Jimmy Rabbitt "...And Renegade" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Waylon Jennings)
A decent Commander Cody-ish set, though nothing amazing, really. Jimmy Rabbit was a Texas-born radio deejay who had previously been a rocker, playing in Texas bands such as Mouse & The Traps and a short-lived psychedelic garage band called Positively 13 O'Clock. Switching gears, Rabbitt moved to California in 1969 and became an influential member of the "freeform" radio scene, notably with a long stint on KROQ in LA, where his sets mixed classic country with matierial bubbling up from the '70s country-rock scene. He also played music and is best known for co-writing "Long Haired Redneck" with David Allan Coe... He seems to have hooked up with Waylon Jennings as well -- ol' Waylon not only produced this album, playing geetar and whooping along on a tune or two -- and that's nothing to sneeze at. Rabbitt seems to have had his heart in the right place, covering folks like Delbert McClinton and Alice Stuart, though nhe wasn't really able to cut loose on this album, playing it safe when he should've gotten a little wild. This is okay, but it ain't gonna make a big difference in your life... Worth a spin, though!
Jimmy Rabbitt "The Texas Album: Outlaw Country" (St. Roch Recordings, 2015) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Wexler & Keith Olson)
Long-lost demo recordings, cut for Atlantic Records in 1973... Jerry Wexler helmed the sessions, with piano player James Booker backing Rabbitt's band... (Booker would later go on to fame as a member of the Amazing Rhythm Aces, and as Nanci Griffith's bandleader in the '80s and '90s...)
Buzz Rabin "Cross Country Cowboy" (Elektra, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
Songwriter Buzz Rabin (nee Raybon Busby) was a Nashville journeyman who is probably best known as one of the main contributors to Ringo Starr's country-oriented 1970 solo album, Beaucoups Of Blues. Rabin was recommended to Ringo by producer Pete Drake, and rode that coup all the way into a solo album several years later. Other than one single released in '69, this was apparently the only record Rabin released, though his career as a songwriter in Nashville lasted many years, most notably with the Top Five hit, "Your Body Is An Outlaw," recorded by Mel Tillis in 1980, as well as gigs with David Allan Coe and others. (Note: I'm not sure where Rabin was from originally -- he occasionally seems to be confused with the much-older, Louisiana-born bluegrass legend Buzz Busby, though I don't think there was any real connection. Anyone with more info about Rabin's career? I'm all ears!)
Michael Rabon & Choctaw "Michael Rabon & Choctaw" (Uni, 1970) (LP)
A non-pop outing from Michael Rabon, the former leader of the bubblegum-ish 'Sixties Top 40 band The Five Americans. He apparently dropped out and went to live in the desert after the his days of '60s pop glory, and this album seems to have been a musical declaration of independence. There's some overt country-rock on here, particularly on songs like "Texas Sparrow" and "Country Music," though the album is even more full of mellow folk-psych tunes and (semi-) hard rock with power chords though with thankfully little macho swagger. The twang tunes are interesting, particularly how Rabon blended pedal steel with sharper rock guitars... Although this is more of a rock record, its early '70s release does make it a credible country-rock forerunner, and it'll probably be of interest to folks who are into Mike Nesmith's music of the same era.
Michael Rabon "Texas 'Til I Die" (Knife Wing, 1975) (LP)
Radio Flyer "Radio Flyer" (End Of The Trail Records) (LP)
(Produced by Radio Flyer)
Not to be confused with the bluegrass band from Missouri, this Radio Flyer was a country bar band out of Van Dyne, Wisconsin, playing classics'n'outlaw, with a peppery dash of western swing. The group included lead guitarist Tim Ferguson and his brother Fred Ferguson on bass, with Wally Messner on steel guitar and accordion and Bryan Christiansen pulling triple duty on banjo, fiddle and mandolin. The musicianship is pretty solid, though sometimes their vocals lapse into a corny bar-band self-parody, as if at times they couldn't take the whole country thing totally seriously. That's okay, though, since for the most part this disc is pretty fun, especially with a cover of the old Webb Pierce hit, "Tupelo County Jail," along with several swell originals. Tim Ferguson also played in a band called Ida Red, and more recently in a band called The Best Westerns.
The Rainbow Boogie Band "The Rainbow Boogie Band" (Capital City Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Blanchard)
A Texas country-rock band from Abeline...
Rains & Harris "Rains & Harris" (RCA, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Ed Norman)
The short-lived country/pop duo of Greg Harris and Chick Rains, both veterans of the '70s Southern California country-rock scene, with backing by Al Perkins on pedal steel, and Michael Bowden. Starting in the late '70s, Greg Harris was a frequent on-again/off-again member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and studio musician, while after this album tanked, Chick Rains went on to become a successful country songwriter in Nashville. I think this was the duo's only album, with all but one of the songs being written by Rains.
Roger Rainy "Breaker Breaker: Roger Rainy Sings Country" (Self-Released) (LP)
A twangster from rural Minnesota who also released some 7" singles... Roger Reini (his real last name) wrote several songs on this album, although the title track was written by June Petrie... There are also a few cover songs, including a version of Mel Street's 1972 hit, "Borrowed Angel," which might place this album somewhere in the '73-74 range... The front of the album is one of those "cop covers" showing a staged photo of a police officer "busting" the band; the back cover is blank white cardboard, with no info about where or when this record was made.
Roger Rainy "These Changes In Me" (Self-Released) (LP)
This later album was recorded in both Nashville and Minneapolis; Buddy Emmons, Leon Jackson and Bud Logan were in the Music City crew...
Bonnie Raitt -- see artist profile
Ramblin' "Ramblin' " (Self-Released) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Randoy)
Phil Randoy "Phil Sings" (Randoy Corporation/Topaz Records) (LP)
The very epitome of a "private press" vanity album, this set of folkie tunes pops up from time to time as a "country" record, though for the most part methinks twangfans can pass on it. Seattle, Washington amateur troubadour Phil Randoy covers some interesting material, including three songs by John Prine and a version of Kris Kristofferson's "Jesus Was A Capricorn," but most of the songs were from artists such as John Denver, Kenny Loggins, Don McLean and Buffy Sainte Marie -- mainstream folkie-AOR types given a stripped-down acoustic homage. However, Randoy's low-impact renditions don't really add much to any of these songs... He was earnest and well-meaning, and there's a picture of him singing at a grade-school assembly, but nothing on here really catches fire. There are also two original songs written by Randoy, "Voice" and "Mirror," again both in an earnest folk style... No date or recording info on this one, but I'd guess it's a 1974-76-ish affair, maybe even a little earlier.
The Rangers "The Rangers" (Police Records, 1980-?) (LP)
Rank Strangers "Rank Strangers" (Pacific Arts, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Chris Darrow & Chester Crill)
This short-lived band was formed by Chris Darrow and songwriter Robb Strandlund, along with singer Cindy Edwards, who had all worked together on Strandlund's first solo album... They covered some oldies, like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and Dan Penn's "Do Right Woman," along with a bunch of originals, several gems by Chris Darrow. Overall the vibe was a little too folk-ish for me, though it was an interesting approach, much less rock-oriented than their Southern California contemporaries, and more anchored in the pre-Nashville stringband sounds of early rural artists such as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. I always enjoy Strandlund's voice, and while Edwards added nice harmonies, when she's put in the foreground, it doesn't do much for me. Still, an intriguing and rewarding album, one of the lost nuggets of Michael Nesmith's fabled Pacific Arts label... Apparently there's a reissue edition that also includes some bonus tracks, with an alternate version of Strandlund's bar-room classic, "Just Another Country Song," along with a cover of Hank Locklin's "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On." Haven't heard that edition, though.
Jim Ransom "Just Come Along For The Ride" (Biscuit City, 1974) (LP)
Folksinger Jim Ransom founded the Biscuit City label in the early 1970s, quickly establishing it as the focal point for a vibrant Colorado folk/acoustic/bluegrass scene. Ransom was originally from the East Coast, but he certainly made a name for himself in the Rockies... This was his first album, the prelude to a long career in low-key musicmaking.
Jim Ransom "The Escape Of J. D. Mackenzie And Other Songs" (Biscuit City, 1976) (LP)
Jim Ransom "Ransom Notes" (Biscuit City, 1977) (LP)
Orrin Ranum "The Country Voice Of Orrin Ranum" (Love Productions) (LP)
(Produced by Al Perry)
This album includes country classics like "Four Walls," "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," "Phantom 309" as well as standards like "Distant Drums" and "Beautiful Dreamer" -- also the promisingly titled "The Wine And The Lord" and "There's That Smile Again" (originals?) This was recorded in Tyler, Texas, with producer Al Perry playing guitar and steel, Glenn Worf on bass and Rags Allen playing piano, and Donna Love playing drums and singing backup. There's no information about when this came out, or where Mr. Ranum lived, but I think there's a good chance that he was from Wisconsin, and that this was recorded early in Glenn Worf's career, before he left Wisconsin to pursue his career in Nashville. Anybody got more info on this one?
Lynda Rask "Lynda Rask" (Stop Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Hill)
Kenny Raska "...And The Kickers" (Camelot, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Anthony Puccio & Charlie Booth)
Some indie honky tonkers from Houston, Texas, with almost all original material, along with covers of oldies by Webb Pierce, Charlie Walker and a countryfied version of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine." Raska is kind of a croony singer, and the record has a distinctly 'Seventies production style, with keyboards and synths drifting around in the aether... But overall, nice stuff from the indie side of the mainstream country world. One question, though: what exactly was it that they were kicking, anyway?
The Rathbun Country Music Show "The Rathbun Country Music Show" (Professional Artists, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Parvin Tramel)
An Opry-esque variety show from the Branson area, started in June, 1974 by Willis and Melvin Dickerson. The cast included Debbie and Steve Dickerson, Janice Pickering, Bill Pickering, comedian Bobby Allen, and others. Recorded in St. Louis.
Rattlesnake Annie (Anne McGowan) "Rattlesnakes And Rusty Water" (Rattlesnake, 1980)
(Produced by Annie McGowan)
A self-produced album by Texas-based songwriter Anne McGowan (aka Rattlesnake Annie), This is a pretty stripped-down and unpretentious, bluesy set, as much influenced by Jimmie Rogers and the '60s folkies as by more modern country types. Not mindblowing, but kind of an interesting footnote to the whole "outlaw" scene... Sorta similar to Townes Van Zandt, I suppose.
Ralph Raulerson & The Countrymen "Sing Your Favorites" (Auburn Orange Records) (LP)
Bandleader Ralph Raulerson hailed from Auburndale, Florida and was active for several decades... On this 1970s album he's singing pure hard country, and sounds a lot like Merle Haggard on several tunes. Later on in the 1980s, Raulerson could be heard singing at bluegrass festivals, but the stuff he was playing was more more of an old-school hillbilly boogie style, ala Wayne Raney. At any rate, he was a presence in Florida's traditional country scene for many, many years. Good stuff!
Ralph Raulerson & The Countrymen "Country Gold: Ralph Raulerson Sings With The Countrymen" (Music City Records) (LP)
(Produced by Len Walls)
A sizzling set of rambunctious country covers, with a little bit of rockabilly retro in the mix as well. The album opens with a cover of "The Race Is On," done Buck Owens style, with hefty doses of Merle Haggard, Harlan Howard and Hank Williams to follow... The vibe is a mix of West Coast/Bakersfield Sound and Southern-fried rockabilly bop, with a simplicity and primitive, no-frills approach that sounds really damn good. In technical terms, this album is not well produced, and I'm willing to bet that Raulerson and his band could summon a much bigger, more electrifying sound when they played live, but even with the modest production values, this record oozes authenticity and vigor. It's fun. I'm a fan.
The Raunch Hands "Pickin' And Singin' With..." (Epic, 1960) (LP)
(Produced by Stephen B. Fossett)
These jovial fellas from Harvard were a straight-up '60s folk-parody group, not quite the kind of twang we're looking for here... But certainly worth mentioning just to differentiate them from the '80s cowpunk band of the same name. The band included Fritz Donovan, Cam Fordyce, Al Goldman, Raph Henderson, Larry Reeder and Bill Wood.
The Raunch Hands "Against The World... And Other Favorites" (Epic) (LP)
David Rea "Maverick Child" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)
A well-regarded folk-scene sideman, Ohio-born singer-guitarist David Rea (1946-2011) moved to Canada in his teens and kicked off his career in the early 1960s as a sideman for Gordon Lightfoot, later performing with Ian & Sylvia, Jesse Winchester and other stars of the era... By the time he got his own record deal, Rea had moved into more of a rock mode, albeit with strong currents of country in there as well. He worked for a few years with blues-rocker Felix Pappalardi, and Pappalardi's new band, Mountain, co-writing the sludge-y hard-rock anthem, "Mississippi Queen," which became a big hit. He continued working as a studio session player and sideman, including a brief stint with an early-'Seventies lineup of the English folk-rock band Fairport Convention. Jinkies!
David Rea "By The Grace Of God" (Capitol, 1971) (LP)
David Rea "Slewfoot" (Columbia-Windfall, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by David Rea & Bob Weir)
Although this one's mostly on the radar for Deadheads, standard-issue twangfans will wanna check it out too, particularly for the fine covers of real-deal country songs that Rea opens the album with, notably Tom T. Hall's "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died" and the Dolly Parton/Porter Wagoner duet "Run That By Me One More Time," which spotlights a dead-on Loretta Lynn imitation by Darlene DiDomenico. Rea excels on the copious cover tunes, and picks some doozies, even including one by UK folkie Dave Swarbrick(!) along with some R&B songs by Chuck Berry and Ike Turner that kind of get swallowed up into the early '70s boogie-rock void. Speaking of which, let's circle back to the Dead now... David Rea was definitely in the Dead-o-Sphere, in a major way... His band features Bob Weir, both as a producer and guitarist, Keith and Donna Godchaux, as well as folks from the New Riders Of The Purple Sage and other orbiting musicians: bassist John Kahn, drummer Spencer Dryden, Matthew Kelly (from the band Kingfish), Buddy Cage on pedal steel and even fiddler Richard Greene and post-bop saxophonist Charles Lloyd. The originals on here by Rea are mostly spacy, yearning, folk-rock-boogie tunes, with great concern for capital "L" Love, and it sounds perhaps as if Rea was really hoping that the Dead or some of their pals would pick them up to record. Anyway, this is a pretty decent hippie twang album, at least when he is being twangy. Definitely worth a spin.
