The Saddle City Band "Bareback" (Carte Blanche, 1982) (LP)
Dan Sadowsky & The Ophelia Swing Band "Swing Tunes Of The '30s & '40s" (Biscuit City, 1977)
A lively set of retro-novelty swing'n'jazz from a band that could be considered Colorado's answer to Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, though perhaps with a more straightforward jazz orientation. Good stuff! Ray Bonneville and Tim O'Brien are among the guest performers, showing some links to the folk'n'bluegrass scene... Worth a whirl if you can track it down.
Dan Sadowsky & The Ophelia Swing Band "Spreadin' Rhythm Around!" (Biscuit City, 1979)
Doug Sahm (and The Sir Douglas Quintet) -- see artist profile
Sailcat "Motorcycle Mama" (Elektra, 1972)
(Produced by Pete Carr)
Quinetessential one-hit wonders, Sailcat was a band formed by two veterans of the Alabama rock-soul scene, John Wyker and Court Pickett, along with a bunch of Muscle Shoals-ian hired hands. The album is a mix of soft Southern rock and even softer, airy acoustic prog, with a teeny bit of twang, though the country-rock association is pretty iffy... The title track was alomost a Top Ten hit, but the band broke up shortly after the album came out -- but Southern rock fans looking ofr something a bit mellower than ususal might like this one. The original LP is also notable for the album art by Mad magazine cartoonist Jack Davis, who provided the front cover and a big spread in the gatefold that illustrates the album's supposed "concept," of an Easy Rider-lookalike biker who first dreams of, then hooks up with an ideal hippie-biker babe. At first things are wild and wooly, then they spend time apart, and then we see them singing onstage at the Opry, and finally motorcycle dude is kicking back on his front porch, living the quiet life at last. Not bad for a jam-band record that's half-instrumentals!
Phil St. Pierre "John Jawad's Pioneer Inn Presents: Phil St. Pierre Just For You" (19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Lori Stewart Shirley & John W. Onzo)
A souvenir album of the Pioneer Inn, a popular steakhouse located in the Bay Area town of Clayton, California, near Concord. Housed in a historic building that dates back to the Gold Rush days, the Pioneer Inn was a former stagecoach stop that went through a number of changes before becoming the restaurant known as Chubby's, which was sold to longtime owner John Jawad in the early 1960s. Jawad ran the Pioneer Inn until retiring in 1990, and one of his regular entertainers was "gut-bucket" guitarist Phil St. Pierre.
Salinas "Salinas" (Trapp Records, 1979)
This includes covers of songs by the Dead ("Casey Jones") and Credence Clearwater revival ("Down On The Corner") and the doper's novelty classic, "Henry," by the New Riders Of The Purple Sage...
Salt Creek "Livin' On The Bayou" (Atchafalaya Music, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Don Kendrick & Salt Creek)
Salt Creek "Just About Due" (MT Records) (LP)
The Salt Creek Band "Gambin' Fool" (The Good Music Agency, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Hanson)
Mickey Salter "This Country Boy Loves You" (1979) (LP)
Mickey Salter "...Sings Nashville" (American Eagle Records) (LP)
Mickey Salter "Third Album" (1982) (LP)
Mickey Salter "Live" (1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sam Pugh)
A live set, recorded at The Cannery, in Nashville...
Salt Lick "Rural Lust & Urban Rust" (Tex Brass, 1980) (LP)
This twangy acoustic crew from Fort Worth, Texas had a sly, satiric bent wed to a slightly slurred stringband sound, landing them somewhere between the Red Clay Ramblers and the Asylum Street Spankers, stylewise.
Salt Lick "Daynce Of The Peckerwoods" (Tex Brass, 1982) (LP)
Salt Lick "Salt Lick Sockeroos" (Tex Brass, 1985) (LP)
Don Sampson "American Songs" (Revolver Records, 1978) (CD & MP3)
(Produced by Don Sampson)
While living in Hoodsport, Washington, country-folkie Don Sampson rounded up some primo talent, including super-picker Frank Reckard of the Emmylou Harris Hot Band, and drummer Don Heffington (who was also playing with Emmylou, and later co-founded the band Lone Justice). This was Sampson's first album, and he would continue to work with many of these same musicians, including the backing singers, for several years. He later went by his full name, Don Michael Sampson, and has re-released this album and others under that name.
Don Sampson "Coyote" (Revolver Records, 1983) (CD & MP3)
(Produced by Don Sampson)
This one's more on the folkie side of the spectrum, but with enough country twang to merit notice here... Recorded in LA, this album boasts a studio crew of considerable heft, with Frank Reckard and Don Heffington rejoining Sampson in the studio, as well as Bill Keith playing on a couple of tunes, and a rhythm section that included a pre-Chris Isaak Roly Salley on bass. I gotta admit, Sampson doesn't quite do it for me as a vocalist, but he sure did roll with the right kinda people.
Frankie Sanchez "Let's Walk Through The Ruins" (Charta, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Charlie Fields & Kevin McManns)
To be honest, this is a fairly torturous album... If you're really into overripe countrypolitan, you might dig this, but it'll be rough going for a lot of listeners. Singer Frankie Sanchez was originally from Guam, though he lived stateside in the 1950s and '60s, and played in a couple of California-based bands called the Velvetones and the Coming Generation before moving back to Guam in 1971. As far as I can tell, this was a songwriter's demo album, with a couple of songs credited to producer Charlie Fields, a couple more to Dennis East and one by Frankie Sanchez, "Love, Love Me Tonight," as well as a slew of one-offs by various folks I've never heard of... Sanchez invariably tackles them in the same spirit, embuing the lyrics with as much emotive schmaltz as he can muster... The Nashville backing band includes pros such as Gregg Galbraith, Sonny Garrish and Bruce Watkins -- all of whom seem to be going through the motions -- as well as keyboardist John Propst, who also provides the lush string arrangements. Again, fans of the '70s sound might like this -- although I believe it was released in '79, it sound like music from a much earlier era, i.e. the late '60s and early '70s.
Don Sanders "Don Sanders" (Mean & Low, 1972) (LP)
This is really more of a folkie thing, but definitely deserves a place in the annals of Texas indie-twang. Don Sanders was a Houston-area folkie who helped co-found the noncommercial KPFT radio station (part of the Pacifica network) and was one of its original cadre of DJs. He's released a bunch of albums over the years, but this was his first, and is a sterling example of uber-DIY musicmaking, originally released in basically a generic white jacket, with a die-cut center hole that reveals the simple geometric design on the disc itself. Good record, though -- a bit grittier and wittier than your standard-issue folkie fare. Some extra tracks from the same session were later released as the Mean & Low (EP) in 1973...
Ed Sanders "Sanders' Truckstop" (Warner Brothers, 1970)
The first solo album by East Coast poet-activist Ed Sanders, co-founder of the confrontational avant-garde yippie folk group The Fugs. After they disbanded, Sanders continued his satire of American culture with a pair of country-tinged albums that reflected the divide between "straights" and weirdos like hippies and queers. Perhaps the best-known song is the blithe yet belabored recitation song, "Jimmy Joe, The Hippybilly Boy," surrounded by tunes like "The Iliad" (about rednecks beating up gays) along with myriad hippie-druggie references. The broad, blunt humor and caustic lampooning of small-town prejudice may seem a bit over-the-top now, but in Sanders' defense, folks nowadays might not realize that there was a lot of truth to the pictures he painted: rebels and longhairs really did get their asses kicked by rednecks and frat boys in the '60s and '70s, and this albums reflects the tensions of the time, albeit in a strident, assertive style. Like the old Fugs records, it's not exactly the kind record you'd put on for relaxation, or really need to hear more than once, but it is an significant roadmark in early '70s alt-country, even if Sanders didn't take the "country" part of it seriously, other than as a target for parody. (He did have real roots in the New York folkie-bohemian scene, with ties to the Holy Modal Rounders and other avant-folk musicians, many of whom play on here, but that crowd definitely saw Nashville as playing for the other team...) Anyway, this is a semi-funny, rather acerbic album, worth checking out for its political content, though I doubt you'll cherish it forever and ever.
Ed Sanders "Beer Cans On The Moon" (Warner Brothers, 1973)
Sanders (and everybody else in America) got weirder and weirder as the '70s went along, and 1973 was a peak year for weirdness and general tension in the culture. This more rock-oriented album still has its country touchstones, like "Yodeling Robot," a song about an automaton that falls in love with Dolly Parton, but it also has many more pointed political references, in songs such as "Nonviolent Direct Action" and "Henry Kissinger," which reflect the simmering frustrations of the Watergate era, when "the system" really seemed to have collapsed, but not in a particularly good way. Less fun and way more grind-y than Truckstop, but also groovy in its own bizarre, historical way. If you're looking for hard-left anarcho-hippie country music, this is about as extreme as it gets. But it is pretty blunt, and it sure ain't easy listening.
George Sanders "Country Mornin' " (George Sanders, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by George Sanders & Gary Holmes)
From Jacksonville, Florida... He covers John Hartford's "Skippin' On The Mississippi," and that alone has got me interested...
Harlan Sanders "Off And Running" (Epic, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Ben Tallent & Nick Palladino)
Well, this guy sure had an interesting story: an ex-convict who was championed by Johnny Cash, Sanders made his mark as a rootsy honkytonk songwriter in the early 1970s, penning his first hits while still in prison. Cash helped both Sanders and his writing partner Glen Sherley get paroled, then hired them as staff writers for his own "House Of Cash" publishing company. In 1973, Sanders started his own company and had a number of his songs covered by a variety of artists, including one of my all-time faves, George Jones' 1982 hit, "If Drinkin Don't Kill Me (Her Memory Will)." This was his first album, and the only one for a major label, and there's some interesting stuff on it. Side One is kind of mainstream sound, with a hefty dose of Waylon-ish outlaw ruggedness; on Side Two he loosens up a bit and gets a little more creative with the arrangements and material. At first his voice might not wow you -- he's got a good, deep baritone, but his delivery isn't super-charismatic... There's a level of confidence or panache that he doesn't quite hit, the difference between a songwriter and a star, I guess. But as a cult artist, he's kind of cool, and his low-key voice will definitely grow on you. (BTW, as far as I can tell, he was not related to Col. Harland Sanders, of KFC fame, though I did try pretty hard to find out if he was...)
