)
Yeesh. California-born actor James Brolin, father of Josh Thanos Brolin, was just hitting his stride as a '70s celebrity when he cut this country-oriented album. Split thematically between a "City Side" and a supposedly more rugged "Country Side," this is, for the most part a pretty awful record. I mean, yeah, vocally he's vaguely in the same territory as Hoyt Axton, but his delivery is uniformly flat and monotonous, and a lot of the material sounds tired and uninvolving, despite contributions from writers such as Donnie Fritts, Red Lane, Troy Seals, and Tony Joe White. Side One -- the soft pop/countrypolitan side -- is just dreadful, although Side Two has some modest charms. There's a decent cover of Merle Haggard's "If We Make Through December," and a barroom ballad called "Bar Girl" that's okay. These are balanced, however, by a couple of unctuous aw-gee, kids-are-cute duets with five-year-old Thanos chirping alongside his avuncular pappa -- on Shel Silverstein's nauseating "Daddy What If" (originally a hit for Conway Twitty and his daughter Joni) and "Let's Go Fishing" which, amazingly, is even worse. But if you ever want to embarass Josh Brolin at a dinner party -- should the opportunity arise -- be sure to tuck a copy of this album under your arm and watch the look of horror spread across his face as you walk towards the stereo. Okay, okay... So, it was the countrypolitan era, and I suppose that given some of the real hits of the time, this album isn't really all that bad... but I wouldn't say you need to knock youself out tracking a copy down.
David Bromberg -- see artist profile
Bronco "Bronco" (Earthwood, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Chris Kermit)
Randy Brook "One More Highway" (Takoma-Devi Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Don Davis)
This one's a little more folkie than the type of country I'm into, but I wanted to keep it on the radar because Arizona alterna-twangster Shep Cooke is one of the backing musicians, playing bass and "harmonics" (harmonica?) and there's also a credit for "The Phantom Slide Dobro Player," which sure sounds mysterious. Plus, it's on Takoma... so that's major cool factor just to begin with!
Bob Brooks & The Rustlers "Bad, Bad Memories Of A Good Time" (Memory Records, 1977-?) (LP)
A local band from Bristol, Connecticut that was formed in the 'Seventies, the Rustlers featured lead singer Bob Brooks, guitarist Jim Ferrera, Jr. and bassist Al Laurendeau (an old-timer who also played traditional fiddle music on his own time. The band's drummer, Greg Borbas was a teenager when he joined the band, staying active in the local music scene for decades to come. Anyway, this late '70s album features a lot of good, straightforward cover songs -- classy stuff like John Conlee's "Rose Colored Glasses," Waylon's "Good Hearted Woman," Ronnie Milsap's "Daydreams About Night Things" and Kris Kristofferson's "Bad, Bad Memories Of A Good Time." The title track was written by Brooks (real name, Robert Brooke) back in 1972, and it's a good song, although I guess it's the only original on here. Brooks is a modestly talented singer, not electrifying or overly charismatic, but competent and heartfelt, mainly sticking to mid-tempo crooning that makes good use of his slightly unusual voice. There's a hint of Hank Locklin in his tone (which might be a Florida thing?) and an un-macho feel that harkens back to the pre-hat act country sounds of the '40s and '50s where singers like Hank Snow and Webb Pierce who had kind of goofy voices nonetheless found success as emotive singers. A nice, decidedly local record made with no muss or fuss, just some solid old-school country played by guys who believed in what they were doing.
The Brooks Brothers & Their Almost Famous Band "...In Concert At The Grapevine Opry" (Yatahey Records, 1980) (LP)
There's obviously history here that I'm not totally aware of: led by Bill and Randy Brooks, the Brooks Brothers band started out in the early 1970s and stayed together though the rest of the '80s, playing local shows both large and small. But despite the longhair-rocker look, these Texas boys were actually a shamelessly cheesy lounge band, though admittedly with some genuine twang and bar-band licks in the mix. Their emotive pop ballads are super-painful, and sometimes seem to verge on self-parody: devotees of pure cheese will get a big kick out of this disc. Still, it is kind of fun to hear their gonzo, balls-out approach to working their audience, including a super-goofy routine where they dragged some dudes out of the audience to play cowbell and tambourine on a wild rendition of "Squaws Along The Yukon" -- maybe a funny part of their live show, but it sure was a weird choice to include on their record. They also deliver a lusty rendition of the Mac Davis hit, "It's Hard To Be Humble" -- another album highlight -- while the inclusion of a long version of "How Great Thou Art" foreshadowed Bill Brooks's later move into gospel music. I can't honestly "recommend" this record, but it is an authentic snapshot of these dudes and their live show. I know there are those of you out there who will get off on it for all the meanest reasons, but I think these guys were mostly just having fun and not taking things super-seriously. So laugh away... I don't think they'll mind.