Bill Reader & Barbara Alan "Together" (Hawk Records, 197--?) (LP)
Not a lot of info on this one... It's a decent, if low-key country/pop duets set featuring singers Barbara Alan and Bill Reader, modestly backed by an anonymous studio crew whose strongest member was the pedal steel player. Reader seems to be the onetime pop-rockabilly singer Bill Reeder (sic), who recorded a few singles in the early 'Sixties for labels such as Fernwood and Hi Records. (Which would explain why they cover pop oldies like "Playboy" and "Searching.") I honestly can't tell if this is the same Barbara Alan who recorded the 1978 In Nashville album, though I think it was... If so, this looks (and sounds) like an earlier album, possibly from around 1972-74: he sings a version of the Statler Brothers "Bed Of Rose's," which was a hit in '71, and the general countrypolitan vibe on several tracks has a definite early 'Seventies feel. Sadly, there are no composer credits -- although most of the tracks are cover tunes, there are a couple of uptempo numbers showcasing Alan in a vaguely Wanda Jackson-ish mode which are album highlights. The album opens with the mildly raunchy "A Kind Of A Woman" and closes on "Don't Leave Without Me," both of which I think are originals. Not an earthshaking album, but it has its charms.
Joe Reagan "Memory Of Cowboy Copas" (Crown Records) (LP)
Not quite sure where crooner Joe Reagan was from, or when he cut these tracks, but I'd guess around 1963 or '64, just after Copas and Reeves passed away. In all honesty, I gotta say Reagan sounded kinda geefy, foghorning in a very exaggerated, mannered baritone, he covers some nice old country tunes with pretty solid, if rather minimal, country backing. The band had a good steel player, for sure, although the rhythm stays pretty sedate. I can't say I'm that into his voice -- personally, I'll just stick with the originals.
Joe Reagan "A Tribute To Cowboy Copas" (Crown Records) (LP)
This album was also issued on the Coronet imprint as Hits Made Famous By Cowboy Copas
Joe Reagan "A Tribute To Jim Reeves" (Wyncote Records) (LP)
Toby Rean & The Common People "Outa Space" (Crown Records, 1972) (MP3)
Singer-picker Toby Rean was a minor figure but longtime fixure in the West Coast/Bakersfield country scene of the 1950s and '60s, playing gigs with stars such as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, as well as his own gigs at venues such as the Stallion Club and on some Southern California military bases. This album is a little weird in that it's packaged as though it was a cheapo exploitation album for the psychedelic rock scene, when actually it's pretty solidily a country thang. Well, mostly: the first track, "Outa Space," is a hyperactive psych-funk instrumental based on a Billy Preston song, with a punchy rhythm section and lots of over-the-top wah-wah guitar work... But then things abruptly turn towards twang, and while charmingly down-to-earth, it's also a little bit ricketty overall. Rean's mix of straight-up twang and strained comedy material reminds me quite a bit of Bill Carlisle, combining limited vocal talent with plucky energy and a somewhat random, see-what-sticks attitude. You can hear both desperation and resignation in these sessions, as though he knows it ain't really gonna work, but you never really know, right? So there are some interesting country tunes on here, though overall the album is a slapdash, low-budget affair, and like most of the el-cheapo Crown LPs, there often an undercurrent electrified, rock-flavored music courtesy of whichever underemployed hippies they had come in and play on the sessions. Not the greatest record ever, but certainly worth checking out if you're into Crown Records kitsch, and also another footnote in the saga of the Bakersfield Sound.
The Red Boot Boys "Fire!" (Williamson Recording Studio, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Stan Willamson & Terry Wilson)
This band was formed by several middle-aged members of the Greeneville, Tennessee fire department, including producer Stan Williamson on keyboards, Steve Morris on pedal steel, Marty Kaufman on fiddle and Steve Kaufman on banjo and guitar, as well as drummer Marty Llewellyn. Other than a couple of public domain oldies, it's mainly original material, including a few tunes written by guys who apparently weren't in the band, Johnny Jones and Don Williamson. They also released at least a couple of albums as cassette-only records, including the gospel-oriented Songs Of Inspiration and a concert album, Live From Rutgers University.
Charlie Red "Mother Lode Minstrel" (G&J Motherlode Productions, 1980) (LP)
Near as I can figure, this fella, Charles Rovenstine, was a modern-day folk minstrel who played gigs up in Angel's Camp and around Sacramento, California, up in the so-called Gold Country. His repertoire spanned historical-ish songs like "Streets Of Laredo" and "The Saga Of The Hotel Leger" and Utah Phillips' "Daddy What's A Train," as well as good-natured novelty numbers, including several songs by one of my favorite songwriters, Dick Feller: "Uncle Hiram And The Homemade Beer" and "Money, Trouble And Love." Charlie Red played shows across California well into the mid-1980s, though I'm not sure how many albums he made... Maybe just these two.
Charlie Red "Skinny Dippin' " (Carco Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Red & Mark Welborn)
Red Heart "Introducing Red Heart" (SRC) (LP)
This was a Coeur d'Alene bar band, playing all rock oldies and honky tonk covers... The group included Jim Sherman, Steve Pierre, Jim Boardway and Armando Velazquez (who is described as "of Mexican descent," which gives you an idea of how times have changed...) There's no label or year listed on jacket or LP, so this one's a bit of a mystery.
Leon Redbone -- see artist discography
Johnny Redd "Country Hot" (JRS Records) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Redd)
A hard-rockin' bar-band/outlaw country group from Palmdale, California, with canny covers of Waylon & Willie, Delbert McClinton and Ray Griff... Singer Johnny Redd pens a trio of originals, "Sunshine," "Lonesome" and "Party Party Party," while bass player Mike Hufford adds "Just Her Friend" into the mix. Though not part of the band, a guy named Big Lloyd Carlson sings lead on a version of Dennis Linde's "Burning Love." I couldn't find out much about these guys online -- dunno when this album came out (looks like late '70s/early '80s) or if the band played live. Anybody out there have more info?
Kamie Redell "I've Got The Country In Me" (Blue Gem Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Martin & Bill Kredel)
Not totally sure where Redell was from, but this album was recorded in Torrence, California, while the label is credited as from LA proper... The songs appear to be all originals, including songs like "From Home To Waiting Tables," "Troubled Mind, Lonely Body" and "Forget Me Tomorrow."
Redeye "Redeye" (Pentagram, 1971) (LP)
This LA-based rock band was apparently a one-hit wonder, placing one single ("Games") in the Pop Top 30 before losing their mojo and drifting into obscurity. Singer/guitarist Douglas "Red" Mark had previously been in another moderately successful band called the Sunshine Company; I'm not sure what happened to any of these guys after they disbanded. Although they got into twang on their second album, there are few traces of country music here, basically it's a rock'n'roll record, lots of guitar in the early-'70s hard rock style.
Redeye "One Man's Poison" (Pentagram, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Al Schmitt)
Their second album definitely had a more "country" feel to it, a rugged, clattersome, rock'n'twang style that recalls the classic early-'70s Grateful Dead albums, as well as stoner jug-band rockers like Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods... It's not bad! Definitely a rock band, but they were having fun going into hoedown mode, and this record has a lot to recommend it... It's basically hippie rock, but good for the style. The twangiest tunes are "Walter Why Knott" and the spacier "Beginning To End," with the best tracks on here being the ones that are most nakedly imitative of the Dead. Worth a spin.
Red Heart "Red Heart" (SRC, 197-) (LP)
Larry Redmon "First Time Around" (Country Crossings, 1979) (LP)
A sweet, well-produced set of mellow outlaw honkytonk by Lexington, Kentucky's Larry Redmon. On some songs he presents himself as a blatant Waylon Jennings soundalike (which is fine by me) though in addition to the outlaw growling, there's a fairly wide stylistic range. The album is packed with Redmon originals, including one co-written with Greg Austin, as well as one song by Chuck Pyle, a cover of Guy Clark's "Desperados Waitin' For A Train" and the Latin-tinged pop hit "Come A Little Bit Closer," which had already entered into the country canon in 1977 through a hit duet version recorded by Johnny Duncan and Janie Fricke. All in all, this is a pretty solid record for such an off-the-radar artist. Worth tracking down!
The Red Ryder Band "The Red Ryder Band" (Decameron, 1978) (LP)
Red Shadow "The Economics Rock'N'Roll Band" (Physical World, 1969)
Now, I'm not saying that this record is any good (wouldn't know) or that it's particularly "country," just that it exists and that it's very, very 1970s. These longhaired commies (and I mean that literally) brought their hard-left socialist critiques to the People in the form of hippie-rock musical harangues, with song titles such as "Stagflation," "Understanding Marx" and "Commodity Fetishism." Whoo-hoo! Party down!!
Red, Wilder, Blue "Red, Wilder, Blue" (Warner/Pentagram, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Al Schmidt)
While it's not much of a country album, this rock record is worth noting for twangfans because it's by an early band of future Texas outlaw, Michael Ballew, who was kickin' it on the West Coast for a few years trying to make it as a rocker. It's mostly a medicore mix of contemporary styles: LA sunshine pop, CSNY-style group harmonies and a bit of hard/psych, as heard on their riffy cover of Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness." I think they were mostly aiming for the Crosby Stills & Nash sound, and they probably could have been more successful if the album had been better produced, or rather, better edited: the songs drift and meander quite a bit, and generally don't feel all that cohesive. But if you're just into obscure '70s soft rock and soft-psych, you might wanna check this one out; definitely not much overt twang involved here.
Red Willow Band "Red Willow Band" (Lost Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Chris Gage & Hank Harris)
South Dakota's answer to Asleep At The Wheel, the Red Willow Band blended country, bluegrass, blues and western swing, often led by their fiddlers, but with strong backing by the rest of the band, which included sleek pedal steel and a versatile piano work from Chris Gage, one of the band's two lead singers. They produced two fine albums and toured extensively between 1974-82, and like many regional bands have reunited frequently over the years.
Red Willow Band "Note For Note" (Lost Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Barry "Byrd" Burton)
On their second album, RWB traveled to Nashville to record at the Jack Clement studios and stretched out into more ornate pop and jazz stylings, but only on a tune or two -- there's still plenty of great honkytonk and western swing material. A couple of songs feature surprising approximations of more contemporary commercial country sounds -- not enough for them to crack into the charts, but another opportunity to show the band's musical chops and stylistic breadth. All in all, even with the fancy stuff added into the mix, this album was pretty simialr to the first, and worth checking out as well. They were a really good band!
Red Willow Band "Way Back When: A Compilation" (Moonhouse, 1999)
This handy-dandy CD gathers the songs from the RWB's two long-out-of-print albums, Red Willow Band and Note For Note, a fun, comprehensive collection with good sound quality and a wealth of strong original material. Unfortunately, there are no significant liner notes, nothing to give the story of the band itself, but the music is pretty impressive. Chris Gage compiled the disc, and decided to mix the two albums together, so the more country-sounding tracks from the first album are peppered into the later stuff from '78.
Redwing "Redwing" (Fantasy, 1971) (LP/CD)
(Produced by Russ Gary & Redwing)
These SF Bay Area roots-rockers had a funky vibe reminiscent of Little Feat, while also colored by John Fogerty and CCR -- and The Band, too, of course. Previously, the Sacramento-based band had been a straight-up rock group called Glad, but when bandmember Timothy B. Schmit left to join an early lineup of Poco, the group reformed around guitarists Andrew Samuels, Ron Floegel and Tom Phillips and got into a looser, funkier roots-music sound, and are considered one of the classic early California country-rock bands. For me, most of the songs on this debut disc go too far into the "heavy" boogie-rock sound of the time, although on Side Two they delve more into twang, notably with their cover of Mickey Newbury's "(Tell Me Baby) Why You Been Gone So Long" as well as their funky jam version of the Jimmie Rodgers oldie, "California Blues," as well as their Band-like original "Oh Maggie," which is possibly the catchiest track on the record. Redwing were one of the most promising, on-the-edge-of-fame bands on the early-'70s Northern California rock scene, but it never quite clicked in the end. This disc is worth checking out, though maybe more rock-oriented than some twangfans might like. See for yourself... they were pretty groovy, man!
Redwing "What This Country Needs" (Fantasy, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Russ Gary)
This one was kind of disappointing, at least from a twangfan's point of view. They set aside the funky rural vibe they pioneered on their first album, concentrating instead of crunchier, early-'70s boogie-rock, which was doubtless more salable then, but doesn't hold up so well now. Well, maybe there are jam-band or heavy rock aficionados who will be all over this album, but I thought it was a bummer, considering the innovation and diversity of the surrounding albums. Oh, well. I guess they were just looking for a hit.
Redwing "Take Me Home" (Fantasy, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Redwing & Brian Knapp Gardner)
A great record, with lots and lots of twang. They really upped the ante on their country bona fides: the album opens with the jaunty "Here I Go Again," an uptempo country-rock tune that's very reminiscent of the Gram Parsons-era Flying Burrito Brothers, followed by "Fast Locomotive," with some tight, funky chicken-picking guitar straight out of the Jerry Reed playbook, while the instrumental "Katy Warren Breakdown" showcases some awesome Joe Maphis-flavored flatpicking. Guitarists Andrew Samuels and Tom Phillips display a mastery of country picking that's head and shoulders above what most of the country-rockers were doing at the time, while guest fiddler Tiny Moore adds some sweet licks of his own, around Phillips' dazzling yet concise dobro and pedal steel. More conventional rock/pop riffs come into play on the boogie-funk of "Lost Highway" and the dreary slow-dance power ballad, "Our Day." As a viable regional band, Redwing might not have been able to set aside their hippie-pop and ballroom boogie roots, but even if those songs give the album an uneven feel, it's still packed with genuine gems. It's also worth noting that all the songs on here are originals, including the humorous, Doug Sahm-ish "Lowdown Samuel," co-written by fiddler-pianist Ed Bogas. If you're looking for a swell souvenir of the San Francisco country-rock scene at it's best, here it is.
Redwing "Dead Or Alive" (Fantasy, 1974) (LP)
Redwing "Beyond The Sun And Stars" (Fantasy, 1975) (LP)
Billy Cole Reed "Billy Cole Reed" (B. C. R. Enterprises, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Al Pachucci & Billy Cole Reed)
Billy Cole Reed "Tribute To An Outlaw" (Phonorama, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Al Pachucci & Billy Cole Reed)
A tribute to Waylon Jennings...