Harlan Sanders "The Arizona Whiz" (Brylen, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Drake & Harlan Sanders)
This indie outing was Sanders' second full-length release (he also recorded a bunch of as-yet uncollected singles) and I guess the rights to this disc are more accessible than the stuff on Columbia. This album has been reissued numerous times, including the K-Tel and Jukebox editions below...
Harlan Sanders "His Best" (K-Tel, 2006)
Harlan Sanders "Somewhere In Texas" (Jukebox Entertainment, 2008)
Gil Sandoval "Long Road To Nashville" (Westbend, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Gil Sandoval & John Bonham)
From Salt Lake City, Utah... and that's a long way from Nashville, my friends!
Sandy And The Sweetbriar Band "Just The Beginning" (Black Canyon Records, 1982)
(Produced by Santo BamBoci & Roy Peters)
San Francisco Medicine Ball & Friends "On A Slow Boat To China" (Real Turkey Records & Tapes, 1976)
(Produced by David Sturdevant, Jack Converey & Brian Van Der Mueler)
For some reason, the 1970s San Francisco independent music scene was a longtime home to neo-trad Dixieland and jazz revivalists... I guess as an outgrowth of the tourist trade's romanticization of the old "Barbary Coast" saloons and brothels, which were represented decades later by various Dixieland acts in the '50s, '60s and '70s. The SF Medicine Ball was one of the last bands in this tradition, and despite the groovy, acid test-looking, hippiedelic artwork, this was a pretty straightforward trad-retro set, with compact arrangements that mostly showcased the fast but not too fancy banjo picking and a few vocals as well. Not all that twangy, but worth mentioning anyway...
Santa Fe "Santa Fe" (Ampex, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Herb Newman)
A lively hippie-rock album, heavily influenced by the San Francisco sound, particularly the vocal high harmonies of the Grateful Dead and the Bay Area version of the new country-rock sound. Fans of the Dead -- and more particularly of their twangier cohorts, the New Riders Of The Purple Sage -- will find a lot to like in this album. Santa Fe definitely could rock out (by the standards of the day) although they stuck to the rougher, more bar-bandy end of the spectrum, with a thumpy, gallumphing rhythm and plenty of nasal twang. The songs are all originals, written solo or collaboratively by singer-guitarists Woody Minnich and Joe Saputo, with a couple also credited to lead guitarist Rob Riggs... And there's some fun stuff! This is a rough-edged record, but that's probably what makes it most appealing... Apparently Ampex relicensed the record to RCA -- my copy has the Ampex artwork, but I've seen pictures of the other version as well. Anyway, if you're looking for obscure proto- country rock, this disc is definitely worth tracking down. (BTW: anyone know more about these guys? I assumed they were desert dudes, but apparently they were Southern California kids... In the late '60s, Woody Minnick played guitar in a rock band called The Humane Society, which wound up on one of the early Nuggets albums... Other than that, I haven't learned much about these guys.)
Santa Fe "The Good Earth" (RTV, 1972) (LP)
Saratoga Red "The Album" (Blanco Records, 1982) (LP)
"Saratoga Red" was the nom de twang of Texas country singer James Daniel ("Dan") Blanchard, who was formerly in the Pettigrew & Blanchard Band, a duo that played regionally around Dallas in the late '70s...
Junior Sasnett & The Tennessee Ramblers "Good Old Gospel Time, Volume III" (Junior Sasnett Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Junior Sasnett)
According to the liner notes, Junior Sasnett was born and raised in Florida and as a teen he played guitar in a travelling tent revival show, though later when he formed a band with his siblings, he played and wrote secular honky-tonk music. Sasnett made his way out west to LA, where he worked odd jobs and finally moved to Las Vegas where he played a few country bars and self-released at least one album. (Has anyone laid eyes on volumes one and two?) All but four of the songs on here are Hank Williams covers while the others are gospel and country gospel standards such as "Where Could I Go But To The Lord" and "Life's Railway To Heaven." Sasnett apparently released a few hard-country singles in his youth, though I don't know if they've been gathered or reissued anywhere.
Sawmill Creek -- see artist profile
Savanna "Straight At The Sun" (Adventure Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Escallier & Savanna)
This one might be added more as a warning than a recommendation. Yeah, I guess there is some legitimate country-rock twang on a few tunes, and kind of a rural vibe underneath a lot of these songs, but mostly this Oklahoma trio was more on a '70s soft-rock meets starry-eyed folk trajectory. Several songs are pretty gooey and mildly insufferable, though others have some country-ish vigor, so it's kind of a tossup whether to include this one here or not. Probably appeals more to fans of Stevie Nicks and Seals & Crofts than to twangsters, but it's probably worth having on the radar, especially if you're scouring the Midwest for obscure entries into the country-rock annals.
Roosevelt Savannah "Everything's Coming Up Rosey" (Roseway International, 1976-?) (LP)
One of the notable African American country singers to come in the wake of Charly Pride's national success, Roosevelt Savannah hailed from Seattle, Washington and recorded his lone LP at the fabled Ripcord studios in nearby Vancouver, WA. He had cut a few singles earlier, including an early version of "Pretty Girl, Pretty Clothes, Pretty Sad" on the semi-major GRC label, but chart success wasn't in the stars, although he really plugged away for a few years in the early '70s. This album is mostly made up of cover tunes, including some gospel and stuff by Marty Robbins and Hank Williams. There's also another version of "Pretty Girl, Pretty Clothes," as well as one called "The House I Live In (That's America To Me)," a patriotic number that might place this (undated) album as a Bicentennial release.
Ray Sawyer "Ray Sawyer" (Capitol, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Ron Haffkine)
This is one of those only-in-the-Seventies, off-the-radar albums that has about a zillion-to-zero chance of ever being reissued... In this case it's not because it's a golden gem that the Nashville fatcats were too lame to appreciate, but really because this is a third-string production, with some Nashville studio dudes backing up Ray Sawyer -- the eye-patched frontman of the rock band Dr. Hook -- providing lush, oversized arrangements to his thin-voiced, almost whiny performance. There is some interesting stuff on here, though. mainly a handful of well-scuplted Hazel Smith songs that include the issue-oriented "Crazy Rosie" (about a teen pregnancy that results in the baby being murdered by its uptight, status-obsessed grandfather, which in turn drives the mother insane...) Equally over-the-top is "(One More Year Of) Daddy's Little Girl," wherein a small child is dying from an undisclosed terminal illness... and her daddy tries to enjoy her final days... The other primary songwriter here is someone named Joel Jaffe, who I've never heard of. Mostly Jaffe's stuff doesn't do much for me, though "Maybe I Can Use That In A Song" is a nice slow, sad shuffle. This ain't great, but it has its moments.
Rocky Saxon "Butterfly Dreamin' " (Banner Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Triche & Rocky Saxon)
Beth Scalet "It's A Living" (J-Bird, 1981)
(Produced by Beth Scalet, Chris Bauer & Caren Prideaux)
A veteran folk singer from Lawrence, Kansas, Beth Scalet (1948-2014) performed extensively in the 1970s before recording this early '80s album. There's some subtle, pedal steel-propelled twang on here, but mostly this is soft, soulful bluesy pop, reminiscent of Phoebe Snow or a slicker-sounding Tracy Nelson, more of an adult-alt kinda thing in a mellow, poppish mode. Includes a cover of Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade Of Pale," but otherwise it's all original material.
Ron Schmeck "Easy Living -- The American Way" (Valley Records, 197?) (LP)
There's an entire album devoted to the joys of RVs? Yes, sirree! You bet there is! Ron Schmeck was a car dealer from Sacramento, California who was so fired up about mobile homes that he wrote and recorded a whole album's worth of songs on the subject. Well, okay, there are a couple of songs on other topics, like how mobile home drivers made great Good Samaritans (Schmeck was also a member of the Good Sam club) but mostly this is a sincere song of praise for living the free life on the road. The musical end was actually pretty good -- Schmeck also hosted a local country TV show (called "The Easy Life") and though he wasn't a very good singer, he got some decent talent to back him up here -- an iffy lead guitarist, but good pedal steel and a solid piano player and rhythm section, pumping out music that was solidly in the uptempo West Coast style. You probably won't need to listen to this disc all that often, but it's a funny, genuine oddity, for sure. By the way, anyone know more about these sessions, or even what year the record came out? I tried finding out online, but no one seems willing to post a specific date. I'm guess 1976-ish...(?)
Lee Schmidt "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning" (Alert Records) (LP)
(Produced by Merl Olds)
Lee Schmidt (1930-2013) was a farm kid from rural Missouri who made his name in the Saint Louis country nightclub scene, but it was as a square dance caller that he would become known nationally... On his non-squaredance debut he picked some unusual selections (like Harlan Howard's "Too Many Rivers To Cross") and following the Saturday sinner/Sunday saint motif, he sang a bunch of gospel standards, in a Red Foley-esque style. Schmidt only penned one of these songs, "Lonesome Too," but I think there were a couple other songs from local artists. Prior to this, Schmidt was mostly known for doing square dance records; this was his first album of straight-up country songs.