Jake Brooks "Rodeo Bum" (Goldust, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Emmit Brooks)
You can file this easygoing, slightly rough-hewn set of real-deal rodeo songs right next to your Chris Ledoux albums... Indeed, over the years, Ledoux himself has covered several songs by New Mexico rodeo rider Jake Brooks, and this record features a bunch of rodeo-themed songs by the lean, lanky Mr. Brooks, as well as the topical "Little Brother," about a friend who went off to fight in Vietnam, and "Rodeo Cowboy's Wife," about the women who cheer on their hubbies while the guys pursue that eight second ride. If you like rodeo songs, you'll definitely want to check this album out.
Mary And Steve Brooks "Country Love... With A Touch Of Nashville" (Windchime Records) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Slate & Ben Hall)
Brother Love "Brother Love" (Kennett Sound Studios, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Keene)
The trio of Gary Blanchard, Mike Glisson and Clyde Brown got a little assist from rocker Terry Bradley and some other folks in the orbit of the Kennett Sound Studios in Kennett, Missouri. They played all cover songs, including an Elvis Presley medley, KC & the Sunshine Band's "I Like To Do It," a tune by Jesse Winchester, one from Roy Orbison tune, and a rockabilly-era Charlie Rich song as well as a version of "The End Is Not In Sight," from the Amazing Rhythm Aces. Eclectic, to be sure!
Carl Brouse "American Hotel" (DTI Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Craig Luckin & Carl Brouse)
The Brown County Band "The Brown County Band" (Programme Audio Gold, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Scott)
A country-rock crew from Nashville... Nashville, Indiana, that is! Almost entirely original material, though several songs were written by friends of the band, along with four that were written by bandmember Rick Wilson. The band seems to have been made up mostly from two families, with brothers Greg Wilson and Rick Wilson (bass and lead vocals, respectively) and Dan and Doug Harden (banjo and mandolin) joined by the man in the middle, dobro player Mark Small.
Eddie Brown "Has Anybody Here Seen Sweet Thang?" (DJB, 1981) (LP)
All country covers and rock oldies... The label was from Columbia, South Carolina, where I imagine Eddie Brown was a hopeful lounge singer... He's backed by the Rob Crosby group, which didn't include country instruments such as fiddle or steel guitar, but did list woodwinds and both "drums" and "percussion," none of which is a good sign for twangfans.
Max Brown "Max Brown" (Belle Meade, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Scotty Moore & Al Gore)
A Top-40 hopeful, singer Max Brown dabbled in Charlie Rich-ish/Conway Twitty-esque "sunshine" country, along with more standard-issue ballads with a couple of good cheating songs thrown in for good measure. He covers Mac Davis's "I Believe In Music" and "I'm Gonna Paint You A Song" along with the perky "Beautiful Sunday," as well as three songs of his own: "Yes Indeed," "I Could Write A Book," and the schmaltzy but oddly compelling "1955 Was A Very Good Year." Brown had an okay voice, with sometimes-iffy phrasing, with strong backing from a studio crew that included D. J. Fontana on drums, Dale Sellers playing lead guitar and Jim Baker on steel... A nice example of an indie artist making a go of it in a mainstream format. Brown had the right sound and probably could have made it in Nashville, although these songs were maybe two or three years out of date by the time this album came out.
Milton L. Brown/Various Artists "Closed Session: The Soundtrack Album" (DoBro Enterprises, 1987) (LP)
(Produced by Milton L. Brown)
Funded by an arts grant from the state of Alabama, this album was an adaptation of a stage play written by songwriter Milton L. Brown, and features several local musicians from Mobile singing original songs which Brown either wrote or co-wrote. One of the performers is early '80s country crooner Leon Raines, who recorded one major-label album and had a string of mildly successful singles charting in the Country Back Forty; the other artists were more obscure: The Davis Kids, De De Grant, Tony Martin and Phaedra, as well as Brown himself on a tune or two. Several of the songs were co-written by Steve Dorff and a couple with Paul Overstreet, and the Nashville-based recording sessions included Larry Byrom on guitar, Lloyd Green playing dobro and steel, and Buzz Cason adding some vocals.
Tommy Brown "With Guitar In Hand -- Tommy Brown Sings" (Brown Records) (LP)
An obscuro-unknown from Lizella, Georgia singing country standards such as "Anytime," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Gentle On My Mind," "Oh, Lonesome Me" and "Release Me," as well as his own song, "Wrong Side Of Her World." Hard to pin down the date on this one, but guessing from the early countrypolitan cover songs (and the typography) I'd say maybe early '70s, maybe 1970-ish. As always, additional info is always welcome!
Tommy Brown "The Best Of Tommy Brown" (Top Records) (LP)
Once again, mostly cover tunes, along with a version of his song, "Wrong Side Of Her World."
Jackson Browne "Jackson Browne (Saturate Before Using)" (Asylum, 1972)
(Produced by Jackson Browne & Richard Sanford Orshoff)
Yeah, I know... It's long been fashionable to mock and deride Jackson Browne as a wimp, a cheeseball, one of the ultimate '70s dino-rockers... And I'll concede that his earlier albums are, by and large somewhat lugubrious and overinflated -- there are songs on them that I like, but many more that are, frankly, way overwritten and insufferable. Nonetheless, he's firmly in the SoCal country-rock pantheon -- a protege of David Geffen and an early buddy of The Eagles, Browne was key to the development of the singer-songwriter/adult pop genre, and dipped into true twang from time to time... This debut album has a bunch of his best-known songs, including a few faves like "Doctor My Eyes" (guilty pleasure, though I'm pretty much over it) and "Something Fine" (which still holds up) and a bunch of songs that have always struck me as a bit too precious. Still, it's canonical and all.