Billy Cole Reed "Music Row - Audiograph Alive" (Audiograph, 1982) (LP)
Bobby Reed "Shakin Charlene" (Shur-Trak VII, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Brien Fisher)
An excellent set of uptempo, pop-flavored '70s-style honkytonk cheating songs, a surprisingly strong record that probably didn't do as well as it should have due to the super-ugly artwork. An independent artist from Benton, Illinois, Bobby Reed was a popular regional performer who'd been around since the early '60s. He made a strong play to break out nationally with this record, though he wasn't able to get onto the charts. The bouncy, energetic single, "Shakin Charlene," is a novelty number about a nightclub stripper who is condemned by local hypocrites, reminiscent of topical songs like "Harper Valley PTA" and "Skip A Rope." It was a regional hit and is buoyed by a slew of equally potent, well-produced material on the album, all of which was written by Reed, whose neotrad approach echos that of Moe Bandy, with a healthy dose of Merle Haggard in his vocal tones. The musicianship is pretty high-calibre as well -- unfortunately the studio crew isn't listed, but since the Cate Sisters are singing backup, it's probably a safe bet that he cut this album in Nashville. Another album highlight is the cheatin' song, "My Bridges Won't Burn," a really great honky-tonk number about a guy who resists temptation... even though it's so, um, hard. Bobby Reed made another big push a few years later while still plugging away in Illinois; his 1982 single, "If I Just Had My Woman," broke into the back forty of the Billboard charts, but his momentum flagged and he decided to switch gears and go into production. Reed moved to Nashville in 1985, and opened a recording studio. I'm not sure if this was his only full LP... but it's a doozy!
Haden Reed "Pure Country, Old And New" (Reedsound Records) (LP)
Dunno much about this fellow... He was apprently from Summerville, South Carolina and passed away in 2006, but other than that he's a bit of a mystery. Anyone out there have more info?
Jerry Reed - see artist discography
Hank Reese "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" (Buckeye Records) (LP)
(Produced by Hank Reese)
Indiebilly from Daleville, Alabama, a tiny town in the Southeastern end of the state, near the Florida border... Reese was originally from Georgia, but later moved to the Heart Of Dixie and was playing here with an all-local band... The repertoire is almost all cover songs -- real oldies like "Cattle Call," "Shotgun Boogie," "Devil Woman" and "The Gods Were Angry" -- with one tune credited to Hank Reese, "I'll Still Be Waiting." No date on this one, but I'd guess late 1970s, just from the look of it.
Jimmy Reesor & Orchestra "Easy Coffee Cup" (Wax Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Benson)
A mix of gospel originals and country covers... Songs include some overt gospel tunes ("Lord Jesus Lives," "Abraham To Be Free," both written by Reesor) and many straight country covers: "Sunday Morning Coming Down," Harlan Howard's "Busted," "Green Green Grass Of Home" along with a couple of other Reesor originals, "Bright Side Of The Sun" and the colorfully titled "Television Atom Bomb." Reesor was originally from Bismarck, North Dakota, where as a teen he recorded a rock single called "Streak Of Lightning," before decamping to Nashville in 1962... He apparently had a staff writing job at House Of Cash for a while, but as far as I know, this was his only album.
Joseph Reeves "Heaven Forbid" (Tribute Records, 1977) (LP)
The Rehrig Family "Country" (Rehrig Family Records, 1974-?) (LP)
Originally from Pennsylvania, the Rehrig Family band did a ton of backup work in early '70s Nashville, notably working for Conway Twitty, while Bill Rehrig was the lead guitarist in Dolly Parton's band... They also performed and recorded under their own name, including this self-released set.
The Rehrig Family "While In Nashville" (Royal American Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Rehrig & Louis Owen)
This album features liner notes by the great Dolly Parton herself...
Bob Reinier "Me, Myself & I" (Ripcord, 1978) (LP)
Down-home twang from the Pacific Northwest. A singer from Salem, Oregon, Bob Reinier wrote four of the songs on here, including the title track, "Me, Myself And I," as well as "Is It Time Again," "This Bottle And This Old Guitar" and a gospel song called "The Path To His Mansions." He also covers a few newer songs, like James Joiner's "Fallen Star" and Bill Mack's "Drinkin' Champagne." The session was recorded at the Ripcord studios, with Gene Breeden playing steel guitar and leading a house band that included Gene Keyes on piano, Ellis Miller on bass and Blaine Allen singing backup.
Ted & Ruth Reinhart "Go Western" (Teru Records, 1982) (LP)
An early album by the husband-wife duo of Ted and Ruth Reinhart, who co-hosted a long-running radio show in Pennsylvania and specialized in nostalgic western songs -- cowboy stuff -- on their own records. Fans of the style may appreciate their music, but this is one of those times when it may be difficult to separate the music from the man: in 2005 Mr. Reinhart was arrested and recieved a fifteen-year prison sentence on child molestations charges. So... ew. Kinda makes me way less likely to check this album out.
The Reinsmen "Songs Of The Trail" (Sierra Records, 1973) (LP)
Western music cowboy revivalists from Southern California, the Reinsmen formed in 1962 after working a gig with the Wagonmasters, a country-oriented house band at the Knott's Berry Farm amusement park. The original trio included steel player Jerry Compton, with singer-guitarist Don Richardson and bassist Dick Goodman, who formed the core of the group for over three decades. They are joined on this album by guitarist Bob Wagoner, one of many musicians to pass through the band over the years. The Reinsmen were based in Southern California, but toured nationally, including gigs in the Branson/Lake Of The Ozarks circuit, as well as appearing in western films and performing at the White House, and perhaps most notably they backed cowboy star Rex Allen for many of his projects. They self-released a series of souvenir albums, with this one being -- I believe -- their first LP.
The Reinsmen "Sing Songs Of The West" (Sierra Records, 1977) (LP)
The Reinsmen "Sentimental Trails" (Sierra Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Manny Alvarez & The Reinsmen)
A fairly sedate, perhaps overly formal set of western oldies, with one original written by lead singer Doc Denning, the title track, "Sentimental Trails." The rest of the quartet -- Dick Goodman, Don Richardson and Jerry Compton -- provide a smooth, professional backing, though the album's reverential tone makes it feel a little less joyful than might be... The studio and label are both from Visalia, California, just south of Fresno.
The Reinsmen "Alive... In Death Valley" (Sierra Records, 1983) (LP)
The Reinsmen "This Ain't The Same Ol' Range" (Sierra Records, 1985) (LP)
The Relations "Record No. 1" (QCA Custom Records) (LP)
A country covers band from Newburg, Pennsylvania, featuring singers Bob Crank and Calvin Ott. Songs include honktonk ballads such as "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Older The Violin, The Sweeter The Music," and Tony Booth's "The Key's In The Mailbox." The liner notes say that when this album was made, brothers Calvin and Dennis Ott had been with the band about five years, with Bob Crank having "taken over" the band back in '73.
Ronnie Reno "For The First Time" (MCA-Tally, 1975)
(Produced by Bill Compton & Jim Williamson)
In the mid-1970s, country superstar Merle Haggard presided over a corporate echo of Fuzzy Owens' old Tally label, using the imprint to put out a couple of albums featuring Haggard pals and proteges. In this case, it was the solo debut of bluegrass prodigy Ronnie Reno, who became a member of Haggard's band in '73 and stayed with him for the better part of a decade. Ronnie was the son of '50s truegrass legend Don Reno, and worked in his dad's band as a kid, then did a stint with the Osborne Brothers before giving Nashville a shot. At this point in his career, he was writing and pitching songs, some of which Haggard recorded, and here he crafts a pleasant if not totally amazing set of soft-toned '70s country, including three of his own originals and a couple of Hag's lesser-known numbers, as well as a countrypolitan cover of the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night." There's surprisingly little bluegrass influence here (none, really) which makes this album a curious footnote to a long career: Reno went back to the high lonesome sound, forming the Reno Brothers band with his younger siblings many years later.
Revival "Revival" (Kama Sutra/Ampex, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Rose)
An ambitious though awkward country-rock outing from a group with clear folkie roots. The liner notes detail how the core duo of singers Dan Daley and Michelle Conway played a bunch of "hoots" in the NYC folk scene, and later picked up a backing band that gave them more opportunity to branch out musically. They harmonize nicely, particularly when he takes the lead with his enthusiastic (and pleasantly dorky) vocals, hitting sort of a Gram Parsons-like vibe; when Conway sings lead, she inevitably leaps into a too-serious, Joan Baez-ian folkie warble, undercutting the country feel that Daley was building up. There's a spiritual-religious undercurrent to some of the songs, though many just seem like spaced-out, word-salad hippie-druggie stuff, which often takes on a quasi-religious tone, just because that's what sometimes happens when you realize you have hands and could fly the spaceship on your own. Musically, the rest of the band is kind of iffy -- the rhythm section is pretty stiff -- but there's some noteworthy pedal steel from Hank DeVito (later a key member of the Emmylou Harris band) and nice fiddling by Larry Packer, of the Cat Mother band. This album isn't really a classic, but it is a nice, authentic slice of early, hippiedelic country-folk. This was the first album featuring Dan Daley, who later struck gold as a songwriter, penning the Charlie Daniels Band hit, "Still In Saigon," a decade later.
Jody Reynolds "Endless Sleep" (True Gems, 1978)
This was apparently the only full-length album by former '50s teenpop/rockabilly singer Jody Reynolds, who was best known for the 1958 Top Five pop hit, "Endless Sleep," a moody teen tragedy song that inspired a number of imitators (songs like "Teen Angel" and "Tell Laura I Love Her"). Like many early rockers, Reynolds was mainly a singles artist and bounced from label to label. Eventually he retired from show business and moved to Palm Springs and occasionally did gigs on the oldies circuit. This is a pretty cool album, seen from the '70s hippiebilly point of view: pure psych-tinged country-rock, with a spacy, laid-back feel that's similar to stuff by Mike Nesmith or Ricky Nelson. The Nesmith vibe is perhaps reinforced by the guitar work of Al Casey, an LA studio heavy who played on the Monkees albums, and fits in nicely with the loose feel of this album. Reynolds, who sounded fine as a youth-oriented rock singer, shows a few flaws in his older incarnation, but anyone who was willing to forgive, say, Gram Parsons, for his vocal limitations, should be able to do the same for Reynolds here. It's the spirit of the music that counts, and this is some truly groovy, vintage California indie twang, with a little whiff of Buck Owens-style Bakersfield in there as well. Worth tracking down.
Lawrence Reynolds - see artist profile
Neely Reynolds "The Way You See Yourself" (JW, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Joseph Wyndell Productions)
Songwriter Neely Reynolds was an early '70s sensation, or perhaps a flash in the pan, depending on your point of view. In 1974, he won a national competition called "In Search Of The Singing Cowboy," a TV talent contest sponsored by ABC's Wide World Of Entertainment. It was a prestigious win, but didn't have much teeth behind it -- the 24-year old Reynolds did the rounds of a few daytime talk shows but found few doors open to him as a result of the show, and had to retrench for several years while making his living singing in bars. This album came out during that time, and was recorded in Dallas, Texas with a band featuring Chicken Hubbard on fiddle, Maurice Anderson on pedal steel and some saxophone in the mix as well... All the songs are originals. Eventually, Reynolds got religion and started his own ministry as a singing evangelist, recording many albums, both secular and religious over the years.
Rolly Reynolds "...Sings At The Alisal" (Sunny Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Hal Southern & John Phillips)
Western swing and country oldies by California crooner Rolly Reynolds, who "for many years" had a gig at the Alisal dude ranch and golf club, near the coastal town of Solvang. Not sure when this album was recorded, though it looks early '70s; apparently Reynolds later moved to Arizona, and was using Phenix as his home base around 1976. To be honest, his vocals are pretty underwhelming, with a nice deep timbre, but problems with phrasing and occasionally with staying on key. However, he's backed by several SoCal country veterans, including guitarist Roy Lanham, Billy Armstrong on violin and Noel Boggs on steel guitar, as well as bassist Dusty Rhoads and drummer Keith Berry. They don't sound super-inspired, but they're competent and add some nice licks througout. Western balladeer Hal Southern produced the album, showing Reynolds' links to the older West Coast country scene... He recorded at least one single as well, though I think this was his only full album.
Red Rhodes - see artist discography
Sandy & Donna Rhodes "The Lonesome Rhodes" (RCA Victor, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Felton Jarvis)
A completely charming folk-country outing, sort of like the Kimberlys or Gale Garnett, but better. Great backstory on this one, as well: hailing from Memphis, the Rhodes sisters were daughters of regional celebrities Dusty Rhodes and Dot Rhodes, singers who recorded for Sun Records in the old days, and who hosted a local TV show that the whole family performed on. Skeeter Davis caught wind of them and championed the gals at RCA, recording some of their original material and urging Chet Atkins to sign off on this album. It's a great record, simple, charming, with the gals singing sassy pop-country crossovers that mix light go-go stylings with a mod-country vibe that reminds me of Waylon Jennings. You can sense that the RCA studio crew weren't quite as hip or as funky as they wanted to be, but if you like the girl-group tinged '60s stuff by Skeeter Davis and Connie Smith, you'll want to check this out. Sandy and Donna went on to forge a truly remarkable career as backup singers singing with some of the best Southern soul and pop artists of the 70s, notably Al Green and O.V. Wright. They sang backup and recorded their own material as RCR, or the Rhodes Chalmers Rhodes trio, with Sandra's husband Charlie Chalmers as the third voice. In addition, both Sandra and Donna recorded their own solo albums, though more solidly in a soul and pop style. This early Nashville folk-pop album, at the beginning of their careers, is a winner... Give it a spin, if you get a chance!
Alan Rhody "Stop The Rain" (Headless Horseman Records, 1980) (CD)
(Produced by Barry "Byrd" Burton, Tom Knox & Alan Rhody)
This was, I believe, the first album by Kentucky-born songwriter Alan Rhody, who was plugging away in Nashville in the late 'Seventies, and took over a year during 1979 and 1980 to record the tracks on this album, squeezing sessions in when he could with a variety of producers. Although he remained a folk-ish indie-niche artist in his own career, Rhody was pretty darn successful as a composer... His biggest hit was the weeper "I'll Be True To You," a song that became the first Country #1 for the Oak Ridge Boys -- Rhody kept 'em coming, with Top Forty tracks recorded by George Jones, Lorrie Morgan, Suzy Bogguss, Toby Keith, and others. His version of "I'll Be True To You" is included on this album, which features backing by Nashville session players attached to the Tree Studios... Alan Rhody can perhaps be seen as an "Americana" artist, playing small gigs and keeping it low-key while also making a living through his Music City contacts. At any rate, this one has been reissued on CD and is easier to find now than it was when it came out, lo those decades ago...
The Rice Family "The Rice Family Album: Featuring Lorraine And Bobby" (Cuca Records) (LP)
Originally a child member of a regional family country band, Bobby G. Rice had real rural roots... Born in Boscobel, Wisconsin, Rice and his family made nearby Richland Center their center of activity, and they were a real-deal 1950s hillbilly band that performed in gingham and overalls for several years before breaking up as the siblings got older and married off. After a highschool fling in a frat rock band, Bobby G. formed a country duo with his sister Lorraine, and when that fizzled out, he set off for Nashville to become a solo star. This reunion album is of late '60s vintage, packed with covers of hits such as "Talk Back Tremblin' Lips," "Tippy Toeing" and "Company's Coming," along with a bit of the polka and waltz music that was still popular in the region. Sure would be cool to also hear some of the stuff the Rice Family did in the 'Fifties when they were on the radio, but this is a pretty interesting memento of his early years.