Lee Schmidt "I'll Come Back As Many Times As You Need Me" (Marilee Records, 1974)
Jack Schorn "Jack Schorn's Country Show" (1979-?) (LP)
A delightfully, deliciously amateurish album by a clompy trio from River Falls, Wisconsin, this is the very epitome of a vanity album... and I mean that in a good way. I'm guessing their "country show" mostly played in various bandmembers basements and rec rooms, but apparently Schorn was from a musically-inclined family and had played local gigs with his siblings for many years before this late '70s album came out. It's a goofy but heartfelt record, packed with cheerful but lackluster renditions of the band's favorite country songs. Fun tunes, too: it's always nice to hear tunes like Wayne Carson's "Drinkin' Thing," or Ronnie Milsap's "Day Dreams (About Night Things)" and oh my god, who can resist a few wannabee good ol' boys singing "Afternoon Delight"? Not me. Oh, and of course they cover "Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother..." Man, was that song popular! Okay, I admit it... I'm totally kitsched-out on this one, and in a way that I normally resist, but I just can't help it. This is just such an endearingly flawed, honest album -- it really is just three dudes singing a few groovy tunes they like, thumping away down in someone's basement studio. The sound is stripped down and strictly non-professional, and real. Really, really real.
Joe Schultz & The Journeymen "Statue Of A Fool" (IGL Records, 1972-?) (LP)
(Produced by Denny Kintzi & John Senn)
This is the first album by a Minnesota-based trio that included bassist/lead singer Joe Schultz, steel player Stan Horswell and longhaired drummer Orv Buttrey Jr. (who wasn't related to Nashville superdrummer Kenny Buttrey, as far as I know...) They made the trek to the legendary IGL label, located in Milford, Iowa -- best known for recording garage bands in the '60s and early '70s -- and recorded this set of country covers, which included versions of Mel Street's 1970 hit, "Borrowed Angel" and Freddie Hart's "Easy Lovin'," which points to a 1971-72 release date. These guys were a little clunky, but it's still fun to hear another "real folks" album -- some of the tracks have a rawer, slightly garage-rock feel: possibly they were earlier recordings, or even singles on IGL? I'll update you if I ever find out for sure...
Joe Schultz & The Journeymen "Tears Falling From My Eyes" (IGL Records) (LP)
Tex Schutz "Keepin' It Country" (Red Dog Country Music, 1982) (LP)
Bill Scott "For My Friends" (Audio By DeVir, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by J. Frederic DeVir)
A young guy doing covers of oldies, stuff like Bob McDill's "Amanda," a Jim Reeves ballad, and even some Depression-era tunes by Jenny Lou Carson and the Carter Family. There were also some originals, notably "When You're As Lonely As I" and "Home To Stay." This album was recorded in Saint Paul, Minnesota with backing from an all-local crew. Notable among the musicians are Tom Elliott on bass and Honey Lou singing backup vocals -- this husband-wife duo also recorded an album of their own a few years earlier -- with fiddle by Wayne Kreidler and steel guitar by Larry Rose and Art Douvier.
Helen & Billy Scott "Songs You've Requested" (Chance Records, 1967-?) (LP)
(Produced by Dean Richards)
A thoroughly charming album from a husband-wife duo, neither of whom were particularly strong vocalists, but they really put their hearts into it. Originally from Indiana, the Scotts established themselves as a country duo in Columbus, Ohio, performing on the Jamboree USA radio program and the syndicated Hayride TV show... This album has a bunch of cover songs on the softer side of things, including contemporary country songs like "There Goes My Everything" and "Tippy Toeing," as well as perky, twanged-up versions of two folk hits, "Pack Up Your Sorrows" and Tom Paxton' "Last Thing On my Mind." A couple of songs may have been originals -- "Demolition Derby" and "The Ego Of My Mind," though I couldn't find any songwriter's credits. Musicians include steel player Chuck Rich and electric guitarist Wally Proctor, who add lots of fun, bouncy, '60s-style pop-country twang. I couldn't track down the year this came out, but would definitely appreciate any info folks could share... ( "Tippy Toeing" was a hit in 1967, so it's sometime around then...) Anyway, I honestly find them completely charming -- kind of a lower-tier version of folks like Jonie & Johnny Mosby, or even earlier forebearers such as Texas Ruby & Curly Fox. Plus she yodeled... in 1967! How cute is that??
Helen & Billy Scott "My God And I" (Jewel Records, 1976) (LP)
Helen & Billy Scott "Good Times" (Jewel Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Rusty York)
This one's definitely much later -- they cover "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "Rose Garden" and "Bobby McGee," so maybe '73, '74 or so?
Hugh Scott "Sings Country At The Chamberland Club" (Banff Records, 1967) (LP)
Mixing old, old-school country, honky-tonk and rockabilly, in the late 1960s Ottawa, Canada's Hugh Scott led the house band at the Chamberland Club, as heard on this live recording. There's some stuff you've heard elsewhere, and some that maybe you haven't, songs like "Don't Let Her Get The Best Of You," "You're The Least Of My Worries," "Sea Of Booze" and "After You Leave." Scott's compact band included bassist Marcel Amyot and Wilf Arsenault on lead guitar. Nice stuff, although I wasn't able to find much information about Scott online...
Hugh Scott "Mr. Versatile" (Banff Records) (LP)
Hugh Scott "Now... And Then" (Snocan Records, 1979-?) (LP)
(Produced by Barry Brown, David Dennison & Ralph Carlson)
A good-natured honkytonk-meets-rockabilly set, reminscent of the more robust offerings of guys like Roy Head and Joe Stampley, with one foot in the world of rock, but a full commitment to country twang. The album includes a fun version of Dick Damron's "Good Old Timey Country Rock'N'Roll," sort of a statement of purpose, along with various cover songs, including a couple of old Elvis Presley hits. Three songs are Hugh Scott originals: "Here I Am," Behind These Lonely Prison Walls" and the forlorn, sad-sack "I'll Give My Heart (To Anyone Who Wants It)." Not sure when this one came out, though I'm guessing 1979 from his groovy 'Seventies get-up on the cover, and by the album's matrix number (WRC1-79-1). The sessions were secorded at Snocan Studios in Ottowa, with Bob Boucher on lead guitar, Al Bragg on piano and pedal steel, Al Cherney on fiddle, and several other local players. Nice, low-key outing by a veteran player who was still having fun.
Larry Scott "Keep On Truckin' " (Alshire, 1973) (LP)
An enthusuastic set of trucker tunes from Los Angeles-area DJ Larry Scott, who hosted a primetime show on KLAC, a top country station of the era. Scott himself won a Billboard award as DJ Of The Year for 1972, so one assumes he was pretty well connected, and influential. That may help explain the lineup of top talent backing him here, including steel player J. D. Maness and superpicker James Burton and pianist Glen D. Hardin, from Elvis Presley's fabled TCB Band. Scott wasn't a great singer, by any means, but his rugged approach was perfect for the trucker song genre -- hell, if Dave Dudley and Red Sovine could have hits, why not this guy? The set list is a mix of covers, such as "Six Days On The Road" and "I'm A Truck" to oddball originals, including three by a guy named Joe Bob Barnhill. Highlights include "My Truck's The Other Woman In My Life" and "Truck Drivin' Nightmare," where our hero gets roped into hauling a load to a government missile site, with unpredictable, over-the-top results. So did he have any hits? Well, no... but it does sound like he had some fun making this album, and if you're into trucker songs, this one adds some nice ones to the list.
Lois Scott "...And Back Up And Push" (Green Dolphin Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Nickels)
Tommy Scott -- see artist profile
The Scragg Family "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" (Sonyatone Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Peter Feldmann & Wayne Yentis)
This acoustic trio from Santa Barbara, California -- Peter Feldman playing mandolin, Kasja Ohman on banjo and vocals, Gene McGeorge on violin -- was founded in 1962 and was a mainstay of the coastal bluegrass scene. On their first album, they played a mix of old-timey mountain music and stringband-ified Depression-era blues. The album opens on a rocky note, with Ohman going a little overboard with some Mamie Smith-style blues mama vocalizing... But when she settles into a more comfortable mode, singing some hardcore Appalachian ballads, she nails the whole keening, Hazel Dickens shape-note sound. Nice stuff!
Gove Scrivenor "Solid Gove" (Rounder-Flying Fish, 1998)
This is a handy compilation of two late '70s albums by multi-instrumentalist Gove Scrivenor, one of those eclectic acoustic folkies like George Gritzbach who mixed a love of bluegrass and blues with a funky sensibility... Of the two original records, Shady Gove is certainly the better, with some melodic blues tunes, such as "Black Cat Bone," that are nice, and plenty of sweet picking from his pals, including folk-bluegrass luminaries such as John Hartford, Marty Stuart and Doc Watson. Although I heard a lot of these songs on KFAT, back in the day, there are two songs I liked best and would still recommend: the jaunty "Walkin' My Blues Away" and "Going To The Country." His next album isn't that great, with decent material given flowery arrangements, amid an overly-serious folk scene experimentalism. Not my cup of tea, though I guess if you're into mainstream folk, this might be worth checking out. I kinda hate to say it, but this might be a record where a couple of quick downloads would pretty much cover it. Scrivenor also did a lot of work as a session musician, and many years later recorded a couple more albums.
The Earl Scruggs Revue -- see artist profile
Gary & Randy Scruggs "All The Way Home" (Vanguard, 1970)
(Produced by Charlie Daniels & Neil Wilburn)
On their way to helping anchor the Earl Scruggs Revue with their uber-famous dad, siblings Gary and Randy Scruggs tuned in and turned on their amplifiers for this slightly kooky, ultimately clumsy electrified rock-country record. I'm putting the "rock" part first because the super-thumpy, fuzzed out hard rock riffs drown out most of the twang, echoing the proto-metal of hippie-era bands such as Cream and Iron Butterfly. The country elements come partly in picking, but mostly in the repertoire, which is packed with folk and folk-rock classics by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Joni Mitchell. The overall sound is pretty sludgy and slow, with the Scruggs brothers apparently struggling with the demands of studio multi-tracking and playing electric. The project was a nice idea, but it doesn't really work out too well, at least not this time around. The up-and-coming Charlie Daniels co-produced the album and is also credited as a musician; also nice to see brief, noncommittal liner notes written by hippie-twang guru John Hartford, who was camping in Yosemite at the time. A few tunes are okay, but mostly this album is a real mess: the best track on here is an instrumental, a pumped-up version of "Earl's Breakdown," with Randy Scruggs cutting loose with some nice banjo riffs, riding atop a grungy rock rhythm, but at least you can hear the melody!