Jackson Browne "For Everyman" (Asylum, 1973)
(Produced by Jackson Browne)
Of his early albums, I'd recommend For Everyman the most, just 'cuz the songs are catchier and more overtly "pop." Winners include his version of "Take It Easy," "These Days," and the jaunty novelty number, "Red Neck Friend." And then there's the usual pretentious-poetic stuff. Musicians include Glenn Frey and Don Henley of the Eagles, Sneaky Pete on pedal steel, David Lindley on just about everything else, and a bunch of LA "usual suspects," in one big SoCal rock-star lovefest. Some folks dig it, some folks don't.
Jackson Browne "Late For The Sky" (Asylum, 1974)
(Produced by Jackson Browne & Al Schmitt)
Nothing on here I really care about... A lot of poetic would-be profundity, etc., etc. Not my cup of tea.
Jackson Browne "The Pretender" (Asylum, 1976)
(Produced by Jackson Browne & Jon Landau)
Ditto with this one...
Jackson Browne "Running On Empty" (Elektra, 1977)
(Produced by Jackson Browne)
A not-so-guilty pleasure. This album remains one of the best country-rock records ever made, and when measured up against most of the alt.country acts of the '80s and '90s, this is indeed a superior product. A concept album about driving the long, lonesome highway and touring in a rock'n'roll band, this disc is packed with winning songs. It had several hits: the title track, "You Love The Thunder," his version of the doo-wop oldie, "Stay," given a modern, sardonic twist in the context of the weird, mutually parasitic relationship between rock stars and their fans. There are also a slew of great, non-hit country tunes, like "Nothin' But Time," "Shaky Town," and "The Road" that stack up quite well against anything the cowpunk and insurgent-altie crowd has come up with. Browne's road songs are as self-involved and navel-gazey as other songs of the genre, but he seems to have a self-awareness, and a willingness to explore the ickiness of situation that is lacking in many similar compositions. The sexism of the opening verse "Rosie" -- a song about a groupie -- is tempered by a deft humanization of the objectified girl, and by Browne's remarkable willingness to portray himself and his fame in an unfavorable light, either as honest autobiography, or as an Almost Famous-style character sketch. At any rate, I think this is a fine album, well worth checking out and listening to without the hipster blinders on: you might be surprised by how good it really is.
Severin Browne "Severin Browne" (Motown, 1973)
Well... While we're at it, might as well give a nod to Jackson's brother Severin, who cut a couple of albums in the early '70s in an unlikely matchup with the R&B powerhouse, Motown Records, which was trying to branch out at the time. You can kind of see it, though: there's a lightly funky undercurrent to many of Browne's songs, his soft-pop singer-songwriter tunes had a mild groove to them, ala Michael Franks. Although several country-rock stalwarts are on here backing him up -- Richard Bennett, Emory Gordy Jr. and Sneaky Pete Kleinow -- there are also cello and conga players to reckon with, and Browne's own gentle piano riffs. This disc is basically a straight-up soft-pop outing, not quite as slick as, say, Seals & Croft, but in that vincinity, so for most twangfans this might be a no-go. But soft-rock aficionados might really dig it.
Severin Browne "New, Improved" (Motown, 1974) (LP)
Lee Browning "Country And Western Demo: Male Vocals" (Frederick Records, 197--?) (LP)
The very epitome of a low-rent, ultra-generic "song poem" release, this album touts itself as "a variety of songs written by Lee Browning," produced by the Sundance Productions studio in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, the actual musicians on the album remain unnamed -- there are two different male voices, though it's doubtful that Browning played as well. Anyone out there have more info about this record?
Brush Arbor - see artist discography
Brushwood Laurel "Build Me A Cabin" (Tyloa Records, 1978) (LP)
An eclectic bluegrass band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose set list includes a cover of Leroy Preston's "Somebody Stole His Body" a bunch of classic country gospel songs, bluegrass standards and two originals, "Another Man's Shoes" and "Goodbye Mr. Devil."
Brushwood Laurel "South On 41" (1981) (LP)
Though still bluegrass-y with a bit of country twang, this album has a distinctly folk-pop tone, reminiscent of John Denver, as well as a strong undercurrent of Christian messaging. One gets the impression that bandleader Paul Brushwood really wanted to move in a contemporary Christian direction, but wasn't quite ready to dicisively make the transition. At any rate, this will still be of interest to some bluegrass fans, and on the country side of things, perhaps interesting to fans of bands such as Brush Arbor, or the Christian country of Al Perkins and his posse.
Wes Bryan "Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow" (U. S. International) (LP)
Born in Murphy, North Carolina, Wes Bryan was a successful songwriter who had his stuff recorded by Glen Campbell, Buddy Knox, Fabian, Guy Mitchell and others...