Dave Rich "Soil Brother" (Stop Records) (LP)
A pretty plainspoken, no-frills vocalist, sort of in the Ernest Tubb school, Dave Rich mostly sang covers of hits like "Green Green Grass Of Home" and several by Merle Haggard, as well as one old-school, cornball recitation song, "The Runt." The musical backing is decent -- a good studio crew backing a modest singer -- nothing dazzling, but it's okay.
Rich Mountain Tower "Rich Mountain Tower" (Ovation, 1971) (LP)
An interesting and very early '70s country-rock outing from a little-known Tennessee band... Really, though, these folks are mainly anchored in psychedelic folk, with a driving, rock rhythm and lots of jangly guitars and Southern-style slide balancing out the nascent twang. The lyrics are very hippie-dippie and diffuse, spacy, celebratory stuff about being alive and in nature, sung in airy harmonies with pedal steel an 12-string guitar providing sweet counterpoint -- all in all, a very Byrds-y sound. A few Nashville studio pros were brought in to beef up the band's sound -- Charlie McCoy lays down a few hot harmonica riffs, and steel player Weldon Myrick adds gorgeous accompaniment throughout. There's not a lot on here that I would call "country," as opposed to rock, and a few songs may get irritating if you're just in search of country sounds, although for psych/folk-freak fans this record is a real treat. A mixed bag, but a great document of its time.
Rich Mountain Tower "Can't You Feel It?" (Ovation, 1976) (LP)
Rich Mountain Tower "Playin' To The Radio" (Beau Geste, 1976) (LP)
There's more overt twang on this album, and more of a relaxed feeling overall... Still plenty of rock influences, and particularly a Byrds-y vibe, but the influence of mainstream country-rock comes into play as well, as on the John Denver-esque "Where I Live," as well as numerous tracks that have an Eagles/Poco/Ozark Mountain Daredevils feel. On the uptempo, funky "Sour Mash," they dive headlong into slide-driven Southern rock, but the rest of the record is much mellower -- and though "Good Time Music Band" has a nice, laid-back feel, there's one weird line about how one of his girlfriends used to "make love to a great dane" that was just a little too creepy for me. Ah, the 'Seventies! Anyway, like their other albums, this is a fine musical time capsule, with a handful of tunes that will interest country-rock cratediggers, balanced by rock music that really shows the eclectic spirit of the times. This does seem like a band ripe for some kind of reissue record. Anyone?
Digby Richards -- see artist profile
Earl Richards "The Sun Is Shining (On Everybody But Me)" (Ace of Hearts, 1973) (LP)
Earl Richards "Earl Richards" (RPA Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Less Ladd)
Songwriter Earl Richards (born Henry Earl Sinks) was a Texas native, born near Amarillo, who as a teen in the early 1950s played with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys and years later was tapped by producer Norman Petty to replace Buddy Holly in the Crickets, after Holly left the band. When the Crickets gig ended, he headed to Nashville where he enjoyed success as a songwriter in the '60s and started his own label, Ace Of Hearts, establishing himself as a successful music producer along the way. As "Earl Richards," he placed several songs in Billboard country charts during the '70s, including his biggest hit, "Margie, Who's Watching The Baby," which peaked at #29 early in 1973. (A version of that song is included on this album, along with several other originals. This album seems to have been reissued several years later, as seen below. He also recorded an earlier album, The Sun Is Shining (On Everybody But Me), under the name Earl Sinks, and re-released some of the material as Earl Richards...)
Earl Richards "Margie, Who's Watching The Baby" (Berden Records, 1982) (LP)
This appears to be a reissue of the 1976 album above... Not sure if the version of "Margie, Who's Watching The Baby" is the same one as his 1973 hit.
Sheriff Joe Lee Richards "Country: Yesterday, Now And Forever" (Richmar, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Louvin)
A real-deal, country singin' cop... Joe Lee Richards (1935-2013) was the Sheriff of Saline County, Arkansas, cutting an album with a bunch of Nashville cats, pickers like Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, Buddy Harmon, as well as Charlie Louvin, who arranged and produced the album...
The John Richards Band "Drinkin' Doubles, Feelin' Single" (John Richards & Pat Sheedy Enterprises) (LP)
(Produced by John Richards)
A nice obscuro offering from Ottumwa, Iowa, recorded sometime in the late '70s or early '80s. The "John Richards Band" featured Richards and three brothers -- Don, Tom and Tony Blew -- who provide solid harmony vocals on the opening title track, a song that sounds a bit like the Statler Brothers backing Don Walser. There seem to be at least two lead vocalists; I think the other was Tony Blew, who wrote four of the ten songs on this album, and I think it's Blew who has the younger-sounding voice, a bit like Gram Parsons, in fact. Well, despite the lack of liner notes to clarify who done what, this is an excellent privately released album -- there are some amateurish parts, but the quality of the songwriting and the sincerity and conviction of the performances is pretty compelling. Yet another band I'd love to hear more about!
Phil & Betty Richards "You're So Easy To Love" (P & B Records, 1979) (LP)
This husband-wife lounge duo from Portland, Oregon were not strictly country, but there's some twang in there, including covers of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," "Long Black Veil," and John Denver's "Back Home Again," although the rest of the record goes in a decidedly pop/pop vocals direction, with stuff like Bobby Goldsboro's "Pen In Hand," "They Call The Wind Mariah," etc. Most of the tracks are just the two of them singing and strumming, though on Side Two they are joined by a drummer named Dale Snyder.
Rusty Richards "The American Cowboy" (Young Oak Records, 1984) (MP3)
(Produced by Rusty Richards & Gene Breeden)
A solo set by cowboy crooner Rusty Richards, who became a member of the legendary Sons Of The Pioneers in 1963 and was with the group off and on for about two decades... Richards was a California native who grew up as a rancher in rural Orange County, and in his teens he got into playing western music -- later, after a hitch in the Marines he headed for Hollywood where he worked as a stuntman on TV westerns. He was championed by a young Burt Reynolds for an audition with the Sons Of The Pioneers, where he yodeled and sang tenor for many years. Richards also was a member of a latter-day version of Hal Southern's old band, the Frontiersmen, led in the late '60s by Ken Curtis, and eventually set himself up as a professional horse trainer before rejoining the Sons in 1974. This album includes a snapshot of Richards with the group on the back cover, but around the time this record came out, Richards was asked to leave the band, and in 1985 he sued them over the use of the group's name and for his share of the profits from a 50th anniversary album released in '82, having himself been kicked out of the band in '84. (Did you really need to know all this? Well, maybe not, but there it is, underneath it all...) The lawsuit was apparently resolved amicably, and Richards continued to sing (and write) cowboy songs for years to come, appearing at the Gene Autry museum and other SoCal venues. I gotta say, this album seems a little rough around the edges, but it does contain a wealth of original material, and is worth checking out if you're a diehard western music fan.
Turley Richards "West Virginia Superstar" (CBS-Epic, 1976)
(Produced by Ron Bledsoe & Troy Seals)
Wow... I would never, ever in a million, bazillion years have guessed that an album like this -- with that picture of a dorky-looking, longhaired good-old-boy, a guy named Turley, for goodness sake! -- wouldn't be a country record. Instead, it's more of a whiteboy Southern disco-soul album, and a pretty good one at that. Originally from West Virginia, Richards was an ex-rockabilly singer from the late '50s who slid into soul and pop vocals, in sort of a Jackie Wilson-meets-The Righteous Brothers mode. This later record, despite being recorded in Nashville and despite the presence of country-afiliated artists like producer Troy Seals and Janie Frickie (who sings harmony), is more like an Atlanta Rhythm Section or Average White Band record. Oh, well. Can't win 'em all! But all of y'all who are into the whole retro-disco thing... Well hey, you might want to check this one out.
Jim Richardson & Purebred "Who Are Those Guys?" (Starting Gate Music, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Vince Emmett)
A fixture on the Lexington, Kentucky bar scene, singer Jim Richardson led the band Purebred from 1977-83, with this album recorded pretty much in the middle of their run. Although they definitely projected a country image and played country-rock twang, there are also a few regretable doses of '70s-ish AOR and herky-jerky jam-band rock in there, too, with maybe just a hint of disco rhythm as well. The sound mix isn't great, though this album is notable for a wealth of original material... The twangier tunes are respectable, in a New Riders Of The Purple Sage kinda way... Which, by the way, is probably the band they stole their album title from... A little iffy, overall, but worth a spin. (Note: the album's producer Vince Emmett, who plays pedal steel and guitar on some tracks, worked at the independently-owned Lemco music studio, which was a hub for up-and-coming bluegrass talent, and went on to become a well-regarded country/Americana producer and film music composer.)
Randy Richardson "A Country Called Heaven: Country Gospel Music" (Gospel Media) (LP)
Aww. This one was disappointing: despite its proclamations of being a "country" album, this gospel set is mostly just Mr. Richardson strumming solo in a Sunday school folksinger mode, although there is one track, "Shadow Of The Cross," where he imitates the classic 1950's Johnny Cash chunka-chunka rockabilly riff -- other than that, though, it's mostly a folk-guitar style. Half the songs are credited to Richardson, along with covers of songs by Laverne Tripp, Marty Robbins, the Rambos and others. Slightly long-haired, Richardson was a California native living near Sacramento who recorded several albums back in the 'Seventies, and may eventually have had a ministry of his own.
Randy Richardson "Can't Stop Praisin' The Lord" (Gospel Jubilee Records, 1974) (LP)
Joe Richie "Live At O. T. Price's Music Hall" (Red Dirt Music, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Hewlitt Crist)
An excellent set of independent, old-school bar-room country music, with strong, simple songs and plenty of twang, recorded by a Panhandle transplant to the California shores. In the liner notes Richie goes out of his way to explain the meaning and origin of the term "red dirt music," an amorphous regional music movement which was named after the iron-heavy, crimson soil of Oklahoma... This is a rambunctious live set recorded at O. T. Price's Music Hall, a country music venue in Santa Cruz, California that was open from 1979-1990. O.T.'s was a well-loved showcase club for local and national roots music acts, and is pictured on the back cover. Great record... Highly recommended, particularly for fans of pre-Nashville George Strait.
Robert Richie "Hail We Americans" (Pyasaw Music Studio) (LP)
Robert Richie "Writer-Producer" (Pyasaw Music Studio) (LP)
Ozzie Ridings "It's Finally Over" (Ribbit Record Company, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Nelson Larkin & Steve Scruggs)
Old-school country twang from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with songs such as "If I Never See Your Face Again" "Don't Wake Me If I'm Dreaming," "I've Forgotten How To Love" and "I Gave You A Diamond (You Gave Me A Heartache)."
Len Ridley "On The Banks Of Old Chattooga" (Sounding Board, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Otis Forrest)
An amateur singer from Taylors, South Carolina who specialized in old-time stuff, Len Ridley was apparently a mobile home salesman who played at bluegrass festivals and other gigs in and around Greenville... The liner notes for this album were by Raymond Fairchild, so you know it's the real deal.
John Riggs "Bluejeans & Country Ways" (JRM Records) (LP)
Cool souvenir album from Nashville-based songwriter John Riggs... Although he wasn't a smash hitmaker, Riggs had an impressive track record at selling his songs to many bona fide Nashville stars, and placed several in the Top Ten. This album features his own versions of songs that were recorded by folks such as Dave Dudley, Stonewall Jackson, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins, Hank Snow, Mel Street, Conway Twitty and Don Williams. Unfortunately, the liner notes don't give much insight into where or when this record was made, but if you're a fan of songwriters performing their own material, you might want to track this one down.
Riley "Grandma's Roadhouse" (RCA, 1970)
Honkytonker Gary Stewart was a sideman for this obscuro hippie-soul/country-rock outing, playing in a small band led by singer Riley Watkins. It's fun stuff, with a rough-and-ready proto-Southern rock feel that Stewart's fans will recognize from his later records. Watkins is kind of iffy singer, but the music is still fun. Originally released as a vanity pressing in Florida, this has seen the light of day during the reissue renaissance of the post-millennial digital era. Worth checking out, particularly if you're a Gary Stewart fan.
Harold Riley & The Country Rush "Live At The Gold Rush" (198-?) (LP)
Low budget, but good music... This live album captures a West Coast bar band tearing through a bluesy, twangy set that included some early Rodney Crowell stuff, so despite the lack of any discographical info (not even song titles) I'd place this one as an early '80s album, maybe around 1981-82, possibly later. It's a good record, but a bit of a mystery. Anyone out there know anything about this band?
Rimrock "Rimrock" (Rimrock Records, 1981)
(Produced by Buzzy Smith)
An excellent, well-realized, professional-sounding country-rock set by a band from Lafayette, Louisiana... This is all very smooth and Poco-delic, but nicely done, with excellent musicianship and and with some pretty strong songwriting as well. If you like the classic, LA-based Top 40 country-rock sound of the 'Seventies, you'll want to check these guys out.
Jim Ringer "Any Old Wind That Blows" (Philo, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Ringer & Michael Couture)
Really nice. I'm used to thinking of California troubadour Jim Ringer as more of a "folk" artist, and as the longtime partner of singer Mary McCaslin, but this set of country twang is a real delight. It's most cover tunes, including hillbilly classics such as Roy Acuff's "As Long As I LIve," Jimmy Driftwood's "Good Woman's Love" and Don Reno's "I Know You're Married But I Love You Still," as well as bluesier numbers like "Sittin' On Top Of The World," and an outstanding, wonderfully lusty version of "Stackolee" (here entitled "Mrs. DeLion's Lament," with a songwriter's credit to Ringer...) McCaslin sings harmony on several tracks, and in this oldies-country context, they evoke the hardrock sentimentalism of duos such as Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper... Ringer's own vocals bring to mind robust vocalists such as Hoyt Axton and old-fashioned twang-stars such as Roy Acuff, and a couple of tracks that feature a small horn section have a boozy charm reminiscent of Leon Redbone. All in all, this is swell album... Highly recommended!
Rio Grande "Rio Grande" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Dale Hawkins)
This pioneering but short-lived country-rock band was an offshoot of the Tyler, Texas rock group, Mouse & The Traps, and featured several members of that band, including lead singer Ronny Weiss, bassist David Stanley and drummer Ken Murray, along with producer Dale Hawkins, who had previously worked with Mouse & The Traps and had the band back him on his own late-'60s records. The trio was joined by pedal steel player Bobby Tuttle and bassist Tom Russell (though not the same Tom Russell known to Americana fans of the '80s and '90s...)