The Seabird Band "The Seabird Band" (Waylon Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Guy Burlage)
Brothers Guy and Denis Burlage anchored the easygoing Seabird Band, a regionally popular group from Virginia Beach, VA that mixed '70s soft-pop and a bit of country twang, particularly with Guy Burlage playing pedal steel guitar... They got some traction nationally, but eventually Guy Burlage moved up North to Vermont and "went solo," recording and performing under his own name. These guys are often mentioned as pioneers of the so-called "Virginia Sound" that Bruce Horsby brought into the pop mainstream in the early '80s... At first it's hard to hear, as this disc kicks off with a solid set of classic-sounding country-rock, in the New Riders/Eagles mode, but by the third track, pianist Victor Paul's delicate, tinkling keyboard riffs assert themselves on "Memory Of You," and indeed, will have a familiar feel to Hornsby fans. Country fans won't be disappointed by this disc, which is definitely anchored in twang, but has a mellow rock undercurrent.
Joyce Seamone "Testing, 1-2-3" (Marathon Records, 1972) (LP)
Nova Scotia's Joyce Seamone had a breakaway hit with her independently produced single, "Testing, 1-2-3," which topped the charts in Canada and led to several albums on the Marathon label. This debut disc also includes several "girl" singer classics, including covers of "L.A. International Airport," "One's On The Way," Cotton Jenny" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." After several years in the spotlight, Seamone quit touring, though she continued to perform locally and started her own label, Gemini Records, after moving back to Nova Scotia in 1987.
Joyce Seamone "Merry Christmas From Joyce Seamone" (Marathon Records, 1972) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "Stand By For A Special Announcement" (Marathon Records, 1973) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "I Can See It In His Eyes" (Boot Records, 1976) (LP)
Joyce Seamone "The Other Side Of Me" (Gemini Records, 1987) (CD)
(Produced by Georges Hebert)
Seatrain "Seatrain" (A&M, 1970)
This is the debut album from the folk-prog fusion band Seatrain, founded by fiddler Richard Greene, who was in the Bill Monroe band at the same time as Peter Rowan, and who remained a close collaborator over the years. I'm not sure if Rowan was onboard for this first record, but he certainly took part in others.
Seatrain "Seatrain" (Capitol, 1970)
Seatrain "The Marblehead Messenger" (Capitol, 1971)
Seatrain "Watch" (Warner Brothers, 1973)
Gerald & Debbie Sebastian & Gettysburg Express "Rocky Mountain Dreams" (Jomar) (LP)
A split LP with two bands from North Dakota -- both lineups feature the Sebastians, but with different backing bands. Gettysburg Express (which was misspelled "Gettusburg" on the album cover) was kind of a bluegrass-y band... Their daughter, Gwen Sebastian, put out a country album in 2013, with her parents singing on one track...
Gail And Denny (Secord) "Grand Ole Opry Dream" (Full Circle Records) (LP)
A middle-aged couple from the rural suburbs near Seattle, Washington, Denny and Gail Secord led their own band for many years, with backing from locals such as fiddler Jerry Critchfield. The Secords were married in 1963 -- he worked in a local paper plant, while she was a housewife, though they kept music as a shared interest. In 1981 they won a talent contest sponsored by the National Grange association, and not long after that traveled to Nashville to record this album. The played some standards, with a hefty dose of tuneful heartsongs by Hank Snow and his generation -- "You're The Reason," "It Don't Hurt Anymore," "Bumming Around," "Time Changes Everything" -- as well as instrumental showcases such as "Chime Bells," "Draggin' The Bow" and "Orange Blossom Special." I'm not sure, but I think the title track, "Grand Ole Opry Dream," may have been an original.
B. B. Secrist "Baby I'm Country (Just A Little Bit Rock And Roll)" (Fox Fire Records) (LP)
Sid Selvidge "Portrait" (Enterprise Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Don Nix, Bob Pickering engineer)
A disciple of Delta blues legend Furry Lewis and longtime collaborator with Memphis iconoclast Jim Dickinson, singer Sid Selvidge balanced his time between music and academics, making records at his leisure while producing albums for other artists such as Alex Chilton, later in his career. His first recordings (made with Jim Dickinson) were in the early '60s, but this was his first full album. Most of the songs were credited to producer Don Nix, along with some oldies like "Wreck On The Highway" as well as the anti-war song, "The Ballad Of Otis B. Watson," which was briefly a radio hit, until local stations banned it as too political. As with his other albums, this is a subtle mix of folk, blues and rock, all of it uniquely "Memphis" in character...
Sid Selvidge "The Cold Of The Morning" (Peabody Records, 1976)
Sid Selvidge "Waiting For A Train" (Peabody Records, 1982)
Sequoiah "Sequoiah" (700 West Productions, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Mo Whittemore)
This indie twangband from Indianapolis, Indiana recorded mostly originals with some covers, including Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," a Gordon Lightfoot tune, and "Jambalaya" from the Hank Williams songbook. The band included Tom Mobley on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Bill Johnson playing pedal steel and lead, and Bob Johnson on drums.
The Settlers "Live At Trader Dicks" (Butter Bean Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Hack Dodds and Billy Dover)
A swell live album, recorded at Trader Dick's Truck Stop, in Memphis, Tennessee... The band includes Ned Turner, Buddy McEwen, Billy Dover, Gary Pierce and Doug Batchelor, playing half perky bluegrass and half hippiebilly twang, with a gosh-heck, tounge-in-cheek sense of humor... They cover some old-school classics such as "Silver Threads And Golden Needles" and Terry Fell's "Truck Driving Man" as well as more contemporary outlaw material, including Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" and Jimmy Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw." They thank Paul Craft, and cover two of his songs, "Keep Me From Blowing Away" and "Bottom Of The Glass." The show was poorly recorded and the performances are ragged and rough, but the overall vibe seems pretty true to the time and the style. Definitely worth a spin, if you can track it down.
Sonny Settles "Sonny Doing It His Way" (Maverick Productions, 197-) (LP)
(Produced by Herold White)
Seven Grain "Traditional And Contemporary Folk Music" (Custom Fidelity, 1974-?) (LP)
This hippie-folkie band from San Jose, California formed in 1972 and played together for a few years... They had a basically bluegrass orientation, but their repertoire was peppered with a healthy dose of contemporary outlaw tunes, including covers of Kris Kristofferson's "Jesus Was A Capricorn," Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," Guy Clark's "LA Freeway," and a version of "Seven Beers With The Wrong Woman," which was a parody of an old Depression-era stringband song.
Country Johnny Shackleford "Country Johnny Shackleford" (Homa, 1976) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "Pennsylvania Mountain People" (Aljean, 1965) (LP)
The husband-wife duo of Al Shade and Jean Romaine led a regional band in central Pennsylvania throughout the 1960s and '70s... Shade's day job was as a country music DJ at radio station WLBR, in Lebanon, PA... while Romaine did a radio show on the weekends. The were pretty traditionally-oriented and rooted in their local community, although they attained some national cult notoriety for their 1979 album (below) which included an old-fashioned disaster-song recitation about the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in nearby Harrisburg, PA. I believe Pennsylvania Mountain People was their first self-released album.
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "The Little Dogwood Tree" (Aljean, 1967) (LP) (LP)
Al Shade "...Sings A Tribute To Hank Williams" (Aljean) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "More Yodeling" (Aljean) (LP)
Al Shade/Jean Romaine/Debbie Ann "Potter County Was Made By The Hand Of God" (Aljean, 1973) (LP)
Al Shade/Jean Romaine/Debbie Ann "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Aljean) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "(Potter County Was Made By The Hand Of God, But The Devil Made) Three Mile Island" (Aljean, 1979) (LP)
Al Shade & Jean Romaine "Dolly Parton, You're A Lady" (Aljean, 1982) (LP)
Even though it doesn't say so on the album jacket, this duo from Myerstown, Pennsylvania must have gone to Nashville to record their album, because the picking is pretty good and the the production is pretty solid, with a slick-but-rootsy late '70s/early '80s Top Forty sound. No clue as to who that studio crew might have been, though, because there are no credits... Neither Al or Jean were electrifying singers, but they wrote some good songs and really pour themselves into the material. Several songs were written by and feature vocals from Faron Shade -- not sure who we was, their son, maybe? -- and again, it's good, strong amateur-hour stuff. As DIY country vanity pressings go, this one's pretty darn good.
Shade Tree "Shade Tree" (Buffarilla Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Scott & Shade Tree)
This Topeka, Kansas band was an odd and uneven mix of disco-y pop, boogie rock and, yeah, I guess some little bit of country-rock. Kind of. They may fall more into a so-bad-it's-good category, although a lot of that may have been from the sound mix, where the slick-sounding guitars and cowbell reach equal prominence. But it's also due to the often unrestrained, note-heavy guitar-god riffs and overall cluttered feel, as well as the super-Kansan vocals... This album is authentic, though, a kind of clunky local band making the album of their dreams during the disco era... It doesn't really hang together, but you get the idea. There's some pedal steel in there somewhere, but really this is more of a rock record, with hints of Southern rock in there as well.
Linna Shane & The Sons Of The Purple Sage "Western Favorites" (Tops Records, 1958-?) (LP)
Singer Linna Shane was actually the nom-de-twang of Linna Biatress Schames (1929-1988) a Southern California cowgal who recorded with at least one edition of the Sons Of The Purple Sage, a western/cowboy act which had several permutations. Apparently, Shane's husband also plays on this album, and she may have been the "girl" singer on some of their other albums... The history of the band is a bit murky... There was one version of the group which came about when western music star Foy Willing split the difference with a guy called Buck Page who had a competing band also named the Riders Of The Purple Sage. Page started to perform as "The Sons Of The Purple Sage" although it looks like it was one of those things where various fly-by-night labels used the name to record a number of albums, either because they won it through a business contract, or because no one was able to enforce the ownership of the name. (I welcome input from anyone with more concrete infomation...) At any rate, there were about a half-dozen albums released under the Sons Of The Purple Sage, with musicians such as Tex Fletcher and Bob Wheeler, as well as the mysterious Ms. Shane. Although I suspect that this LP was cobbled together from various sources, the liner notes say that Bob Wheeler is the band's leader, and though there are a few different lead vocalists, I'm guessing he's the guy who sounds like Hank Snow. Most of the vocals are male, with Linna Shane adding some rather prissy lead vocals on a few tracks... The real draw here is the solid musicianship -- this is a fun album that's pure West Coast '40s/'50s country, mixing cowboy stuff with proto-honkytonk and western swing. Some great Hawaiian-style steel guitar, a little pedal steel perhaps, and of course plenty of chugging accordion. If you like that sound and that era, you may be surprised at how good this record is!