Roger Bryant "Allegheny" (Americountry Records) (MP3)
A native West Virginian, country songwriter Roger Bryant was the grandson of folk musician "Aunt Jennie" Wilson, a local banjo player and traditional singer who was a big hit at Southern folk festivals during the late 1950s and '60s. Bryant carried the family banner on several albums, including this one which mixes novelty material (like "Stomp That Cube," an anti-Rubik's cube novelty song) with some well-crafted country stuff, with a strong Merle Haggard influence. This album has surprisingly strong production for an uber-indie album... and he's a soulful performer. Definitely worth a spin!
Bubba & Nicky "Back Porch Country" (Deanne, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Narramore)
This one is super-duper amateur hour stuff... The husband-wife duo of Elmer ("Bubba") and Nicky Charles were a couple from Deer Lodge, Montana who were possessed of big hearts but modest talents. Now, I'm not in this to make fun of people, but even I have to admit that this disc has limited appeal. It's authentic, low-profile country DIY, and the Charleses wrote several songs themselves, but the album is poorly recorded and their performances -- particularly the vocals -- aren't exactly top-flight. However, if like myself, you've gone down the rabbit-hole of appreciating the efforts and aspirations of little guys and unknowns, you might wanna check this out... There's definitely enthusiam and energy here, just not much musically that actually swept me up and made me sing along. Notable among the studio musicians is guitarist Bob Buell, who later led the Idaho-based band Coltrain and may have done session work on other albums. I couldn't discover this album's release date anywhere online, though it looks most likely late-1970s, possibly early '80s.
Buckacre "Morning Comes" (MCA, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Glyn Johns)
Amiable, country-tinged '70s soft-rock by a popular regional band from Illinois. They sounded kind of like the band America, with a few added Southern rock guitar riffs. Lots of vocal harmonies, and pretty gooey, amorphous songs. Really it's the songwriting where they fall flat: none of these songs really see about anything much at all... But they're all pretty easy on the ears, and folks who like the goopier side of the country-rock genre will probably dig this as sort of a semi-lost gem. Or a semiprecious stone, at least... turquoise, no doubt... Anyway, they were a competent band and the production is classic, super-slick, hermetically sealed 'Seventies stuff, courtesy of Eagles cohort Glyn Johns. Worth checking out, though not much here stuck to my ribs. The country-tinged "Just Another Night" might be about the most memorable song on here, though that's not saying much.
Buckacre "Buckacre" (MCA, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Win Kutz)
The country vibe seems to be slowly leaking out in favor of a more rock-oriented sound. Hints of Styx or Kansas, maybe, though -- god, how embarrassing! -- not quite as rocking as those guys. Terrible attempt at reggae on "Fire, Wind And Water," and a mildly interesting look at show biz with "Same Old Song And Dance." A pair of pedal steel-flavored twangtunes -- "Here's A Stranger" and "Don't Be Blue" -- point back towards their last album, but they clearly wanted to score some pop hits, and it just wasn't gonna happen. The sound mix is still pretty slick, and '70s pop fans might dig it, but nothing really wowed me here.
Johnny Buckett "I'm Using My Bible For A Roadmap" (Fortune Records) (LP)
Tennessee native John Chisenhall moved up North in the postwar 1940s/'50s era, singing honkytonk and hard country on radio stations in Michigan and elsewhere, though by the time he cut this album for the Detroit-based Fortune label, he had switched to country gospel material and taken up the stage name Johnny Buckett. The setlist is mostly old standards -- "I'll Fly Away," etc. -- though there are s few originals in the mix as well, including a couple of cornball recitation numbers. Not sure of the exact release date, but I'd guess late '50s/early '60s, from the look of it.
Buckeye Biscuit Band "First Batch" (EP) (1975) (LP)
A 4-song EP self-released by this early country-rock band from Cleveland, Ohio. These guys stayed together until 1982, and worked in a variety of other local bands as well...
Buckeye Biscuit Band "Fresh Candy" (Peabody Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Cavanaugh)
A spunky but uneven album from one of Ohio's best-known 1970's country-rock bands... They seem to have been trying for a Firefall-style hit, as heard on the syrupy, Dan Fogleberg-esque AOR ballad that opens this album, but they also dip back into outlaw and outlaw-esque twang that owes equal debts to early Eagles and grittier, naughtier bar bands like Chuck Wagon & The Wheels. It's a pretty wide divide, and the more mainstream-leaning material might turn some twangfans off, particularly as singer Elbert Webb had a rather, um, unconventional voice, which was constantly straining and emotive in a way that might be distracting to fans of all the various styles the band took on. Still, this album documents a significant regional band and has a wealth of original material, with several strong songs. It may not hold up when listened to from end to end, but there are some fun tracks on here, definitely worth checking out.
Buckhorn "Buckhorn" (Bowman/Baby Grand Recording Co., 1977) (LP)
(Produced by C. Marmont & L. Wilson)
No info online about this band, which was led by singer/guitarist Steve Sherman and recorded this album in Hollywood, California... Sherman was rocking the cowboy hat, but the band didn't include pedal steel or fiddle, so the twang factor might not be as high as some might like.