Rio Grande Band "Playin' For The Door" (Rounder, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Craig Chambers & The Rio Grande Band)
A groovy set of longhaired western swing -- great music by a great band, right up there with the best by Asleep At The Wheel. Lead singer Craig Chambers was a native Texan who dug western swing and led this band for several years, notably as the "house band" for the original Broadway run of the play, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Chambers and the band opened the play, with Chambers as narrator -- many years later, he joined the retrodelic Time Warp Tophands, with steel player Tom Morrell. Before all that, there was this record... and it's really a gem. There are several classic tracks on here, notably the illicit substance anthem, "Mean Old Alcohol," and rollicking renditions of oldies such as Spade Cooley's "Crazy 'Cause I Love You," "Four Five Times," several Hank Thompson tunes, including "Hillbilly Band From Mars" and "Total Strangers," as well as the uptempo "Blue Blue Bonnet Lady," all given plenty of instrumental kick from top-flight folks such as steel player Doug Jernigan, Bucky Meadows on piano, and the twin fiddles of Ernie Reed and Hoot Hester. These songs were all in heavy rotation on KFAT when I was a kid (sorry, do I talk about them too much?) and it's no wonder why... This is fun stuff! A couple of tracks are skippable, but that's why turntables have tone arms... All in all, a real '70s treasure.
Rio Grande Gold "# 1" (Turquoise Trail Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Rio Grande Gold)
This band from Cerritos, New Mexico included local legend Lewie Wickham who'd led a trio, a duo and a solo career before going all-out country with these guys. This was a pretty ambitous album, spanning honky-tonk, country-pop, folk/countrypolitan ballads and a little bit of outlaw twang... Wickham was just one of several lead singers, notably latina singer Kay Kay Baca, whose chirpy voice had hints of Dolly Parton as well Dolly's sister, Crystal Gayle, who she seems to have been channeling on the perky pop of "Before My Heart Falls Prey." She sings several solo numbers, as well as a few duets with Wickham and the other male lead singer. With a wide stylistic scope and a very professional attitude, these guys had a strong almost-but-not-quite feel -- you can taste the hit potential, but the magic's not quite there in the recordings. Still, this is a good record from a very focussed, ambitious regional band, a better-than-average record from a group that clearly hoped to break through into the big time. A little softer than I usually like my twang, but definitely worth a spin.
Jerry Riopelle "Take A Chance" (ABC Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Riopelle, David Plenn & Keith Olson)
Originally from Florida, rock producer Jerry Riopelle broke into the early 1960s pop scene and established himself as part of the Los Angeles/West Coast musical elite... Although this mid-'70s album is mostly an overblown, self-indulgent rock-pop muddle, there is one track on here, Riopelle's own "Red Ball Texas Flyer," that is a genuine 'Seventies alt-country classic, a chugging, uptempo, irresistible country parody that was played constantly on KFAT, and it still brings a little smile to old coots like me from time to time. The studio musicians on this album are mostly groovy, slick, too-smooth LA regulars, but for the twangy stuff, Riopelle recruited bluegrassers such Sam Bush, Alan Munde and Byron Berline, along with flatpicker Tony Recupido, and he gave studio pro Waddy Wachtel a chance to stretch out on steel guitar. Mostly, though, this is a skippable record, at least from a twangfan's perspective.
Rising Sons "Featuring Taj Mahal And Ry Cooder" (Sony/SBME Special Markets, 2008)
(Produced by Terry Melcher)
This semi-legendary band was an early home to two of the greatest roots music revivalists of the 1970s, folk-blues guru Taj Mahal and twang auteur Ry Cooder, who gigged together around Los Angeles for a couple of years, between 1964-66. A popular live act, they were signed by Columbia Records, but their lone album was shelved and left in the vaults for decades -- another, earlier archival edition came out on Rhino Records. Although the group was noted for their diversity and the difficulty pigeonholing them into a single genre, most of these tracks have a heavy, muscular blues-rock feel, more of a boogie-rock thing, and not quite what drew fans to the later, lighter, more subtle work of both Cooder and Mahal. Still, it's worth checking out, just so you know what was going down, man. Y'know... back in the day.
John Lutz Ritter "Welcome To Lutz" (Cat Tail Records, 1981-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Aerts & John Lutz Ritter)
Tampa, Florida deejay John "Lutz" Ritter got his nickname from a regional hit that he penned, "In Beautiful Downtown Lutz," which is a pretty damn funny song, poking fun at the smalltown Tampa suburb of Lutz, and the stereotype the town apparently had as kind of a lost-in-time, redneck paradise... Ritter just piles it on, joke after joke, and they add up to one fine novelty song. The song was in heavy rotation at the country station where he DJ-ed, but it stands up on its own merits and is still a pretty great novelty song. Think, "Luckenbach, Texas" or "London Homesick Blues," as written by Jeff Foxworthy, and you'll be in kind of the right neighborhood... Side One of this album is all originals, including "Beautiful Downtown Lutz," while Side Two includes cover songs such as "Rocky Top" and "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms."
River City Good Tyme Band "Lonesome Wind" (Tumble Weed) (LP)
(Produced by Ronnie Dobbs & The RCGTB)
The River Mist Band "Country Partners: Favorite Country Duets" (Pickwick International, 1979) (LP)
I have no info on this one, who the musicians were, etc., though obviously it was a cheapo exploitation album commissioned by the Pickwick budget label to capitalize on the country duets tradition that was still popular in Nashville in the '70s. The thing is, despite the odd provenance, I bet this is actually pretty good. I'll let you know when I finally track a copy down.
River Road "Lay Back Country Style" (1982) (LP)
(Clyde Brewer's Original) River Road Boys "Country Music High" (Longhorn, 1985) (LP)
Riverrock "Riverrock" (SRC, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Riverrock & Ron Ubel)
Longhaired bluegrassers from Kansas City. To be honest, these guys were not top-flight pickers -- they plunk their way through standards like "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and "Orange Blossom Special," and well as grassed-up versions of old honkytonk tunes like "Jambalaya" and "Oh, Lonesome Me," as well as few nods at rock'n'pop, like clompy bar-band renditions on the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" and John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." It's all adequate, but not sizzling. They hint at bigger things with their pedal steel-tinged cover of the Byrds' "You Ain't Going Nowhere," which is the only plugged-in tune on here. Curiously enough, a couple of years later they cut a single with two songs written by fiddler/lead singer Jim Blanton, which I guess they started tucking into the album from '75 -- that's how I found mine -- and it's really quite good. The songs, "Come On In" and "Pine Mountain Railway" have an electrified, Byrds-y feel, and were a sign of things to come, when they shifted into more of a country group. Here, though, they are more or less a straight-up, amateur-level progressive bluegrass band.
Riverrock "Still Live And Pickin' " (Rockin' W Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Riverrock)
This live album shows the Riverrock band in a more stripped-down mode, playing spunky bluegrass and acoustic-swing tunes, mainly covers of country and bluegrass standards such as "Gotta Get Drunk," "Nashville Cats," "Six Pack To Go" and "Fox On The Run," as well as a trio of original songs by brothers John and Paul Mumma: "Another Girl Like You," "I Love You Now" and "Lost Road At Midnight." This LP documents a July 9, 1977 show at Putsch's Strawberry Patch, a restaurant-lounge venue in Overland Park, Kansas that hosted a variety of musical acts. The sound quality's so-so, and the performances are pretty scrappy, but it's a nice picture of a DIY local band with their fans in full force, cheering them on. The Asleep At The Wheel-ish swing songs showed a promising, vigorous direction for the band, and it would have been nice to hear more of their own material, but overall this is a nice souvenir of bygone times... Worth a spin!
Riverrock "Midwest Man" (SRC, 1980)
This album marked a major change of direction for Riverrock, with the band ditching bluegrass in favor of a deliberately commercialized, bigger country sound, some of it kind of Firefall-ish or Poco-esque, some of it inching into the glossy style of Top 40 bands such as Alabama. The new lead singer, Rick Harrelson, sounded like a cross between Kenny Rogers and Jonathan Edwards, matching the bland material and the equally uninspiring arrangements. On a few tunes you can hear echoes of their earlier style, with bluegrass licks and novelty lyrics coming to the fore... But mostly this one's kind of rough going... Uneven, at best.
River Saint "River Saint" (Van Dyke Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Vandy, Pat Powers & Mike Guerra)
A Miami-based rock band, with bassist Jim Keegan and guitarist Steve McNamara splitting the lead vocals, and producer Gary Vandy chiming in on guitar. The songs are all originals, mostly second-rate, very DIY '70s rock, though some tracks definitely fall into the country-rock category, with echoes of bands like America and Firefall, albeit with more of a spaced-out, psychedelic/amateur hour "outsider art" feel. Keegan composed more than half the songs, while McNamara wrote one, and drummer Steve Brettholtz added three more. These rambling, minimally-produced tracks definitely fall short of greatness, but there is a certain naive sweetness and earnest authenticity that's appealing to fans of the era.
The Rize-N-Fast Band "Recorded At The Stompin' Ground" (Nashville Remote Recordings) (LP)
(Produced by Conrad Jones)
This was a live set recorded at a country venue in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, a place called the Stompin' Ground which was literally housed in a big, old barn. It seems to have had some connection to the Opry, like sort of a farm-team concert hall(?). Anyway, this band included Arthur L. Fisher, Angoe M. Derrick, Travis Fisher, Ralph A. Tonney, E. T. Jackson... not much info about them that I could find, though.
The R. J. Keen Band "Some Days Are Just So Blue" (Abattoir Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Goga & Lewis Mark)
Yeesh. It's records like this that force me to admit that I may have hit rock-bottom on this whole obscuro-country thing. I mean, I just had to check it out after I confirmed that, yes, this was a follow-up album by Midwestern folkie Larry Keen, who recorded an odd folk-pop/outlaw album a few years earlier, here officially teamed up with his pal, R. J. Pollack, who had also played on Keen's Ventilated Stetson album, back in '75. By this time, they seem to have been kicking it full-time in LA and this time around going full-steam-ahead for a gooey, 'Seventies pop-AOR sound, ala Harry Chapin/Seals & Croft/Paul Davis, complete with a disco rhythm section on several songs, and plenty of emotive anguish in the lyrics. They rehash a song from '75 ("Marco Polo") and disasterously cover Smoky Robinson's "My Girl," and presumably were doing enough coke that they'd convinced themselves that this was really great stuff. But then again, who am I to judge? I'm sure there's someone out there for whom this marginal would-be Top Forty pop is just as compelling as some marginal, would-be Top Forty country is to me. (And if you could actually follow that last sentence, congratualtions! You've won your very own no-prize, courtesy of DJ Joe Sixpack!) Anyway, if you want my honest opinion, this is a dreadful record, although I suspect a soft-pop fan or two out there might really dig it. Not me, though.
The Roadside Band "Storm's About To Brew" (Southern Star Records, 1981) (CD)
(Produced by Randy Enright & Billie Kessler)
This is more of a Southern rock kinda thing... You can tell partly by the Confederate flag-colored eagle pictured on the front cover, and also by the big, bad guitars inside. But they have some surprises as well, such as their cover of the Bill Withers classic, "Ain't No Sunshine..." I'd like to see Molly Hatchet try that one, dude!
Diana Roan "Give Me Some Time" (Roan Enterprises, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Pierce Roan & Danny Baker)
This gal from Boise, Idaho sang all-original material written by the Roans and various bandmembers, with several songs arranged by producer-keyboard player Danny Baker...
Roanoke "Roanoke" (Ridge Runner, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Roanoke)
Bluegrassy, but with definite country and rock-friendly "progressive" streaks, this Texas twang band had a pretty diverse repertoire and some tasty licks, too... The group featured Michael Anderson playing bass and singing lead, Joe Carr on mandolin, Dan Huckabee on dobro, and Mark Maniscalco strummin' on the old on banjo, with guest musicians that included pedal steel player Ray Austin and fiddler Dave Ferguson. They cover songs by Norman Blake, Delbert McClinton, Walter Hyatt, Elton John and others, as well as a few original tunes written by Anderson and Maniscalco.
Sandy Robb "From The Heart Of Sandy Robb" (Award Records) (LP)
(Produced by Biff Collie)
A singer from Bryan, Ohio covering country classics like "I Fall To Pieces," some Hank Williams tunes and a version of Mickey Newbury's "American Trilogy." Several of the backing musicians seem to have been from Robb's own band, while Nashville players such as Doyle Grisham and Willie Rainsford also play on this album...
Mike Robbins "...Long Time Comin' " (AVI, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Silver)
I reluctantly list this one in the annals of country-rock, though mostly this review is really just a friendly warning. Keyboardist Mike Robbins apparently worked as a backing musician for artists such as Merilee Rush and Sonny & Cher, stepping here into the spotlight with a set of mostly dreadful '70s soft-pop tunes, would-be sweeping epics of sonic grandeur, but mostly... yeesh. Still, there are a few twangtunes, perhaps the best of which was the relatively straightforward "Don't Wait Too Long." If you're looking to mine individual songs from the vast pool of vastness that is all music past, this disc might yield a couple of gems, but you have to suffer through some pretty overcooked, gooey other stuff to get there... Some good pedal steel in the mix, though sadly I don't know who played on this album.
Ronny Robbins "Reach For All You Can" (Thunder Record Corporation, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake, Eddy Fox & Bobby Dyson)
Things never quite clicked for Ronny Robbins, who was the son of superstar Marty Robbins and piggybacked on his dad's career a little bit, but seems to have tried to make it on his own. He released his first solo album on Columbia way back in 1969 -- it tanked, but he hung on in Nashville and recorded this album a decade later with a bunch of top-talent studio pros. I think it was all just for fun, though... Includes songs by his pop, one by Eddy Raven and one by Eddy Fox, who co-produced this disc.
Robert & Claudene "Lamp Lighting Time" (Davis Unlimited, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Davis & Robert E. Nobley)
This is one of my favorite old-timey albums, a battered but beloved memento of the days when dollar albums still only cost a quarter (or five for a dollar, if you were lucky...!) The husband-and-wife team of Robert and Claudene Nobley were just plain folks from Roanoke, Alabama who loved all kinds of old-timey music, and they regularly went to festivals and shows with Steve Davis, the guy who started the Davis Unlimited label. Thank goodness he stuck them in front of a microphone, because the Nobelys are just so heartfelt, soulful and sincere singing these old tunes, with simple, no-muss/no fuss guitar picking and autohapr strumming. Their harmonies are plainspoken but effective, and they really bring these old songs to life, tunes like "Poor Willie," "Katie Dear," All The Good Times Are Passed And Gone" and, of course, "Lamp Lighting Time," which is an album highlight. If you love those old records by the Blue Sky Boys, Delmore Brothers and Louvin Brothers, you might want to track this one down as well.