Shannondoah "Ideas And Rhymes" (Blue Heron Records, 1977) (LP)
Shannondoah "Take Yer Time Leavin' And Hurry On Back" (Fat Chance Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Stearns & Dave Ellsworth)
An eclectic acoustic band from Spokane, Washington, Shannondoah was led by singer-guitarist Ben Staley, with additional vocals from Shannon Staley, Rick Singer playing percussion, Kevin Svenson on bass, and Don Thomsen playing fiddle, mandolin, and dobro. The repertoire includes a few interesting cover songs, like their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Go My Way," though most of the songs are Staley originals.
Randy Sharp "First In Line" (1973) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Sharp)
I remember, from way back in my misspent youth, when my big sister snuck me into the Wild Blue Yonder nightclub in Fresno, California to see the farewell show of songwriter/bandleader Randy Sharp, a hometown hero who was heading off to either Nashville or LA to make it big. This was probably around 1979 or 1980, many years after this self-released album came out, and by then Sharp had established himself as a professional pop and country songwriter, though his own work had definitively slid towards the slick, overproduced pop style of the times. I haven't heard this disc, though folks say it's good, certainly much better than the goopy album that followed (see below) and definitely had more twang. Sharp did make it in the music business, penning dozens of songs including some that were recorded by stars such as Patty Loveless, Reba McEntire and Clay Walker... He also produced and recorded with Karen Brooks, and his daughter -- Maia Sharp -- became a successful adult-alt artist. Oh, and actually, now that I recall more clearly, I don't think I actually did get into the club that night: I had to wait outside on the corner while my sister went in and partied hardy. It's okay... it wasn't really my scene, anyway.
Randy Sharp "First In Line" (Nautilis Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Randy Sharp)
Although it shares the same name with his 1973 album, this is a completely different record. Other than the re-recorded title track, the songs are all different, and for the most part the studio sound is pretty poppy and dreadful, in a '70s-pop/LA Sound-gone-wrong kinda way. Oh, to be sure, there are a few twangtunes on here, and it sure helps to have West Coast pedal steel legend Tom Brumley adding his lissome licks to the songs, as well as bluegrasser Larry McNeely on banjo. But the influence of slick studio pros such as Jeff Porcaro, David Foster and Dave Hungate far outweigh these two twangsters, and the album gets pretty gooey and over-the-top. Although I'm sure this album helped Sharp out professionally, showing what he was capable of as a composer and arranger, most of these tracks were in serious need of some clear-eyed editorial pruning... The record turned out "very 1970s..." but not in a good way. The one track that really holds up (from a twangfan perspective) is the ballad, "For Old Times Sake," though they massacre "Banjo Man," a tune that would later be recorded by Jerry Reed.
Randy Sharp "Just About Love" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
Jim Sharpley & The Sharpshooters "Northern Country" (Quiet Cannon Records, 1977) (LP)
Connecticut country picker Jim Sharpley was also a TV traffic and weather reporter on New Haven's Channel 8. The TV thing was his main gig, and he quit music for several years after leading this band, but got back into it in 2011 when he joined the bluegrass band Still Pickin' and later The Heartaches, a Patsy Cline tribute band. This early album features a wealth of original material, much of it with a swing-twang feel.
Billy Joe Shaver - see artist discography
Gary Shaw "Gospel Road Songs" (Great Circle Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Roy Callaway)
Heartfelt, sometimes awkward, truly twangy and entirely original country gospel songs from singer Gary Shaw. The album is produced in a fairly solid approximation of late '70s/early '80s mainstream country, but the lyrics are mostly about getting back on the right path and leaving behind one's wicked ways. Basically, quit the boozing and running around and take the narrow way back home... Even though the musical style's a little different, the Louvin Brothers would be proud. Shaw's a very enthusiastic and robust singer -- his vocal tone's okay, but where he wobbles a little is on his phrasing... From time to time the meter gets away with him, partly because his songs can get a little wordy and clunky at times... But he can also hit some good, straightforward country grooves, as on the secular-sounding "Lefty Don't Sing The Blues Anymore." It's the more overtly preachy songs that are the real fun, though, like the earnest but campy "Sunday Sleepers," "Bibles From Booze" and "The Same Road As Me," where a little bit of finger-wagging goes a real long way, and kitsch lovers can't help but crack a smile. I think this album works either taken for a laugh or straight-up, as intended -- the musical backing is strong enough for it to work either way. Session players include steel player Sonny Garrish and some rhythm guitar from Brent Rowan of the Rowan Brothers. Definitely worth a spin, if you're not too bugged by the Jesus thing.
Sheepskin Pat "From Nashville" (Red Barn Recording Company, 19--?) (LP)
This was an album by a fella named Pat Sickafus, a Pennsylvania businessman who went on to be a reasonably successful Top Forty country musician under the name of Pat Garrett. When this record -- which may be his first(?)-- came out, he was a real-life sheep rancher, having created his own business in Strausstown, PA, selling sheepskin clothing, rugs, bed covers and other accessories... (So perhaps his song, "Why'd You Do This To Me," was written from the sheep's point of view? One wonders!) Despite the album title, this record came out on his own label, based in Pennsylvania, where Sickafus has deep roots. It includes several originals such as "Why'd You Do This To Me," "Slide On Over" and "I'd Like To Wake Up In Your Arms," as well as covers of country classics like "Silver Wings" and "Help Me Make It Through The Night." By 1977, he changed his name and had his first chart hit on Billboard, though as this record proves, he also his own locals-only roots.
Jerry Shelfer "Heart For My Heart" (Allied Records, 1988) (EP)
(Produced by Jerry Shelfer & Mark Plummer)
I saw Jerry Shelfer play a gig opening for Chris Isaak around the time this five-song EP came out, and thought he was pretty cool. Shelfer had a rough, rural voice and some true twang, helping him stand out in the world of the pre-Americana "college rock" scene. Unfortunately though distinctive elements were obscured by the glossy, somewhat strained, slightly new wave-ish '80s pop production which steers these songs into an uneasy middle-ground, not quite twang and not quite rock. It just feels like a missed opportunity, with only one song, the rockabilly-tinged "That's The Way Love Should Be" coming closest to what Shelfer sounded like live. Oh, well.
Jerry Shelfer "Slipaway" (Heyday Records, 1995) (CD)
Shelley & Kelly "Shelley & Kelly" (American Heritage Music Corporation, 1977) (LP)
Fiddler Shelley Clark and guitarist Kelly Rubrecht (who later married) were a popular duo in Wyoming's 1970s folk-country scene, playing a classy mix of bluegrass, country and western swing for appreciative fans in Jackson Hole and beyond. This is the first of two albums they recorded, with pedal steel Harley Brendal, banjo plunker Jake Hoffman, bassist John Sherpe and Bill Long on second fiddle and guitar... Although they didn't make many records, Shelley & Kelly played steadily for decades, until Kelly Rubrecht was sidelined by Parkinsons...
Shelley & Kelly "Chute 5" (Jester Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Shelley Clark & Kelly Rubrecht )
Man, this record is really, really good. They were great musicians. Her fiddling is lively and clever, his accompaniment on guitar is elegant and precise. A well-produced, beautifully performed album, deeply steeped int he best of the acoustic swing tradition... Bet they were great live! Anyway, if you're a fan of folks like The Hot Club Of Cowtown, or even older stuff like Joe Venuti & Eddie Lang, you'll wanna check this one out.
Shelley & Kelly "Retroactive" (2014) CD
This CD updates the duo's career, with live tracks and rehearsal/demo recordings recorded over a thirty-year span... Their two studio albums were also apparently reissued on CD, but I haven't laid eyes on that one yet.
Bob Shepherd "Foot'Loose" (Doo-Dah City Records And Promotions, 1980-?) (LP)
Obscuro country-lounge material from Wichita, Kansas... I couldn't find any info about this guy online, other than that harmonica player Rick Hatfield added a few licks to the session. I'm guessing at the release date, based on the catalog number and the look of the cover art...
Zeke Sheppard "Plugged In Muzekely" (1980) (LP)
(Produced by Zeke Sheppard, Sam Allison & Peter Cardinali)
Good indiebilly from a lanky, wild-eyed dude from Orlando, Florida... Despite one of the most unflattering album covers of all time and a really poor sound mix, this is a nice, twangy set, mostly cover songs but with two originals -- "Fallin' In Love" and "United" -- which were written by Sheppard and recorded in a studio, while the other tracks were apparently taped at a live performance in Orlando's Church Street Station. I think low-budget DIY did Sheppard in, but fans of uptempo twang by scruffy, little-known locals might get a kick out of this one. A nice document of an aspiring bar band. Includes covers of songs by The Band, John Denver, Waylon & Willie and Jimmy Buffett's "Coast Of Marseilles."