Eldon Buckner "...Sings Some Of His Favorites" (Charter Records) (LP)
Buckshot "Two Barrels Of Buckshot" (Square Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Pamenter & Derek Tompkins)
Outlaw country, Hertfortshire-style... This English twangband had a rough-edged, unruly sound, due in part perhaps to their musical limitations, but also clearly because of the allegiance to the wilder side of country. They kick things off with an edgy, rock-inflected cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," then slide effortlessly into a long string of original songs, most of them written by lead singer Pete Pamenter, whose chunky, old-man vocals add to the band's neotrad/amateur mystique. Drummer Keith Brooker also contributes a couple of songs, "There's A Will, But No Way" and the uptempo "Kentucky Morning," which is an album highlight. Dunno much about these guys, where they played or how popular they were, but this is kind of a cool album... Not as accomplished as its American counterparts, but still pretty twangy and unusually earthy by the standards of the old UK country scene.
The Buckskins "Let's Go West Again" (MVM/Mount Vernon Music, 1962) (LP)
A western-themed band founded by Joe Reagan and Frank Robinson in the 1950s, The Buckskins gained national fame when they won the Arthur Godfrey show's talent competition in 1957, and later became regulars on the Lawrence Welk Show... They went through a few lineup changes before cutting this album, though Robinson and Reagan still made up the core of the group. The repertoire is all old cowboy songs and sentimental oldies....
Buck's Stove & Range Co. "Buck's Hot Blast" (Rabbit Records) (LP)
A bluegrass-y band from Chicago, Illinois with a wealth of material written by lead singer Brad Hevron, and others by banjo plunker Roger Banister. They also sing "Blue Heartache," an oldie by Paul Craft.
Linda Buell "Linda Goes To Nashville" (Buffalo Chip's, 1978-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Logan & Jim Vest)
Singer Linda Buell hailed from Buffalo, Wyoming, just north of Casper and during the '70s she and her husband Chuck Buell fronted a band called the Fugitives which played regional gigs. She traveled to Nashville to cut this disc at the Music City Recorders studio, with Jack Logan on board as the producer, playing an all-covers set with some pretty nice selections. The packaging is unusually minimalist, with no pics of Buell on the cover and no info about the backing musicians. The thing is, though, she was pretty darn good. Buell's voice was a mix of Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn and Tanya Tucker -- a little thin, but soulful, and she really owns these songs, even with occasionally lackluster backing by the anonymous studio crew. Again, there's no information about the sessions, or a release date on the record, but I'm gonna guess 1978, based on the set list, which includes Ed Bruce's "Texas When I Die" and a version of "Heaven's Just a Sin Away" by the Kendalls, both of which were hits in 1977.
Linda Buell "Keeps It Country" (Vista International Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Vest, Dan Dunkleberger & Al McGuire)
On her second album, Buell worked again with producer Jim Vest, who also played steel guitar on these sessions. About half the album is original material, including one song credited to her, "Big Horn Mountain Breakdown," along with several others on same publishing company. A couple were written by Jodie Emerson (with co-credit to Wild Bill Emerson) and also sang a cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Never Do Nothing Right." In 1985, she and her husband moved to Nashville to try and make it as songwriters, apparently having some success getting demos placed with big stars like Alan Jackson, et. al. but for the most part she found her old-school tradtional style out of synch with the increasingly glossy, pop-oriented sound of modern-day Nashville, and in the late 1990s they moved back to Wyoming. (Their son, Geoff Buell, is a steel guitar player still living in Nashville who has self-released a couple of albums of his own.) As far as I know, these two albums are the only records she made.
Buffalo Chips Band "Watch Your Step" (Guitar Cowboy) (LP)
This band from Bozeman, Montana featured two main songwriters, Johnny Hale and Ric Steinke, here in more of an indiebilly/outlaw mode, though in subsequent bands Steinke got into a singing-cowboy "Western" music style.
Buffalo Country "Buffalo Country" (Universal Audio Recordings, 197--?) (LP)
This band featured piano player and lead singer Raymond "Bud" Mosley and his younger sibling Jerry, two brothers from Graham, Texas who moved to Nevada in the early 'Seventies and played in Reno and other local venues. Bud Mosely, who recorded an album of original material under his own name while still living in Texas, backed by a group he called the Whippoorwills. He founded Buffalo Country and played earlier gigs with a different lineup, but for this album he brought in his brother as well as bassist Jery Akins and a singer named Becky Lynn (who might have later recorded a couple of albums as Rebecca Lynn, though I'm not sure if it's really the same gal...) The set list is mostly cover tunes, and as far as I know this was the group's only album.