Bill Roberts "I Had A Dream" (Scot Records) (LP)
Another mystery record from the heartland, but one packed with original material. All but one song was written by Bill Roberts, including "Nashville Country Singer," "Down And Out, Busted, Hated And Mistrusted," "Move It On Down The Road Blues," and one song penned by Julia Petty, "Butterfly Kisses And Yellow Balloons." (The liner notes thank Jack and Julia Petty, so maybe they helped finance the record?) This was recorded at RCA Nashville with a studio crew that included pros such as Lloyd Green, Harold Bradley, Pig Robbins, Ray Edenton and Hank Strzelechi... The label it came out on, however, was located in Independence, Missouri.
Billy Roberts & Grits "Thoughts Of California" (Tulip, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Hillel Resner & Billy Roberts)
This is apparently the only album by rock/folk songwriter Billy Roberts, who is the guy who wrote the '60s beat classic "Hey Joe," a big hit for Jimi Hendrix and numerous other artists. Roberts started out in the Greenwich Village folk scene, and like many East Coasters migrated to San Francisco when the decade got weirder... He played gigs at the hungry i nightclub and was a regular fixture in the Bay Area music scene throughout the hippie era. This record is very odd and idiosyncratic, a real outsider-art kinda thing, but it holds up well. The first time I heard this album, I thought it was a little too folkie for me, but revisiting it I found the country sound was much more prominent than I remembered. Side One of the LP is almost entirely twang, and has a couple of particularly memorable tunes, including the novelty number "Rebound" and the more subtle, gospel-flavored "Hide Behind." That soulful, bluesy vibe gives Roberts a sort of Jerry Lee Lewis-ish vocal quality on several tracks -- Side Two of the album branches out into other styles, not all as successful as the country stuff, though even the goofy white reggae tune has weird, interesting lyrics, and Roberts seems to have had a singular artistic vision. Sadly, he was severely injured in an auto accident in the 1990s, bringing his music career to an end. This album's a nice legacy, though... That, and of course "Hey Joe!"
Billy Roberts/Various Artists "A NIGHT AT THE WINE CELLAR" (Cabernet Recordings, 1976) (CD & MP3)
(Produced by Timothy Dawe)
Roberts contributes three songs on this live album, recorded with a passel of folkie artists at the Ghiradelli Wine Celler restaurant in San Francisco. Other artists include Leo Collignon, a band called Good Morning, Skip Henderson, Joey Lent, Jim Nelson, John Palme, Patricia Pickens, Dev Singh, Wayne Smith, and a few tunes by album producer Timothy Dawe. One highlight is the Billy Roberts song "The Grip" about living with alcoholism: "For at last it's come to pass/that the grip I've got on the glass/is nothing compared to the grip/that the glass has got on me..." Mostly this record is packed with painfully earnest folk material, but Roberts' stuff does stand out.
Chris Roberts " 'Till Five In The Morning" (Frisky Records) (LP)
Glenda Roberts & Tim Myers "On Stage" (Shiloh Productions, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Gregor)
A country-rock duo from Colorado Springs, Colorado, with pedal steel and banjo picking added by Dan Williams and Steve Daigle on drums... The set list is all cover tunes, drawing on the mainstream country-rock canon of Emmylou Harris, Michael Martin Murphey and Linda Ronstadt. No less than five of the songs come from Emmylou's '70s repertoire, along with a couple from the Patsy Cline catalog... Sounds good to me!
The Paul Roberts Band "I've Never Had As Much Fun As This" (Outlet Records, 1982) (LP)
Rick Roberts "Windmills/She Is A Song" (Beat Goes On, 2009)
In between his stint with the Flying Burrito Brothers and the founding of the Top 40 country-rock band Firefall, Florida-born singer-songwriter Rick Roberts recorded two solo albums, which have been reissued together on a single CD... Another reissue coup for the estimable BGO label!
Rick Roberts "Windmills" (A&M, 1972)
(Produced by David Anderle)
On his solo debut, Roberts showcases his reedy voice in a grittier context than his later work with the lighter-toned Firefall, working in a variety of styles that generally hover around an artsy, folk-ish twang but also branch into roots grooves ala Little Feat ("Drunk And Dirty") and even more briefly into retro-twang, as on his cover of Charlie Walker's "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down." There are wisps of all kinds of contemporary country-rock, with a couple of CSNY dudes (David Crosby and Dallas Taylor), some of the guys in the Eagles orbit (Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner and Jackson Browne) as well as a few Burrito bros, like Al Perkins and Chris Hillman... So maybe it's not so surprising that there are familiar early '70s riffs and rhythms floating around in here, although Roberts sticks to an idiosyncratic songwriting style with few pop-oriented tunes. Even though there's lots of groovy twang in the mix, there aren't many songs you'd really hum along to or sing in the shower. Still, there's a lot of country-rock royalty on here, and it's a well-produced album. Not totally my cup of tea, but worth checking out.
Rick Roberts "She Is A Song" (A&M, 1973)
(Produced by Chris Hillman)
Roberts took a more overtly "rock" approach on this album -- there's still plenty of twang-talent in the mix, but it's all cosmic and ornate, kinda like a late-edition Byrds album, perhaps. Oddly enough, the songs are still pretty idiosyncratic and less pop-oriented than you might imagine from a guy who led such as facile, successful AOR band as Firefall, and that's probably to his credit. The guy was versatile. Of note among the usual suspect crew in the band backing him is Texas folk-country pioneer Steven Fromholz, singing harmony on a tune or two... And this time around they got Joe Walsh to bang out some guitar riffs as well... Includes a version of Paul Siebel's "She Made Me Lose My Blues," as wella s Roberts' Christian rock anthem, "The Captain." Give her a spin, if you're up for it.
Robey Falk Bod "Kentucky Gambler" (Epic, 1973)
The uniquely-named rock trio of Bill Robey, Don Falk and Bod Noubarian are emblematic of the wild diversity of the early 1970s, dipping into hard rock, bubblegum, prog and, yes, even some pretty decent country-rock twang. The country material is only on a few tunes, but it's pretty good. The studio crew includes Weldon Myrick, Bobby Emmons, Buddy Spicher, all playing at their peak. This record is pretty challenging, at least to those who dislike bands that are "too hard" to pin down... But if you're the kind of person who's always said, "Oh, why can't bands play whatever they want to and try all different kinds of genres?" then this one is definitely for you. Viva la '70s!
The Robinson Family "Live At Petticoat Junction" (Mockingbird Records, 1976) (LP)
The Robinson Family "...Of Georgetown, Kentucky" (Blue Jay, 1982-?) (LP)
The Robinson Family "At Home With The Robinson Family" (Blue Jay, 1983-?) (LP)
I'm not much one on the whole har-de-har-har laughing at "funny looking" people on old LP covers things... (Times change; different strokes, etc.) That being said, this Oklahoma family band's matching outfits are pretty hilarious, particularly the too-too tight white jeans worn by the gals. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have a semi truck in the background. The Robinsons, as it turns out, were diehard mambers of NATSO -- the National Association Of Truck Stop Operators, an industry group founded in the 1960s -- and it might not surprise you then that they have a trucker tune or two in their repertoire, including "She's A Driver, She's A Lady," one of several originals written by various family members on this album. Other highlights include "Oklahoma City Blues" and "I Never Liked Country (Till I Met You)." Breaker, breaker, 10-4, good buddy!
Rick Robinson & The Bayou Boys "Rick Robinson & The Bayou Boys" (Belmont, 1978) (LP)
Rick Robinson & The Bayou Boys "I Spent Last Year In A Barroom" (Belmont, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Flint and Buck Mitchell)
Ronnie Robinson & Sound Company "Don't Envy Me" (Starr Records, 1976-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Casey & Marvin Jones)
This album includes four original songs by Ronnie Robinson: "Back Door Of My Mind," "Don't Envy Me," "She's Walking" and "Try To Understand Me Melissa," as well as covers of classics by Hank Cochran, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Hank Williams, and Leroy Van Dyke's "Pass Me By." The record label was based in Columbus, Ohio, though I'm not totally sure where the band was from...
The Roches - solo, duo & trio
Rockcastle River Company "Pat Horine & The Rockcastle River Company" (Rockcastle, 1975) (LP)
John Denver fans might like this one. Independently released, for sure, but not as country as one might hope... This Indianapolis, Indiana trio took their cues from classic '60s folk groups such as the Kingston Trio or the Chad Mitchell Trio, with lots of frightfully earnest songs about drifters and dreamers, and a couple of novelty numbers like "Rubber Car," which closes the album out. From a twangfan's perspective, about the most country tune on here is "I'm Tired Of Being A Cowboy," which still has a pretty folkie feel, slightly tempered by a Michael Martin Murphey-ish vibe. Lead singer Pat Horine seems to have been the guiding force behind this band, although for next album he let go of top billing and they just went by the band name. As far as I can tell, most of the songs on here were originals written by the guys in the band; also worth noting is that guitarist/banjo player Nick Heyl later worked with a re-imagined, early '80s lineup of The Kingston Trio, producing a couple of their records. Not sure what the second Rockcastle River album sounds like...
Rockcastle River Company "From Maine To Texas With..." (Rockcastle, 1976) (LP)
Rockcastle County Line "Presenting..." (1981) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Graham)
More country, less folk on this one, though it is the same band as the "Rockcastle River Company" with Pat Horine, et.al. Includes covers of classics like Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man," Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," and "Sweet City Woman," by the Stampeders. There are also some original tunes, such as their "Coca-Cola, Biscuits And Grits" and one called "Muncie, Indiana." (Which seems to have been their stomping grounds at the time: this album was recorded in Indianapolis...)
The Rockin' R Cowboys "On The Bandstand" (Rockin' R Records, 196-?) (LP)
Straight outta Austin -- Austin, Minnesota, that is -- comes this charming live album by a family band mostly made up of the Rinehart siblings: singer-guitarist Bill Rinehart, lead guitar Steven Rinehart and sister Terri Rinehart on drums, along with their dad, Harold Rinehart, who sings on a tune or two, and managed the band. Recorded live at Red's Dogpatch Inn in Troy, Minnesota -- though they don't say exactly when -- the liner notes indicate that this show was performed after the group had been playing together for three years, while 14-year old Steven had been playing guitar for six years, starting when he was eight... and he's pretty good! He's got some nice, classic licks, and a definite rock influence, although he does get a little note-happy sometimes. Bill is an okay vocalist, with a deep, resonant voice that sounds more manly and gruff than his twenty-one years; old Dad, on the other hand, drifts into Ernest Tubb-ish territory, and guest singers Fritz Mehmen and Judy Keenan also have okay voices, but lacked the ooomph of true country professionals. The liner notes say that this band had been together three years when they cut this disc -- apparently they were together in one form or another through the end of the 'Sixties, as seen by the single below.
The Rockin' R Cowboys "Steve And His Rockin' R Cowboys" (Rockin' R Records, 196-?) (7")
This six-song EP reprises Fritz Mehmen's novelty number, "The Mule Song," but forges into new territory with a set that includes Merle Haggard's 1969 hit, "Okie From Muskogee," and honkytonk oldies like "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" and "Release Me," which are both sung by poppa Harold. There are a bunch of new performers working with the Rineharts here, including guitarist Don Pederson, fiddler Lloyd Rosecke and singer Connie Jo Valasek, as well as a duo calling themselves Cindi & Jeanne, The Country Cousins. No date on the disc, but I'd guess it's from around 1970 or thereabouts, based on the repertoire. Not sure if the rest of the family was still in the band at this point; sometime later, Steve Rinehart moved to Washington state.
The Rocky Top Band "Rocky Top Band" (1982) (LP)
Sadly, I couldn't find any information about this uber-indie country-rock band -- like where they were from, where they recorded this album, etc. -- other than that this record came out in the early '80s. And yes, they played "Rocky Top," but also country-rock hits like "Midnite Flyer" and JJ Cale's "Tulsa Time." The band included Randy Hayward, Howard Jensen, Dale Murray, Rick Murray and Earl Shoemberger (sp?). Anyone out there know more about these guys?
Michael Roden "Born In A Whirl" (1978) (LP)
(Produced by Michael Roden)
Country-rock/soft pop from upstate New York... Roden's Stony Creek Band featured Randy Rollman on pedal steel, but also included instruments such as the maracas, congas, clave, clarinet, etc., so maybe it's not totally "country"?
The George Rodgers Trio "Favorites Of..." (Pheasant Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by William Beasley & Tom Sparkman)
This trio from Springfield, Oregon included singers George Rodgers and Cookie Cook, as well as pedal steel player Jimmie Kelley, who showcases his work on several original instrumentals -- "Patterns Of The Past," "Skipalong" and "Vile Inn Boogie." There are also covers of oldies by Cindy Walker, the Carter Family, and a version of Bill Mack's "Drinkin' Champagne," along with some pop stuff, like Burt Bacharach's "Close To You." But, dang it! After I already made the decision not to make a Springfield-based Simpsons reference, I notice that there are two songs on here written by someone named Ralph Wigham(!) -- "If Only" and "Please Forgive Me." D'oh!!
Tex Roe "Sings Fire Shootin' Pony And Other Highway Songs" (Mark IV Records, 1970-?) (LP)
(Produced by Link Wray)
A set of trucker tunes from New York state honkytonker Tex Roe (aka John Frederick Robarge, 1922-2001) whose career stretched back to the 1940s... Based around Syracuse, Roe hosted radio and TV programs, was a cast member of the WWVA Jamboree, and appeared on numerous shows such as the Ernest Tubb show as well as on WSM, the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Over the years, he recorded a handful of songs that charted nationally, including numerous 78s and 45s, although this was his only full album.
Jack Rogers "Sings Country Music Hits... The Road" (Modern Sound) (LP)
(Produced by William Beasley & Tom Sparkman)
A groovy set of trucker tunes from singer Jack Roberts, who had previously released some singles on the Nashville-based Modern Sound label, which was an offshoot of Spar Records. Rogers was not a top-flight vocalist, and some of these tracks are a little rough around the edges... But actually, that's kind of cool, if you're in the market for authenticity and earthiness. The backing musicians retain a little chunkiness as well. The songs are mostly (if not all) covers of hits -- "A Tombstone Every Mile," Giddy Up Go," "Give Me Forty Acres," "Six Days On The Road," etc. -- though there might be a one or two originals, such as "Almost To Nashville..." Unfortunately, there are no composer credits anywhere on the album. Anyway, this is an enjoyable album, at least if you're able to cope with a few imperfections here and there. Plenty of twang!