John Sheridan "From The Heart" (Salt City Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Williams & Stan Bronson)
This disc is really the epitome of a "private press" country album, a modest set of soft-edged, mellow-tempoed acoustic country-folk ballads, with strong echoes of Don Gibson, Marty Robbins and Gordon Lightfoot... Sheridan was a Norther Californian when he made this album, living in Concord, CA, near Berkeley, though the record label is from Provo, Utah, so I'm not sure what the connection was. As country stuff goes, it's a little too gooey for me, and the performances are kind of so-so.... But it's nice how heartfelt the project feels; this obviously was something Sheridan really put himself into and was justifiably proud of... There are a couple of cover tunes -- John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane" and Curly Putman's "Green Green Grass Of Home" -- but most of the songs are originals. (One I wasn't able to track down was "Making It Easier," by Greg Shannon... It's possible that this was a friend of his or one of the guys in the band, but unfortunately there are no musician credits on the album...) Anyway, this might be worth tracking down if you go for softer ballad-type material.
Glen Sherley "Live At Vacaville, California" (Mega, 1971)
Here's a wild one: California convict Glen Sherley came into Johnny Cash's sphere of influence when Cash staged his legendary 1968 Folsom Prison concert -- someone had passed Cash a demo of Sherley's prison ballad, "Greystone Chapel," which he sang in front of an enthusiastic audience, with an unsuspecting and dumbfounded Sherley sitting in the front row. The song made it onto the album and Cash became Sherley's champion in Nashville, helping get this live album produced -- it was recorded while Sherley was still in prison, and his live version of "Greystone Chapel" was a modest hit. Cash pushed for Sherley's parole later the same year and he gave him a job, too, as a staff writer in his "House of Cash" company, along with Sherley's friend Harlan Sanders, who was also a convict in the California system. The mix of freedom and fame was apparently too much for Sherley -- his antisocial behavior forced Cash to fire him, and he quickly fell off the radar. Years later, in 1978, Glen Sherley committed suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, having been unable to hang onto his music career, one of the more tragic figures in the '70s country scene.
Dianne Sherrill "Dianne Sherrill" (NCP, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Vest & Mark Sherrill)
This was the lone solo album for singer Dianne Sherrill, though she also cut a few singles for the Monument label. Sherrill came to Nashville in 1970, performed on Hee Haw, was a vocal coach, backup singer, etc., and became born again at some point... Gospel music seems to have become her sole focus after that. Anyway, this album features a bunch of cover tunes, stuff like "Hey Good Lookin'," "Storms Never Last," "Silver Threads And Golden Needles," and "Stand By Your Man."
Shiloh "Shiloh" (Amos, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Rogers)
Another missing link in the Southern California country-rock saga... This band featured a pre-Eagles Don Henley, future Nashville honcho Jim Ed Norman, and Al Perkins on pedal steel guitar. Dunno what it sounds like, but I guess hardcore Henley fans would want to track it down...
Joe Shinall "...Sings About Love, About Life, About Living" (API-Atteiram Records) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Queen & Joe Shinall)
Singer Joe Shinall of Cartersville, Georgia packed his first (and only?) album with original material... A couple of cover tunes, a few by other writers, but mostly it's all his material. Looks like he went to Nashville to cut these sessions -- at least the studio crew was packed with Nashville heavies such as Jimmy Capps, Dave Kirby, Weldon Myrick, Dale Sellers, Jerry Shook, et.al.
John Shine "Songs For A Rainy Day" (Columbia, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Jeffrey Cohen & Bruce Good)
Pop-folk singer-songwriter John Shine was living in Berkeley, California when he landed this major-label contract, cutting a cheerful, country-tinged album packed with all-original material. Backing him are some Bay Area locals, including Joy Of Cooking's Terry Garthwaite and steel drum maven Andy Narell, as well as a few heavyweight Nashville cats such Pete Wade, Mac Gayden and steel player Weldon Myrick. Shine was roughly in the same indefinable folkish territory as more successful artists like Jesse Colin Young and John Sebastian, mixing folk, pop and country in an eclectic, goofy whirl, spanning softer, philosophical ruminations with soft-pop orchestrations to goofy jugband-flavored novelty numbers such as "Me And My Band" (a self-effacing fantasy trip about becoming the Next Big Thing) and "It's About Time," a tall-tale talking blues about an uber-slacker who won't pay his bills, but feels the world owes him a living. Although nowadays it seems almost inconceivable that a major label would shell out the cash for such a whimsical record, but the 'Seventies were different times, and there was more of a see-what-sticks attitude. Besides, it wasn't that far-fetched to imagine that a flowery pop track like the title track, "Song For A Rainy Day," could have become a hit -- it has a plausibly Mamas & Papas vibe, though much to his credit Shine didn't seem to be taking the rock star thing too seriously, and this disc has a nice, laid-back, just-for-fun feel to it. Very much of its time, as they say.
Merv Shiner "In The Ghetto" (Little Darlin' Records, 1969) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
An East Coaster from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Mervin Shiner started out as a hillbilly singer back in the early '50s, with an initial boost from big band/pop bandleader Vaughn Monroe. Shiner plugged away throughout the 'Fifties and 'Sixties, touring and appearing on various radio stations and variety shows, also recording a slew of 78s and singles on multiple labels. By the mid-'60s he had broken through as a successful songwriter in Nashville, with compositions recorded by Jan Howard and Loretta Lynn, among others. He co-wrote some stuff with Ken Westberry and, as heard on this album, delved into the socially-minded topical folk-country sound of the time, recording "issue songs" similar to "Skip A Rope" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." Shiner didn't have much success as a recording artist, though label head Aubrey Mayhew seems to have liked working with him, producing two LPs, each packed with material from Mayhew-related publishing companies.
Merv Shiner "Life Is Lovin' What You've Made For Me" (Certron Records, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Mayhew)
Ron Shipman "Let Me Down Easy" (Jango Records, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Phil York)
A Dallas, Texas songwriter who was a sideman in Rusty Draper's band and had a couple of his songs recorded by Draper. All the songs on here are originals, except for a cover of Johnny Cash's "I Still Miss Someone."
Danny Shirley "Local Legend" (Amor Records, 1984) (LP)
(Scott McClellan & Sonny Limbo)
An early outing from local lad Danny Shirley, who later would become the lead singer for the 1990s Top Forty band Confederate Railroad. As the album title implies, Shirley kicked around his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, working as a solo artist for several years before joining the soon-to-be-huge band down in Georgia. He released a string of singles in the mid-'80s, including several off this album -- "Live And Let Love," "Time Off For Bad Behavior," "The Right String, But The Wrong Yo-Yo" -- though the ones that charted only grazed the back end of the Billboard Top 100. Still, if you like hearing commercially-oriented country stuff from the indie end of the spectrum, this is a nice example of the slick-but-still-rugged sound that Shirley would perfect in years to come. Interestingly enough, bluegrass/old-timey icons Norman and Nancy Blake play fiddles on this disc... Who'da thunk it?
Jon Sholle "Catfish For Supper" (Rounder, 1978)
(Produced by Jon Sholle)
A relaxed, cheerful, eclectic set, mixing Tin Pan Alley-flavored swing-jazz, bluegrass twang and a smidge of acoustic blues... A perfect record to represent the musical diversity and talent of the times. Guitarist Jon Sholle, who had gigged with a bunch of jazz, pop and Broadway performers, picks up where Dan Hicks left off, kicking back with some of the hottest pickers of the '70s acoustic twang scene: if you ever wanted to hear David Bromberg jamming with David Grisman, here's your chance. Also on board are other members of the Grisman/Rounder Records newgrass scene, such as Darol Anger, Rob Wasserman, Tony Rice and Tony Trischka, et. al., although this isn't a standard-issue newgrass record, not by a longshot. Nice chance to hear those guys playing in different styles, such as folk-blues and oldies jazz. The title track, "Catfish For Supper," was a novelty number frequently played on KFAT radio, but the rest of the record is packed with gems as well -- Bela Fleck's fans will want to check out his sweet, slick picking on the instrumental, "Triangle," while Bromberg gets in some nice licks on tracks such as the Jimmie Rodgers-styled "Railroad Blues." Nice stuff... Still a winner after all these years!
Shorty Joe's Red Rock County Ramblers "A Tribute To Shorty Joe" (Golden West Records, 1985) (LP)
An homage to Guiseppe ("Joe") Quartuccio, who was a popular country performer and local deejay in California's once-rural Santa Clara Valley... Shorty Joe moved to San Jose from Canada as a teen in the 1930s, working agricultural jobs and building up a pre- and postwar reputation as "the Sicilian Cowboy" while playing various honkytonks and radio gigs. This tribute album was recorded by former members of his band(s) and is a pleasant mix of honky tonk and western swing, overall with a very Bob Wills-y vibe. Folks who like all those latter-day Light Crust Doughboys and Texas Playboys albums ought to enjoy this as well.
Showdown "Welcome To The Rodeo" (Damon, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Lee Berthold)
A country covers band from Alberta, Canada, who were mediocre but enthusiastic, and who scored a big hit with a song that was banned from airplay... It's a funny album: usually these bar-bands would have one really hot picker, and while the banjoist and fiddler are okay, the band never really gels, and the vocals are, well, very local. Still, they cover some fun songs, like Michael Murphey's "Cosmic Cowboy" and Lee Dresser's "Redneck Disco," but their big moment comes with Gaye Delorme's hilariously profane novelty number, "The Rodeo Song" ("not suitable for airplay," they warn us, which is an understatement...) Written from the perspective of a very pissed off, road-ragey rural driver, the song is sort of an obscene take-off on the Hank Snow style of country rapping. When it became an underground classic, they re-recorded it for a new single, with singer Garry Lee billed as the star, and it has been covered many times since. I believe this is the original version, and a pretty good reason to hang onto this admittedly so-so album. From humble beginnings...
Showdown (with Garry Lee) "Wanted: Loaded, Loose And Rowdy" (Damon, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Garry McDonall & Garry Lee)
The runaway success of the "Rodeo Song" single apparently allowed the dudes in Showdown to go back into the studio and beef up their sound, taking on a more electrified (and mildly disco-y) tone... Although they sound more professional and musically accomplished than on their first album, they also sound less rootsy and a lot less fun. They also decided to make crudeness their "thing," giving this album full of songs about one-night stands, girls losing their virginity and saying "no" when they really mean yes, along with plenty of thinly-veiled sexual metaphors, and an unfortunate Alvin And The Chipmunks-style remake of "The Rodeo Song" that features the squeaky-voiced "Canadian Beavers" singing a version that's way less fun that the original. Oh, well. I suppose this was funny at the time, but it doesn't hold up very well. Worth noting: some of the electric guitar twang-banging is courtesy of Redd Volkaert, who had recently moved to Alberta from British Columbia, and would join Merle Haggard's band nearly two decades later. As far as I can tell, this must have been one of his first recorded sessions, in case anyone out there is keeping track...