Buffalo Nickel Jugband "Buffalo Nickel Jugband" (Happy Tiger Records, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Hartman & Dan Sciarotta)
It took me a few listens to warm to this one... It's a nice, standard-issue, retrodelic bluesy-jazzy jugband set with oldies such as "Alabamy Bound," "Separation Blues" and "Tain't What You Do" alongside about a half-album's worth of similar sounding material written by various members of the band. This group was an amalgamation of longhaired pickers and plunkers drawn mostly from Tacoma, Washington and the greater Los Angeles area, recording for a short-lived indie label out of Hollywood, CA. Among the musicians was Denny Hall, who had connections to the Lydia Pinkham Orchestra, a SeaTac area band that migrated to LA, as well as Bob and Lester Broersma, Ben King, Russ Lewark, and Joel Tepp. The difficulty I had with this album was its tidiness, the overall sense of being a little too controlled or trying to sound professional and precise -- there's little of the madcap, kooky abandon of, say, the Bonzo Dog Band or even Jim Kweskin and his crew... Still, they obviously had their hearts in the right place, and after two or three spins, I got into it. If you enjoy hippie-era jugband revivalists, these guys are worth checking out.
Norton Buffalo "Lovin' In The Valley Of The Moon/Desert Horizons" (Edsel, 1995)
A reissue of two classic albums from Northern California harmonica player/bandleader Norton Buffalo, 1977's Lovin' In The Valley Of The Moon and Desert Horizons, from 1978. At the time, Buffalo was gigging around with rock superstar Steve Miller, and was an in-demand session player - on these early solo albums he dips into country and blues, soft pop and hippie funk; later on he'd zero in on the blues tunes, but I kinda like this folkie-funky stuff from the early days.
Norton Buffalo "Lovin' In The Valley Of The Moon" (Capitol, 1977)
(Produced by Norton Buffalo & Steve Miller)
Norton Buffalo "Desert Horizons" (Capitol, 1978)
Jimmy Buffett - see artist discography
Terry Bullard "Terry Bullard" (Bullet, 1980) (LP)
Originally from New Mexico, as a teenager Terry Bullard set out to conquer the world, moving first to LA and then to Texas, where he tried his hand at acting, country music and rodeo riding. Bullard had a regional hit with a version of Terry Stafford's "Amarillo By Morning" (a minor hit for Stafford in '73, and later a Top Five single for George Strait). He was taken under Stafford's wing for a while, and wrote a bunch of songs, but nothing ever quite clicked for him as a solo performer. This actually wasn't his first album -- he also recorded one called Pride when he was fifteen years old. Bullard apparently played in a few house bands in LA nightclubs and elsewhere, and has self-released a bunch of CDs in the digital era.
John Bult "Julie's Sixteenth Birthday" (DSR, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ted Broussard)
The title track is a "Phantom 309"-style recitation song with an over-the-top tragedy narrative in which a no-good drunk of a dad is speeding to make it to his daughter's birthday party on time -- to just do one thing right in his life! -- and manages instead to hit the car she and her boyfriend are driving in, killing not only Julie and her beau, but himself as well. This album made the rounds as a "worst album art ever!" candidate -- a snarky hipster fad that I find fairly irritating. But it's actually not a bad record... if you like country music, that is. Singer John Bult was from Louisiana and had played in rockabilly bands years earlier, and wrote half the songs on this album, including the title track... He had a distinctive, plaintive voice, similar to Don Bowman or Vernon Oxford, but overall, I'd say he sells the song well. Good luck tracking this record down, though, since the Schadenfreude Patrol grabbed ahold of it and made it a pricey fetish item. But as indiebilly goes, this ain't bad!
Bureman & O'Rourke "Strawberry Pickin's" (Pearce Records, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Stapleton)
The Kansas City-based duo of Bruce Bureman and Tim O'Rourke seem to have taken their cues from the more established Brewer & Shipley, mixing anthemic soft rock with country and folk. They recorded at least two albums in the '70s and have played together for decades since... Sweet, spacey, folkie, rock'n'country musings.
Bureman & O'Rourke "Somebody Give Me A Smile" (Happiness Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Allen Blasco)
A great record, though you wouldn't suspect from the goofy album art that this album would have such an expansive, polished pop sound... It opens with several soft-rock anthems, stuff that bigger bands such as Bread or America would be proud of... Their twangy side soon kicks in, sending them into pleasantly country-tinged tuned like "Tomorrow There's A New Sun," which features the steel guitar of Lynne Pillar. The Brewer & Shipley influence is still there, and in a very nice way... There are rough edges, sure but that's part of the DIY charm... Devotees of hippie rock will enjoy these melodic stoner pop songs...
Jennifer Burnett "Jennifer Burnett" (National Foundation Records & Tapes, 1983) (LP)
This Nashville album might have been some kind of composer's showcase - the songs are by a bunch of different people, but I don't recognize any of the names or any of the songs. I think this is a secular set, but it looks like later on Burnett got into recording Christian music... Anyone got more info on this one?