James Rogers "Live At Saddles" (Commonwealth Recording Group) (LP)
Guitarist James Rogers lived in Tennessee, but cut this album while playing a gig at the Saddles restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. The repertoire includes some country stuff, such as "Silver Saddles," "American Trilogy" and "Tennessee," though also a few showcase guitar songs such as a medley of Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" and "Malaguena."
Jody Rogers "Rainbows And Rodeos" (Southern Pride Records) (LP)
Rogers was a deejay on Fort Myers, Florida radio station WHEW-102-FM (aka "The Country Giant")
Joyce Rogers "Little Old Ladies Can" (National Foundation Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Dollar & Jim Cartwright)
A Patsy Cline soundalike from Newaygo County, Michigan, Joyce Rogers was a protege of country second-stringer Johnny Dollar, who produced most of these tracks before he passed away in '86. She wrote all the songs and they have a familiar feel, again with many building om the old Patsy Cline formula of blending rich country roots with perky, muted rock'n'roll, which by the 1980s had a definite retro feel, almost a Sha-Na-Na-ish vibe. But she sings nicely and this is well produced, with strong performances by the studio crew, particularly steel guitar players Sonny Garrish and Mike Cass, who really out some feeling into it. Though commercially inclined, this record may have been a little out of step with the synthy, antiseptic stuff coming out of Nashville at the time, though I'm sure that's fine with most of us -- right? Anyway, this isn't a super-original sounding set, but it's an admirable indie offering. Also, kudos on the songwriting -- I'm not sure if she ever sold any of her songs, but she sure made a good go of it.
Kenny K. Rogers "Lonely Heart" (RPI, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Rich Richardson & Kenny K. Rogers)
Not to be confused with the evil entity known as Kenny "Sauron" Rogers, this fella from Peoria, Illinois sang mostly covers, although he wrote four of the tunes on here, including the title track as well as several gospel-themed numbers. Other than that, a complete mystery album!
Troy Rogers & Harmony "Troy Rogers And Harmony" (TRH Records) (LP)
(Produced by Troy D. Rogers)
A teenage band from Warsaw, Missouri fronted by guitar picker/multi-instrumentalist Troy Rogers and lead singer Darlene Hayes. Not exactly when they recorded this album, but they covered the outlaw anthem, "Luckenbach, Texas," along with two hits by Kenny (Sauron) Rogers -- "Lucille" and "The Gambler -- so I'm thinking this was from around 1979-80, somewhere in there. The kids in the band were all apparently seventeen years old when they cut this disc, with one original song, "Second Chances," written by second guitarist Jim Hayes, while everything else was cover songs.
The Walt Rogers Four "The Walt Rogers Four" (Walor Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Walt Rogers & Jay Andy Thompson)
Originally from Bascom, Florida, fiddler Walt Rogers settled down in Portland, Oregon after traveling around for years as a sideman in various bands. In 1969 he put together the Walt Rogers Four, with his fiddle backing three female singers, including his wife, Lorri Rogers, who had been his partner on the road throughout the early 'Sixties. The repertoire includes country chestnuts such as "Green Green Grass Of Home" and Kenny Rogers's "Just A Yodel For Me," but is more remarkable for the many rock and pop cover tunes, given inventive arrangements and buoyed by Walt Rogers' solid, sizzling fiddle. "Hitchin' A Ride," "Leaving On A Jet Plane," Jackie DeShannon's "Put A Little Love In Your Heart," and a couple by Creedence Clearwater, "Looking Out My Back Door" and "Proud Mary" show a with-it hipness that belies the geeky appearance of the band on the cover. One of the best tracks is his version of "Orange Blossom Special," a song that makes me involuntarily flinch when I see it on an album: Rogers puts his heart into his fiddling, getting a very soulful tone, while the drummer gets in some really cool, inventive licks. To be honest, the vocals are kind of uneven... I won't name names, but while Rogers and one of the gals are pretty good, the other half of the team have some pretty iffy moments. Regardless, this is a cool album from an accomplished and ambitious country lounge band, and a groovy document of the ever-rootsy Pacific Northwest country scene.
The Walt Rogers Four "Complete And Onabridge" (Walor Records) (LP)
(Produced by Walt Rogers & Jay Andy Thompson)
Bob Rohan "Bad Bob" (1983) (LP)
Bad Bob (Rohan) "Bad Bob And His Good Friends" (Self-Released, 2001)
Good-timin' western swing and the local spirit of independent Texas music are alive and well, as heard in this fun album by fiddler and songwriter Bob Rohan. He pays dutiful homage to the spirit of Bob Wills in a rousing version of "Deep In The Heart Of Texas," and on his original tune, "When You Play The Fiddle In Texas (You Better Know All The Tunes!)" It was the charm of his original material that caught my attention -- especially on great novelty tunes like "She Took A Blowtorch To My Workbench" and the similarly-themed "Daddy's Pad (When Momma's Mad)," which extols the virtues of sleeping in the cab of your truck when domestic tension looms. Fans of humble, obscuro alt.country greats such as Deadly Earnest, Alvin Crow, Chuck Wagon & The Wheels, or Cornell Hurd will find a lot to celebrate in this album -- this ain't super-slick Nashville pop, it's just a guy with a friendly-sounding voice and a bunch of pals who can pick some nice country music, and it's pretty cool. This is the kind of independently-produced album you used to hear a lot more often; nice to know someone out there still has the magic formula.
Bad Bob (Rohan) "Bad To The Bow" (Self-Released)
Bad Bob (Rohan) "Prairie Rose" (Self-Released, 2008)
Clarke C. Rohn "Country" (Redhill, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Clarke Rohn)
A fairly rootsy country album from La Mirada, California's own Clarke C. Rohn, a modestly talented singer who performed around the Long Beach area for several decades, on TV and at clubs and private events, hosting a variety of Southern California talent on various occasions. Rohn self-recorded and self-released this album, with a strong backing band, particularly on the pedal steel. The reperoire is a mix of covers from artists such as Moe Bandy and Ray Price, as well as some original material, notably a gospel song called "Instant Happiness," which Rohn co-wrote with Stacy Farrell, the owner of the nightclub where Rohn had a residency at the time this album was made. Although he doesn't dazzle as a vocalist, Rohn's heart was in it, and you can hear hints of Mickey Gilley and Willie Nelson in his phrasing -- honkytonk at its core, but with sophisticated leanings. A nice document of a resolutely local performer in his early years...
Donnie Rohrs "Country Music USA" (Pacific Challenger Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Chuck Whittington, Terry Dwyer & Gary Brandt)
A charmingly rough-hewn, amateurish country-meets-oldies album by middle-aged singer Donnie Rohrs, a native of Sanborn, Iowa who also recorded several singles in the 1970s, on equally obscure labels. He sings some old-school rock'n'roll -- songs like "Party Doll" and and adaptation of an old Chuck Berry song -- but mostly this is an idiosyncratic but honest country record. There are definitely rough patches on a few songs, but he's so enthusiastic and sincere you can't help but like him, and several songs hold up well as oddball novelty numbers... Rohrs has a chunky good-ole-boy sound that brings Jerry Reed to mind, as well as Joe Stampley, in his more R&B-oriented moments. I think this album took him a long time to complete, and some tracks sound like they were recorded in very different sessions -- one of the best songs is an original that Rohrs wrote called "Waltzes And Western Swing" where the band sounds really solid and the pedal steel has a much richer, deeper tone than on other tracks, which sound more rock-flavored and bar-band-y. Regardless, the guy was authentic and totally home-grown. My copy included a flier for membership in his fan club, with the kind of artist bio that lists things like his winning talent contests in junior high, and wowing the crowd in eighth grade with his Elvis impersonation. I love that kind of stuff. Rohrs went out west to record this one at the Sun-Dwyer Studios in Riverside, California, which was a short-lived vanity pressing service that was around in the late '70s and early '80s.
The Rollin' Country Rock Band "Rollin' Country" (Atomic Records, 1980) (LP)
These longhairs from Salt Lake City, Utah cover some roots and rock stuff, such as "Hello Mary Lou," "Redneck Roots" "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones.
Larry Rollins "Smooth Country" (LP Records, 1984-?) (LP)
Larry Rollins "That's Country Lovin On A Saturday Night" (LP Records, 1985-?) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rollins, Kurt Ericson & Mike Graham)
This mid-'80s twangband had a honkytonk edge, with commercial sensibilities... Songwriter Larry Rollins led these locals from Indianapolis, Indiana, a group he called The Little Nashville Express Band which most notably included a young fiddler-singer named Lisa Germano, who was a couple of years away from a gig in John Mellencamp's band, and from her own solo career as a 1990s indie auteur. Also in the band was steel player Gary Pugh and lead guitar James Allen and pianist Roger Smith... They played an interesting mix of material, including two originals by Rollins, a cover of the Moe Bandy single, "It Took A Lot Of Drinking (To Get That Woman Over Me)" (a minor hit in 1984) and a Hank Williams medley closing the album out, after a tune by David Miller called "Ain't Gonna Play Your Cheatin' Heart Again." Rollins had a long career -- he recorded several singles on various labels, including one for NSD's Soundwaves imprint; years later, Mellencamp would include a song by Larry Rollins on the country-themed soundtrack to his film, Falling From Grace.
Larry Rollins "Highway To Heaven" (LP Records, 1986-?) (LP)
Ron, Jeff, Frank, Ray & Mike "Makin' Tracks Together" (BOC Records) (LP)
Cover tunes by a Missouri quintet that included Ron Mahan... They play stuff by Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Jerry Reed... Recorded sometime in the '70s, methinks, at the Mack's Creek studio, near Branson.
Roger Rone "Hell To Hold" (LDR Records, 1989) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Bradley & B. Vaughn)
A neo-trad singer in the style of Randy Travis, Rone and his band, Country Fury were from Akin, Illinois, a microscopic crossroads in the south end of the state, between Saint Louis, Missouri and Louisville, Kentucky. They played locally and recorded a couple of singles before heading to Nashville to cut this album at Bradley's Barn under the sponsorship of Bobby D. Reed, the owner of the True Records label, which released the single "Holdin' On To Nothin'," a song that made it into the back forty, peaking at #83 in Billboard.. All but two of the songs here were written or co-written by Reed, with Roger Rone contributing two of his own... While this album was part of the last gasp of Nashville's '80s indie labels, it's a nice legacy for a hard-working local artist...
Linda Ronstadt - see artist discography
Elvin Rooks & The Bluegrass Ramblers "Live At The Commons" (Elgett Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Guy F. Preston & Steve Hood)
Uber-indie bluegrass/twang from Columbus, Indiana... Lead singer Elvin Rooks and his band work through a lively set which includes a cover of John Prine's "Paradise" as well as grassed-up versions of straight country songs by Carl Smith, Buck Owens, Bob Wills, as well as classic bluegrass tunes from Flatt & Scruggs, Reno & Smiley, and one original by Elvin Rooks, "Bum In King's Clothing."
Jim Rooney "One Day At A Time" (Rounder, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by John Nagy & Peter Troisi)
A stalwart of the 1960's folk'n'bluegrass scene kicks back and gets loose with a country-flavored set, full of plenty of sweet picking and on-purpose not-great vocals, a resolutely DIY-sounding, back porch style that makes the music all the more delightful. Jamming with him are his "partners in crime," East Coast truegrasser Joe Val, guitarist Steve Bruton and Rooney's longtime collaborator, Bill Keith, playing banjo and pedal steel. The music stretches from folk and bluegrass to honkytonk and outlaw music, with songs by James Talley, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and hillbilly old-timers Wiley & Zeke... A strikingly diverse set for a guy who's best known as a bluegrass revivalist. Highlights include Rooney's bouncy original composition, "Do You Think It Will Ever Go Away," which has some groovy, Merle Travis-styled guitar licks. This is an album you have to place yourself in the right wavelength to enjoy, but once you do, it's very rewarding.
Elliot Rothpearl "Sippin' Slow" (Rumplestiltskin Records, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Elliot Rothpearl & Ed Sloan)
Dunno much about this guy... He seems to have been from upstate New York and wrote most of the songs on here. Lots of pros on here backing him, including Lloyd Green playing pedal steel and Buddy Spicher on fiddle, while Rothpearl plays guitar, banjo and mandolin... Also notable is Chip Taylor chiming in with some background vocals...
Doug Rose "Doug Rose" (Snail Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Doug Rose & Tom Underhill)
Rosebud "Are Ya Crackin'?" (Nightmare World Records, 1975) (LP)
Rosebud "By Request Only: Take His Money And Throw Him Out" (Warped Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Hoban & Jack W. Traver, Jr.)
Recorded live at Muhlenbrink's Saloon in Atlanta, Georgia... I'm not sure what year this album came out, but the Muhlenbrink's venue closed in 1979... So it was sometime before then...
The Rose Family "Presenting The Rose Family" (O&R Records) (LP)
James Anthony Rose "James Anthony Rose" (Stallion Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Luckey Walker & Jim Rose)
Rosewood "Rosewood" (Dark Star Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Ray DeLeon & John Wheeler)
This longhaired SoCal country-rock trio featured Bob Bartosh on vocals, Wayne Johnson playing bass and John Wheeler picking banjo and lead guitar... They recorded their album live at the El Paso Cantina in Riverside, California, covering a mix of material, from "Fire On The Mountain" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" to "Mack The Knife" and a medley of Beach Boys songs.
Rosewood Junction "Rosewood Junction" (1975) (LP)
Charlie Ross "The High Cost Of Loving" (Accord/Town House Records, 1982) (LP)
In the late 1960s, Mississippi-born Charlie Ross was a rock-pop musician, scoring a few minor hits with the band Eternity's Children, and he continued to record as a solo artist in the early '70s. He finally "went country" mid-decade, and had similar success on the Country charts, with a 1976 remake of one of his pop songs, "Without Your Love" proving to be his biggest hit, peaking at #13, after the original version was in the Pop charts earlier that same year. This album followed, though he wasn't able to match his earlier successes, and Ross went back into broadcasting, with this album being his swan song as a perfomer.
Jack Ross & Woody Bowles "Sedalia" (Room Service, 1973) (LP)
A Nashville-based folk duo, featuring Indiana-born Jack Ross and Nashville native Woody Bowles. A decade later, Bowles really made his mark in Music City as the manager of the Judds, helping elevate them from obscurity to mega-superstardom. Who'da thunk it, way back in'73?
Jack Ross "Quite The Handyman" (Room Service Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Ross)
Perhaps more on the folkie side of things... Most of the songs are Jack Ross originals, along with a version of Kris Kristofferson's "Jody And The Kid," and "Hobo's Lullaby," which most folks probably know from the Arlo Guthrie version. Some of the tracks on here were previously released on his Sedalia album, listed above. (Of note to Nashville fans: future super-producer Kyle Lehning plays piano and helped engineer and mix the album...)