Showdown "Sampler" (Sunset Recording, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Mark MacLean & Mike Burdick)
This is a different band from the one led by Canada's Garry Lee... This was a four-piece band recorded in LaGrange, Illinois, which included Mike Burdick (lead guitar), Jim Pastorek (rhythm), Dave Rapp (bass) and Ted Reinert (drums), though apparently there was no fiddle, banjo or pedal steel. The set list includes two Merle Haggard songs, as well as "Rocky Top," "Ghost Riders In The Sky," a couple of rock oldies ("Roll Over Beethoven" and "Hang On Sloopy") a song by Dennis Linde ("Burning Love") and one original song written by Jim Pastorek, "Why Can It Be."
J. D. Shug "Pour Me" (Shug-a-Lug Records, 1982) (LP)
Jeffrey Shurtleff "State Farm" (A&M, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Joan Baez & Norbert Putnam)
This was a pleasant surprise... California-born Shurtleff was a 1960s draft resister who lived on a hippie commune with David Harris, the later-imprisoned war protester husband of folk star Joan Baez. Shurtleff joined Baez's band and played with her at Woodstock, singing several duets with her at the epic concert and on various albums, including this one. With that very-Sixties pedigree, I figured this would be a fairly insufferable album, but actually it's got some good country tunes, including the opening track, twangy, uptempo re-imagining of Gordon Lightfoot's "Ten Degrees And Getting Colder," and a pedal steel-laced rendition of "A Miner's Life." He covers then-new singer-songwriters John Prine and Paul Siebel, including several that not surprisingly have political overtones, such as Siebel's "Honest Sam," or the more overt "Prisoner's Song," written by Baez. Shurtleff recorded four solo albums in Nashville, and I think this was the first. Nice, strong accompaniment by a solid Music City studio crew, anchored by steel guitarist Lloyd Green and pickers Grady Martin, Bobby Thompson and Pete Wade. If you like Paul Siebel's work, in particular, then this is certainly worth checking out -- a few tracks are too fuzzy-folkie for me, but others have plenty of twang. He had a pretty modest voice, but he used it well.
Shylo "Flower Of The South" (Columbia, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rogers)
One of Nashville's better attempts to co-opt the smooth '70s country-rock sound, Shylo was a vehicle for Ronny Scaife, who wrote -- or co-wrote -- all the songs on here, including many with bassist Danny Hogan. Here, the band poses barefoot on the cover, wearing flashy dress jackets over rolled-up bluejeans, portraying themselves as both mainstream and rebels... The record has a few good tunes, notably "Dog Tired Of Cattin' Around" and "Whiskey Fever," although a lot of the album is kind of mediocre, if easy on the ears. As a single, "Dog Tired" scraped into the Top 100, and Scaife found greater success writing material for other artists, starting with Jerry Jaye's "Honky Tonk Women Love Redneck Men" and Johnny Paycheck's 1978 hit, "Me And The IRS," later scoring bigger Top Ten hits in the '80s and '90s. This is an okay record -- if you like early Eagles albums, this could be worth checking out.
Shylo "The Song Riders" (Maverick, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Larry Rogers & Ronny Scaife)
Wannabe Top Forty country from some guys who'd been around the block a few times, recording for Columbia in the '70s and for MErcury in the early '80s. This record has a definite woulda-coulda, almost-but-not-quite feel, a sense that these guys almost could have broken into the harmony-heavy "group" sound of the early '80s, alongside vocal groups such as Alabama, the Bellamy Brothers and the Oak Ridge Boys. They had the same kind of good-natured, smiley-tone sound and adherence to Nashville's musical formulas, though this self-released indie album is a little "off" in terms of the production values and overall smoothness... But you know what? It grows on you. If you like the kind of stuff they were shooting for, you'll want to track this down since it fits right in. Bandleader Ronny Scaife had reshuffled the band a few times, with drummer Perry York the only guy still there from the album listed above. His new collaborators includes guitarist-songwriters Don Singleton and Jerry Hayes, and the record includes a loose-knit cover version of Jerry Haye's best-known song, "Who's Cheatin' Who," which had been a breakthrough hit for Charly McClain in 1980. A good snapshot of a hard-working band that had a toehold in the Top Forty world, but was slipping off the radar despite their best efforts.
Side By Side "Ode To A Friend" (End Of The Trail Records, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Nick Kuzulka & Side By Side)
A folk-country band from McFarland, Wisconsin, featuring David Liebmann and singer-songwriter Bonnie Rowan... She contributes two original songs, "Man In The Moon" and "Ode To A Friend." They also cover several Patsy Cline oldies, "Wreck Of The Old 97", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," and other country standards.
Side Of The Road Gang "Side Of The Road Gang" (Capitol, 1976)
(Produced by Mike Leech)
Sidesaddle -- see artist profile
Sidewinder "Ready To Strike" (Willow Wind Records, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Bil VornDik & Alan Ray)
Paul Siebel "Woodsmoke And Oranges" (Elektra, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Peter K. Siegel)
East Coast folkie Paul Siebel set a high bar -- both for himself and for the nascent singer-songwriter genre -- with this emotionally rich, soulful, near-perfect album. He's probably best remembered as the author of the faded-prostitute ballad, "Louise," which was popularized by Bonnie Raitt and other artists -- here's Siebel's own original version, which is equally resonant, though there's a different tone having a man sing it as opposed to a woman. I used to like "Louise," but now I'm over it, perhaps because a couple of decades of HBO and other modern culture have exhausted the whore-with-a-heart-of-gold topic. The rest of this album holds perhaps more durable material -- there's his catchy, bluesy "Any Day Woman" (which Raitt also covered) as well as "She Made Me Lose My Blues" and other contemplative folkie gems. For me, the best songs on here are two tunes that feel connected, "Bride, 1945," and "Then Came the Children," which reflect on middle-age and the experience of middle-class families in the post-WWII era, topics that are handled in a surprisingly mature, insightful way, considering the extremely polarized politics of the hippie-era "generation gap." Siebel separated himself from the pack of late '60s/early '70s both in the emotional maturity of his lyrics and the calm, precision and high quality of his songwriting. It helps that among the musicians backing him here are guitarist David Bromberg, fiddler Richard Greene and pedal steel whiz Weldon Myrick, three of the finest players of the era. A fine album that remains one of the classic folk albums of the era.
Paul Siebel "Jack-Knife Gypsy" (Elektra, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Robert W. Zachary)
Another solid set, though it was hard to top his debut. This is a noteworthy album, but it seems more workmanlike and less vital than Woodsmoke, with fewer songs that stand out as boldly. Largely that's because of the production style, which drifts into lavish pop-folk arrangements and a "big" sound that stands at odds with Siebel's natural, plainspoken vocal style. A bunch of great musicians on here, including bluegrassers like Clarence White and David Grisman, old-school Nashville session men such as Buddy Emmons, cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw, and younger guys like Bernie Leadon and Russ Kunkel, who would be at the heart of the Southern California country-rock scene. But for Siebel, this was his swan-song for the decade, as depression and self-doubt sidelined his music career. Sadly, I would have to say that this album just sounds like they were trying too hard -- it feels crowded and busy, and too self-consciously crafted. Still, it's certainly worth checking out, particularly if you've been caught in the spell of his first record.
Paul Siebel "Live At McCabes" (Rag Baby Records, 1981) (LP)
After several years in self-imposed retirement, Siebel came back in 1978 to give an intimate concert at one of Southern California's premiere folk clubs. Backing him are David Bromberg and bassist Gary White, who both performed on Siebel's first album.
Paul Siebel "Paul Siebel" (Rounder-Philo, 2004)
This generously-programmed CD reissue includes both of Siebel's Elektra albums, Woodsmoke And Oranges, and Jack Knife Gypsy, and helped bring Siebel's work back into the popular eye. A great bargain!
Paul Siebel "Woodsmoke And Oranges/Jack Knife Gypsy" (WEA-UK, 2004)
This import basically covers the same territory as the CD above... Siebel's two classic albums, digitally available in a single-disc collection, but released for a European audience.
Sierra "Sierra" (Mercury, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Felix Pappalardi & Don Gehman)
Apparently hoping for a hail-mary pass, the mid-'70s Gib Guilbeau/Sneaky Pete Kleinow lineup of the Flying Burrito Brothers changed their name to "Sierra" during the summer of '77 and cut this super-slick and terribly misguided pop record along with a slew of LA pop-scene rockstar guests... They indulge in bombastic disco-rock, bubblegummy AOR and a little bit of beer-ad blues. They were backing singer/guitarist Bobby Cochran, who had most recently been working in a reunited mid-'70s lineup of Steppenwolf, but who seems to have had a deep-seated desire to make it as a soft-rock star. I'd call these guys "a country-rock Bay City Rollers" except that their country influences are so deeply buried in the mix, they hardly factor in until the last half of Side Two. In theory, Sneaky Pete is playing pedal steel on every track on the album, but I'll be damned if I can hear it anywhere except towards the end. This incarnation didn't last long, although their regular Burrito gig was pretty rough sailing as well, with the band limping along without a major-label contract for several years... This album is mostly a historical curio; twang fans might enjoy a couple of Eagles-ish tracks that pop up on Side Two, with Guilbeau's "Don't Plant Roses" being the most memorable song on the album, and Cochran's "You Give Me Lovin' " being the most explicit Eagles ripoff. Otherwise, you can skip this one...