Billy Don Burns "Ramblin' Gypsy" (Gypsy Woman, 1982) (LP)
The Dave Burns Four "The Death Of Tanker 585" (Olympus Records, 1977-?) (LP)
This is an odd album... in terms of its provenance, more than its content. A "custom" album of the first degree, I suspect this may have also been a tax scam, originally used in Canada and then again in the US. This edition says it was recorded by Dave and Mary Burns at the International Record Service Co., in Hollywood California... But it appears to be a reissue or a bootleg of a Canadian country album of the same title credited to "The Jackie Lee Four," which may also be another fake band name... it's hard to tell. The Jackie Lee LP was first released in 1975 with two more tracks that weren't included in this version, "Wipeout" and "The Ice Man." I suppose it's possible that this is a song-for-song cover of the early album, but it seems more likely that there's some kind of weird tax-dodge story behind this one... Still, you gotta love an album with song titles such as "Put All Your Faith In The Pill" and "Canadian Alcoholic," as well as the title track, "The Death Of Tanker 585," which is a trucking song from Canada. Also, dig the goofy liner notes: "This album contains the best of their easy flowing country-folk sound. Dave's smooth style on the keyboards surrounds Mary's lazy vocals in the best tradition of bluegrass..." Say what? Well, anyway, even if Dave and Mary were fictitious, they sure sounded like groovy cats!
Randy Burns "I'm A Lover, Not A Fool" (Polydor, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Barry Seidel)
Songwriter Randy Burns was a Greenwich Village folk-scene refugee who got into trippier acid-rock territory on his early albums for the cult-fave ESP-Disk label, recording with a group called the Sky Dog Band... Cruising into the 'Seventies, Burns dipped a bit into the nascent country-rock sound, as heard on some of the tracks here. Mostly this album is filled with expansive, melodic, pop with airy, orchestral arrangements and spacy lyrics... But there's also the skanky, abrasive swamp-blues of "I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter," a few tracks that kind of sound like The Band, and a couple of tunes with some true twang in them. Bill Keith and Kenny Kosek help with the country stuff (listed as "Stray Dogs" in the liner notes) and Keith adds some sweet pedal steel licks... I wouldn't peg this as a "country-rock" record, per se, but the rural-sounding tracks are nice, as well as the purty-sounding rock songs.
Randy Burns "Still On Our Feet" (Polydor, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Mark Abramson & Jay Messina)
A remarkable album, which was for all intents and purposes, Randy Burns' swan song... Though there is some country-ish/jug band-y twang, mostly Burns delves deep into the contemplative/confessional mode of the era, evoking (in hindsight) comparisons to Harry Chapin, Nilsson, Nick Drake and the more rueful, late-edition folk-rock version of Phil Ochs. Each of the songs are compelling, in an odd way, Burns and his band had a distinctive feel, with an emotionally density and shading that feels unusual for the time. His songs have a troubling nuance, painting a picture of a habitual drinker with a poetic soul and a bit of a mean streak, a hip, rueful, self-absorbed guy who doesn't want to get hung up on or trapped by any of his girlfriends, but who crafts beautiful songs nonetheless. This unflattering self-portrait anticipates the non-idealized confessionalism of "Americana" artists decades down the road -- I'm thinking of folks like Mary Gautier, Tom Russell and Lucinda Williams, and places this album as a striking precursor to a darker, more honest style of song. Plus, some of the melodies are haunting and memorable... One of the strongest of these songs in the album's closer, "Seventeen Years On The River," which pairs a beautiful melodic hook to a arrogant, defiant selfishness, placing listeners in a conflicted state, humming the chorus to a troubling song. In addition to the originals by Burns and keyboard player David Tweedy, there's a nice, straightforward rendition of Steve Gillette's version of the folk ballad, "Darcy Farrow" and, in an equally jarring change of tone, the sarcastic jugband ditty, "Better Things." All in all, a nice record, and an unexpected gem. Recommended.
Gary Burr "Matters Of The Heart" (Lifesong Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Tim Geelan & Lee Yates)
Originally from Connecticut, singer Gary Burr joined the Top 40 country-rock band Pure Prairie League in the early '80s, taking over for Vince Gill, when Gill started his Nashville career. Burr also made it big in Nashville, becoming a very successful songwriter, with dozens of songs recorded by numerous artists... Before it all, though, came this poppy late '70s album, recorded in New York, before his hitmaking days.
Oscar Burr "Color Me Country" (Lamon, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Carlton Moody & David Moody)
A singer from Laredo, Texas, backed by the Moody Brothers. Burr's not a songwriter but this album seems to showcase some new material, including three songs by Hoot Gibson, with others by Quince White and Jim McCrary, plus a few cover tunes.
Curt Burrell & The Barleen Trio "Country Favorites" (Eve In The Sky Sound, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Miotke)
The family band trio of siblings Barbara, Brenda and Jeff Barleen started out singing in their Kansas hometown, but pursued music professionally after the family moved to Missouri and they became park of the Ozark Mountain country scene. They were bolstered by the addition of singer-fiddler Curt Burrell, who married Barbara and emerged as a solo vocalist. By the time this album was recorded, they had moved to a gig in Estes Park, Colorado, and are joined on the ecording sessions by steel player Donny Cook and lead guitar Gary Cook.