Lanny Ross & The Dave Ain't Here Band "Hot Country" (Nugget, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Lanny Ross)
A nice set of indie twang from the New Mexico scene... This is mostly all original material written by L. R. Gerald (presumably Lanny Ross?) with lively, enthusiastic backing by a local Albuquerque band with plenty of pep... Fiddles, pedal steel, harmonica and twangy guitar back Ross' plainspun vocals. Plenty of good tunes, as well, including winners such as "Sweet Steel Guitar," "Hardhat Days, Honky Tonk Nights, Hillbilly Bands" and the cleverly-titled "Skoal Brother." Definitely worth tracking this one down.
The Rosslyn Mountain Boys "The Rosslyn Mountain Boys" (Adelphi, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Dawson & The Rosslyn Mountain Boys)
This DC-area country-rock/boogie band worked the Mid-Atlantic country-folk scene for the better part of a decade, and recorded a few albums and played a bazillion gigs (not counting the occasional reuinion gig...) The band sported several several ex-rockers and nurtured some country pickers who would later make a go of it in Nashville. Steel player Tommy Hannum, who had played with Emmylou Harris in her pre-Gram Parsons folk days, and who went on to be a notable session player in the '80s and '90s, is one of the most notable bandmembers, at least from a country perspective: he gets some sweet licks in on a tune or two. Another mainstay of the band was pianist Peter Bonta, who became a prolific Americana session player and engineer, and joined Bill Kirchen's band in the 1990s. This debut album is uneven but charming; I remember hearing the best songs off it getting airplay on KFAT, back in the days before "alt-country" existed... It's work checking out, if you ever run across a copy, though you shouldn't make any heroic efforts...
The Rosslyn Mountain Boys "Lone Outsider" (Schitzophonic, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Dawson, et.al.)
By the time this album came out, they'd pretty much worked the kinks out of their performing style... The steel playing, in particular, is pretty sweet, and undeniably true to country roots... There are several nice songs on here, although nothing really reaches out and grabs you -- that's probably mostly due to the modest production values... Nothing sounds bad, but the music lacks immediacy. Nonetheless, this is a nice document of one of the East Coast's great also-ran twang bands
The Rosslyn Mountain Boys "Different Skyline" (Sosumi, 2006)
Peter Rowan - see artist discography
The Rowans - see artist discography
Lloyd Rowland "In Dreams" (Cannon, 197-?) (LP)
Lloyd Rowland "The Running Man" (Cannon Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by David Hearn)
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, guitarist Lloyd Rowland worked in local country bands in the late 1960s, cutting this "solo" album with his pal, Bob Norine sometime in the early '70s, probably around 1973. The album includes covers of country and pop hits such as "Delta Dawn," "City Of New Orleans" "Games People Play" and "If We Make It Through December," as well as a couple of originals, "Constant Sorrow" and "Running Man," both credited to Rowland.
Gary Rowles/Various Artists "This is Oregon Country" (Flat Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Rowles)
A historical and sometimes humor-filled celebration of the soggy state of Oregon, with songs such as "Oregon, My Oregon" and "Wet Oregon," which just about says it all.
Roy Royston "Roy Who?" (Starwest Records) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Royston & Blaine Allen)
A native Oregonian, Roy Royston grew up in Eugene, moved to Portland and eventually to Longview, Washington, where did regional bar-band gigs starting in the early '80s at places like Hillman's and Scotties Lounge. This album was recorded at the legendary Ripcord Studios in nearby Vancouver, WA, and like his live act, it was a mix of rock oldies and country. It includes four songs written by Royston -- "Falling In Love (Doesn't Come Easy)," "Dancing To A Slow Love Song," "Quivering Lips" and "Stormy Weather" -- as well as covers of "Statue Of A Fool," "Unchained Melody," Jody Reynolds' teen tragedy classic, "Endless Sleep" and even a version of Dick Feller's "Some Days Are Diamonds." No info about when this album came out or who was backing him, alas.
Van Rozay "...From San Jose" (Golden Vanity Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Mackay & Van Rozay)
An eclectic acoustic album from an easygoing local in the Northern California orbit of San Francisco and Santa Cruz... Mixing jazz and twang influences, Rozay gets in some fancy, clever guitar picking amid a set of original songs that wobble between slightly forced kookiness and more romanitc inclinations. I suppose this falls mainly into the folkie fold, though I think he may have been shooting for a Dan Hicks or Jerry Jeff Walker kind of vibe. The list of musicians collaborating on this album spans Bay Area rock and jazz players such as Merl Saunders to folkies and bluegrassers such as Kate Brislin and Kathy Kallick, and even Commander Cody alumnus Bill Kirchen kicking in on guitar. A lot of the songs seems a little too much like inside jokes, but there's a mellow feel to this album that's kinda nice. More folkie than what I'm usually into, but one worth knowing about.
The Rubber Band "Stretch It Out" (A & R Record Manufacturing, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Warren)
This Oklahoma band was led by bassist Buzz Carter and piano player Paul Thacker, with lead guitar by Lloyd Brooks on, Steve Walters on drums, and steel guitar by a guy named John Bell. Carter and Thacker started the group in the early '70s, doing gigs as early as '72, and later played together (as late as 2016) in a country/oldies band called the Shadow Riders. They seem to have been from Lawton, Oklahoma or thereabouts, and probably played gigs in North Texas and the Panhandle. As far as I know, this was their only album.
Andy Rucker "Andy" (Ancor, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Louis Redding & Jack Logan)
Rucker was a country singer from Richmond, Kentucky, backed here by Faron Young's band, the Deputies. The songs are mostly covers, with one written by Rucker: "Where Could My Heart Be" and one by album producer Louis Redding, " No Regrets For Loving You." There's also a big medley of Merle Haggard hits, along with covers of "Summertime" "Danny Boy" and "Me And Bobby McGee." Not sure of the exact year this came out -- anyone have more info about this one?
Arnie Rue "Arnie Rue" (Big Bear Records, 1977) (LP)
In addition to playing live gigs, recording this country album and several singles, Azuza, California's Arnie Rue also dabbled in local Republican politics, running for a state Assembly seat... He may have also worked in radio for a while, and had a couple of minor Billboard hits in 1979, "Spare A Little Lovin' (On A Fool)" (which hit #56 on the charts) and "Rodle-Odeo-Home" (#74) which sounds like something Ned Flanders would sing. Rue was a pleasant-sounding indiebilly artist, with an unusual voice, but a nice one, sort of in the tradition of singers like Bill Anderson, who you wouldn't expect to carry a lyric as well as he does. Nice stuff if you can track it down; it would be nice if someone coule reissue this album along with some fo the singles that followed.
Billy Rufus "Another Country Morning" (Guinness Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Ewbanks)
All originals, mostly composed by Billy Rufus, with two written by Woody Bowmar...
Rural "One By One" (Mole Records, 1974) (LP)
Rural Delivery "R. D. Breakdown" (HARC/Horizon Audio Recording Company, 1982) (LP)
A self-described newgrass band from Washington state, noteworthy here for recording (yet another) cover of "Friend Of The Devil," along with "Ghost Riders In The Sky" and tunes by country folks like Gene Autry and Hank Thompson. Most of these guys aren't familiar to me, though Rick Ahrens went on to play in a bunch of lesser-known bands.
Johnny Russ "Memories" (Ramblin' Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Johnny Russ & Wayne Woosley)
Singer Johnny Russ and Willie Glazier formed their band the Ramblers and for several years made a go of it in Nashville... This album is packed with original songs written by Russ, as well as a couple of covers. He seems to have been aiming at kind of a Joe Stampley kind of sound -- a smooth country balladeer taking occasional dips into white Southern soul. Russ didn't quite have the vocal ooompf to take things to the next level, but this is a pretty solid set overall, and on a few tunes he hits a pretty resonant emotional tone, notably on his version of Ann J. Morton's "Life Without You." A sincere, sometimes haunting, set by a struggling second-stringer... Worth checking out if you're into Top Forty-oriented Nashville hopefuls.
Charlie Russell "...And The Jones Hatband" (JHB Productions, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Emmitt Brooks & Charlie Russell)
Bandleader Charlie Russell was a deejay at KHEY radio, in El Paso, Texas... He's backed by John Harding (on lead vocal, fiddle, who also contributed to some of the songwriting), Charlie Russell Jr. (bass), Wynn Pinkham (steel guitar), Conrad Morales (drum), Debbi Russell (on "guest" vocals). This mid-'Seventies album is notable for including an early version of Terry Stafford's "Amarillo By Morning," which was later a hit for fellow Texan George Strait.
The Russell Brothers "Take Me Home Country Roads" (Jewel Records, 197-?) (LP)
The Russell Brothers "Live At The Big Red Barn" (Jewel Records, 1974) (LP)
The Russell Brothers "Magnify The Lord In Songs" (Jewel Records, 197-?) (LP)
The Russell Brothers "Country Grass" (Jewel Records, 197-?) (LP)
The Russell Brothers "Operation Bluegrass" (Grass Country Records, 19--?) (LP)
The Russell Brothers Boogie Grass Band "On The Run" (Old Homestead Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by John W. Morris & Tony Stubbs)
Gregg Russell "Stars" (Wintersong, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by David Wings)
A live album capturing a restaurant show in South Carolina "recorded live under the trees, Harbour Town, Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head Island." Includes covers of nominally country stuff such as "Grandma's Feather Bed," "Country Roads" and "Rocky Top," as well as "Love Potion Number Nine."
Leon Russell - see artist discography
Mel Russell "Truck Drivin Man" (Mountain Empire Records, 1983) (LP)
Latter-day trucker tunes from Bristol, Virginia... Couldn't find out much about this guy online... I think "Mel Russell" may have been a stage name.
Russ Russell "New Orleans Country" (NoCo Records, 1979) (LP)
Includes "Willie Ain't Writing No Sad Songs," which I assume is a Willie Nelson tribute song... Anyone know for sure?
Russ Russell "Dixie Country" (NoCo Records, 1981) (LP)
Tom Russell - see artist discography
Garry Rust "...And The Rust Country Band" (Rust Country Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Garry Rust, Bill Cashman & Fred Porter)
This band from the Tucson, Arizona twang scene played a few choice covers, such as "Amanda" and "Y'All Come Back Saloon," as well as plenty of original material. Among the bandmembers were lead singer Garry Rust, pedal steel player Ted Hockenberry, Steve Call on rhythm guitar and pianist Duncan Stitt, who played in several other local Arizona bands during the '70s and '80s.
David Ruthstrom "Moonshine Dreamer" (Goldust, 1980) (LP)
Bob Ruzicka "What The World's All About" (Signpost, 1972) (LP)
Bob Ruzicka "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" (MCA, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by David Briggs)
Canadian singer-songwriter Bob Ruzicka was the host of some 1970's folk-scene music shows up North, and he put out several albums, at the same time penning hits recorded by Valdy and other Canadian country and pop artists. This album is a mix of AOR pop and ponderous, message-heavy folk. He sounds sort of like Gordon Lightfoot, but with a heavier touch -- too self-serious and searching for profundity. A little bit of twang, notably on one song where he gets into sort of a Mickey Gilley mode, but mostly this isn't my cup of tea. Nice album title, though.
Bob Ruzicka "Soft Rocker" (RCA, 1973) (LP)
Bob Ruzicka "Dude" (RCA, 1975) (LP)
Bob Ruzicka "Landfall" (Mustard, 1973) (LP)
Bob Ruzicka "Loose Talk" (Mustard, 1973) (LP)
Herb Ryals "Country Lovin' Album" (Rymon Records, 1973) (LP)
A self-released set from Albany, Georgia, with all of the songs composed by Mr. Ryals... He was really more of a white soul/pop vocals kinda guy who had recorded a number of moderately successful singles in the 1960s and was, methinks, mostly dabbling in country for this album.
The Betty Rydell Trio "Setting The Pace At Paul's Place" (Universal Audio Recording) (LP)
A folkie trio from Minneapolis Minnesota, perhaps with some country in there as well. There's no date on this album, but it's definitely much earlier than the record below -- more of a folk-revival thing, methinks, with the guys in her band sporting Beatles-y haircuts and she looks much younger than on her "solo" set. Anyone got any insight into this one?
Betty Rydell "Betty Rydell" (Encore Productions) (LP)
I'm not sure how country this was overall, but she does cover "Me and Bobby McGee," "Till I Can Make It On My Own" (a hit for Tammy Wynette in 1976) and John Sebastian's "Darling Companion," so there's definitely at least some official twang in there... Definitely a late '70s offering, though.
Bob Ryman "Hot Licks Fiddlin', Foot Stompin' Music" (Chumley Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Russ Hicks)
Originally from Texas, fiddler Bob Ryman hoofed it over to Nashville to cut this album, joined by Russ Hicks on pedal steel, Wayne Moss on bass, pianist Ray Cobb, Buddie Blackmon on banjo and guitar, with a little bit of drum thumpin' by Sy Edwards. The repertoire is mostly what you'd expect -- showcase fiddle tunes like "Old Joe Clark," "Orange Blossom Special," and "Soldier's Joy," as well as originals by Ryman, including "Inflation Blues" and "A Little Bit Of Country." Ryman has recorded several albums since this one, branching out into various styles, including his own original compositions, though this early album is pretty firmly anchored in bluegrass and country roots traditions.
Fred Ryon & The Happy Tracks "Recorded Live At The Holland Homestead" (Happy Tracks) (LP)
Although poorly recorded, this live album is a swell snapshot of an earnest country quartet from Michigan who were devoted to an old-timey sound, even though they played a lot of contemporary (late 1960s, early '70s) country material. Along with a version of "Wreck Of The Old 97" they include covers of hits by artists such as Little Jimmie Dickens, Kenny Price, Charly Pride, Connie Smith, and oldies such as Johnny & Jack's "Girl Of My Dreams" and Hank Snow's toungetwisterdelic "I've Been Everywhere." The band included Bill Grandstaff, Fred Nelson, Fred Ryon and bandleader Roscoe Wray, and their rough-edged performances radiate vitality and good cheer, as well as a pleasant dose of amped-up amatuerism. The brief liner notes are from Arvin and Doris Holland, local country and bluegrass show promoters who started their own tentpole venue, the Holland Homestead, out on their farm near Waldron, Michigan. They ran a musical revue on the farm called the Country Music Roundup from 1971-79, and hosted Ryon and his group sometime at the start of that run... There's no date on the album art, but I'd guess 1971-72, since they play Bill Anderson's "Where Have All The Heroes Gone," which was a hit in 1971. Nice stuff!
Hick Music Index