Burrito Brothers, The Flying - see artist discography
Billy Luke Burton "The Search Is Over" (Outlaw Records, 1981)
(Produced by Gary Vandy)
This record has an odd, and probably apocryphal, back story: singer Billy Luke Burton was originally from Miami, Florida, but seems to have been living in Nashville when this album was made... He landed in the orbit of Chance Martin, a Nashville/outlaw scene insider who worked as Johnny Cash's roadie and as a professional cue-card holder to the stars. Trying his hand at management, Martin took Burton on as a client and got a deal to make an album. Supposedly, though, the record was bankrolled by gangsters and Martin tells the tale about how they sent a mob enforcer to pressure him into finishing the project (which probably was being used as a tax dodge or to launder some money...) I dunno if any of that is true or not, but that's the legend. Regardless, it's worth noting that the Chance Martin tracks are versions of songs that also appeared on his now-infamous avant-country album, In Search, which is alluded to in the title of this disc. The studio crew included Andy Eder on pedal steel and the Rhodes-Chalmers-Rhodes vocal trio singing backup -- of course, Burton never cracked into the bigtime, but like many others he sojourned to Music City to make his grab for the big brass ring.
Pat Burton "We've Been Waiting For This" (Flying Fish, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Melford)
This was one of the earliest releases on the Flying Fish label, an eclectic, freewheeling doozy of a bluegrass-indiebilly album featuring Illinois-born singer-guitarist Pat Burton and a bunch of his pals. These included fiddler Vassar Clements, mandolinist Michael Melford, two of the surviving Bray Brothers -- Harley Bray on banjo and Francis Bray on bass -- and alt-twang ringleader John Hartford singing and playing a little bit of everything as well. Burton had been hanging around with and playing bands with these guys for years, since the mid-1950s, and is probably best remembered for his work with Hartford, particularly on the Slumberin' On The Cumberland album, and he shows a lot of the same self-effacing, good-natured sense of humor and genre-busting musical virtuosity. The album kicks off with the half-rueful "Hit Song," a novelty song that speaks for the legions of talented living room pickers who will never hit the bigtime, as well as "Ode To Country Music," which further elaborates Burton's love of good, old-fashioned twang. He wrote half the songs on here, including "Jane Russell No. 3" and "Jane Russell No.11," and on the rest of the record dips liberally into old-timey music and traditional country, with some sweet tunes by the likes of Bradley Kincaid, Hank Snow, Lester Flatt and Hank Thompson. Clements gets a chance to shine on a cover of Thompson's "The Older The Violin, The Sweeter The Music," and Burton ends the album with some truly fine gospel singing with a gospel that included Harley and Shela Bray, on a nice version of "Heaven's Light Is Shining." Apparently this was the only album Burton released under his own name, although he got equal billing with Hartford and Martin on the Cumberland album, and he jammed with a lot of artists over the years. If you see this one, pick it up -- it's pretty fun!
The Butler Brothers "Country The Way We Like It" (Programme Audio, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by David Scott)
Country and country gospel covers by ultra-obscuro brothers Homer and Jerry Butler, who sang stuff like Sonny Throckmorton's "Middle Age Crazy," Ronnie Milsap's "Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends," and Dolly Parton's "Put It Off Until Tomorrow," as well as some Southern gospel like "Just For A Day" by the Rambos. This album was recorded at Programme Audio studios in Greenfield, Indiana, though Homer Butler's mailing address was in Proctor, West Virginia.
Irene Butler "The Country Spirit Of Irene Butler" (Capilano Records) (LP)
Buster Byrd & The Studio South Band "Panama City Nights" (Southwind Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Howard Lovett)
Despite the Panama City reference in the title, this group was from Georgia, with their album recorded in Dublin, GA... The band includes keyboardist/guitarist Steve Rogers, banjo plunker Trent Howard, steel player Gary DiBenedeto, and guitar picker George Miles... Their repertoire was mostly original material, with songs written by Byrd, Rogers, and others, with tunes including "Good Ol' Fashioned Cowgirl," "Hooked On Country Music," "Bury Me Face Down" and "Love Is Filled With Emotion." There were a few cover tunes, too, including Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" and Bobby Womack's "I Used To Love Her" (both probably by way of the Stones) and one by Stephen Bishop, along with not one -- but two -- songs about Panama City, both written by Steve Rogers.
The Byrds "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (Columbia, 1968)
(Produced by Gary Usher)
The Byrds "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" (Columbia, 1968)
(Produced by Gary Usher)
Often referred to as the first "official" country-rock album, though there are other claimants to the throne... Really, it was simply a masterful country album, recorded by a super-famous rock band. As the story goes, stonerbilly bad boy Gram Parsons more or less muscled his way into LA's then-ascendant folk-rock band, and swiftly remade them into Nudie suit-wearing space cowboy, hippie-billies... which is to say, into his band. Naturally, there was resentment within the group, and Parsons was eventually given the boot, but not before they made this wonderful, landmark album. Gram provided most of the arrangements and repertoire, including his own classic ballad, "Hickory Wind," as well as oldies such as the Louvin's "Christian Life." Because he was under contract to another label, though, the producers at Columbia stripped Parsons' vocal tracks off the album, and replaced them with lead vocals by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. Recent CD reissues have gone back and (partially) re-created the album as it was originally recorded.
The Byrds "Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde" (Columbia, 1969)
(Produced by Bob Johnson)
The Byrds "Ballad Of Easy Rider" (Columbia, 1969)
(Produced by Terry Melcher)
Hick Music Index