Sierra "Runnin' For Nothin' " (Loose Outlaw Records, 1980)
A country-rock band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin which was together for most of the '80s... They had more of a power-pop feel here, although there is definitely some twang in there as well, mostly in the form of some untamed steel guitar, and a dose of Southern rock boogie as well. Stylistic schitzophrenia ensues with the introduction of a truly awful spacy-poetic love ballad sung by the band's gal singer, Valerie Mikkelson, but written (like most of the original songs on here) by R. L. Miller. Notable tracks include "High On Lowell," a tribute to Little Feat's lead singer, Lowell George, who passed away in 1979, and their jittery cover of Michael Nesmith's "Rio." I gotta say, this record didn't really do it for me -- a little too rock'n'roll, maybe? -- but I do like how the band looks on the back cover, all of them lugging sixpacks and twelve-packs of Pabst Blue Ribbon to go jam at the great rehearsal session in the sky.
Silkie & JJ "Road Sweet Road" (Abra Cadabra, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Ole Fick)
An eclectic album with a wild back-story... The folkie duo of J.J. Dion and Silkie Miller met in Boise, Idaho in the early '70s, and in 1975 they went to Europe where they toured together for the rest of the decade. They recorded this album in Denmark, where they found their greatest popularity... At first it seems like it's going to be a goopy cosmic folk album, but some twang sifts in, with some banjo and pedal steel (as well as a little dulcimer...) and vocals that range from earnest folkie urgings to high, Byrds-y harmonies. There are lots of cover songs, drawn from interesting sources, from writers as divers as Eric Andersen and Utah Phillips to Hoyt Axton and Billy Ed Wheeler, as well as originals from both Silkie and JJ... Perhaps the most distinctive (though maybe not the best) of these songs is the manic novelty tune, "One Last Quickie Before I Go," a free-love ditty that has a slightly Elmo & Patsy-like vibe to it. Overall, this is a pretty earnest album -- the production values fall short on the uptempo, full-band tracks, and are better suited to the intimate acoustic ballads, although those songs are a little too folk-oriented for me. Still, this one's worth checking out. I guess the duo split up in the early 80s, with Dion returning to Idaho where he quietly shifted into family life and Christian music... And who knows what happened to Silkie!
Silverado "Silverado" (RCA, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Jerrard & Dick Bogert)
Songwriters Earl Goodwin and Carl Shilo led this mellow country-rock/AOR band, with assist from a few top sesion players, notably steel player Jay D. Maness, and Emory Gordy and James Burton from Emmylou Harris's Hot Band. The overall sound is, well, pretty wimpy -- folk-tinged soft-pop in roughly the same territory as Seals & Crofts, with a little extra twang woven in but mostly it's wispy romantic stuff. Not much stood out for me; one track, "Kicking The Habit," has vague druggie connotations, but it's not really that great a song... If you're into '70s AOR, this could be a real find, though looking at it from an alt-country perspective, not much to get worked up about.
Silverado "Taking It All In Stride" (RCA, 1977) (LP)
Silverado "Ready For Love" (CBS-Pavillion, 1981) (LP)
Silver Creek "Silver Creek" (MCA/Tally, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Jerry Barnes & Roy Nichols)
This young, shaggy-looking quartet were proteges of Merle Haggard, and recorded this album under the umbrella of his Hag Productions company. The twangy, cajun-y opening track, "Howdy," is pretty fun, but the album slips into tedium with a lethargic romantic tune called "A Lady Like You," written by guitarist Jack Daniels, who proves to be a really terrible singer, at least on the slow stuff. The band has the feel of an enthusiastic bar band, with a few numbers that probably wowed 'em live, such as their jokey/spacey version of "Orange Blossom Special," which moves from bar-band bluegrass into Jean-Luc Ponty-style prog-fusion, and then back again -- Woah! Where's that come from?? On the flip side they let their funky rock side show on "17th Of May," though the album continues to be pretty uneven: another slow song from Daniels brings it to a grinding halt, a couple more fusion-y instrumentals take things back into hippie territory, and they groove through one nice, pedal-steel-flavored country number, a version of John Sebastian's "Rainbows All Over Your Blues." I wouldn't peg this record as a long-lost hippiebilly gem, though they certainly were of their times -- this album is skippable, but the country-prog overlap is kind of interesting, historically speaking.
Silver Dollar Band "Silver Dollar Band" (1979) (LP)
Silver Dollar Jubilee "Silver Dollar Jubilee" (Silver Dollar City, 1984) (LP)
(Produced by Allen Reynolds)
Well, maybe Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb were a little down on their luck when they landed a day job at Branson, Missouri's Silver Dollar City amusement park and cut this souvenir album for thr tourists... But at least it was a paying gig and they did put their hearts into the recording, with the result that it's a pretty darn good record. Dillard's wife, Beverley Cotten Dillard, adds vocals on a number of tracks, and the musicianship is solid from start to finish. Other than the Dillards and Webb, I don't recognize the other musicians, though pianist D. A. Callaway performed on other Silver Dollar commemorative albums, so I'm guessing most of these folks were on staff at the park. Also, I had assumed that this was the same record as Dillard's At Silver Dollar City album (below) but it turns out they are completely different... So, if you're a Dillards completist, you might wanna track this one down.
Silver Laughter "Handle With Care" (Fanfare, 1976)
More of a rock-oriented band from Iowa, with some Southern rock tendencies...
Silver Mountain "On The Snake River Special" (Ripcord, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Blaine Allen)
This self-identified "newgrass" band from Seattle covered some rock stuff ("Friend Of The Devil") and added a little pedal steel into their sound, courtesy of session player Ron Stephens, who was connected to the Ripcord Studios network. These are lively, cheerful performances of songs they clearly loved, kicking off with oldies like "I'm My Own Grandpaw," "Life's Railway To Heaven" and Bob Wills's "Milk Cow Blues" before shifting into originals written by bandmembers Willy Ehrmantraut, Terry Enyeart and Greg LaRoy. A fun record from an era before pure professionalism and super-slick production took over the bluegrass world. Best of all, this is one of the few Ripcord LPs I've come across that has an actual date on it -- the album illustration was signed and dated -- providing a rare opportunity to figure out when the rest of them came out. Whoo-hoo!
Silver-Stevens "Dusty Roads" (MGM-Lion Records, 1972) (LP)
This is one of those records where I take one for the team... It sure looks like it could have been a lost country-rock gem, and Red Rhodes is listed playing pedal steel, but basically this album is another self-indulgent, negligible, hippiedelic orchestral-rock mess. The songwriting partnership of Arnie Silver and Mark Stevens worked their way up through the Philadelphia coffeehouse folk scene and somehow landed a major label deal where they delved about as deeply into their stoned musical fantasies as is humanly possible -- this record is all over the map, slathered with baroque, multi-layered nuttiness, although to my ears it lacks the cohesion or charismatic focus that separates it from more memorable but similar experimentalism of the era. Anyway, it's more of a hippie-rock relic than a twangtunes kinda thing. Red Rhodes does add a nice feel to a couple of the tracks -- he doesn't sound like he was particularly challenged, but he does manage to find room inside the lavish Don Costa orchestrations to leave a distinctive stamp on a tune or two. If you're a devoted '70s culture buff, this is worth a spin... otherwise, skip it.
Jim Silvers "You Gotta Let All The Girls Know You're A Cowboy" (CMH, 1979) (LP)
Here's a fella with a big personality: Chicago-born Jim Silvers was the nephew of fabled record man Syd Nathan, whose King Records label helped define the blues, R&B and country sounds of the post-WWII era, and paved a pathway to the birth of rock'n'roll... Silvers went into the record business himself, joining the CHM bluegrass label in its early years and recorded this album while working as a jack-of-all-trades at the fledgling label... It's a brash, audacious album, best known for the raunchy novelty single, "You Gotta Let All The Know That You're A Cowboy," though packed with other equally aggressive, live-wire country tunes. He's kind of like a Windy City version of Kinky Friedman, though perhaps with fewer memorable tunes. Silvers just made two albums, with this being the best-distributed and stronger of the two.
Jim Silvers "Colonel Jim Silvers" (Rondelet, 1981) (LP)
Jim Silvers "Music Makin' Mama From Memphis" (Bear Family, 1999)
This generously programmed CD gathers all the songs from his two LPs... A nice, handy reissue worthy of the Bear Family archives!
Shel Silverstein -- see artist profile
Joe Simon "Simon Country" (Spring Records, 1973) (LP)
Simpson "Simpson" (CBS-Columbia, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Noel Frankel & Mike Kropp)
Homer's distant cousin Bland Simpson is now best known as an author and actor; he also led this uniquely eclectic, brainy early '70s cosmic folk/rock/twang band, and also played piano with the Red Clay Ramblers. For folkies, this disc is notable as the first album to feature singer-songwriter David Olney, who played guitar and sang with Simpson for several years before moving to Nashville in '73. Also on board, though not officially part of the band, are steel guitarist Bill Keith, Eric Weissberg on fiddle and dobro, and power-popster Rick Derringer, who plays lead guitar on one track (the somewhat overwrought "Swordswoman Provocation.") Olney gets in a few fancy acoustic licks on the guitar solo, "Detroit Gregorian" and sings the lead on a version of the old folk tune, "Black Betty." This is an odd and idiosyncratic album, not necessarily that accessible on the first couple of listenings, but substantive and definitely rooted in real twang influences.
Jimmy Simpson "The Oilfield Boy" (Sourdough Records, 1967) (LP)
Born in Ashland City, Tennessee, singer Jimmy Simpson was an oilfield roughneck who carved out a music career in the mid-1950s leading his band, the Oilfield Boys, playing gigs throughout the lower 48 before moving to Alaska -- then still just a territory -- in 1957. He took a job as a country DJ at radio station KBYR, in Anchorage, and for many years divided his time between gigs in Alaska and the lower states. He was living in Houston, Alaska when he cut this album. Throughout his life, Simpson had worked on and off as an oilman and devoted this entire album to songs about the oil industry, and the Alaskan frontier. All the songs but one were Simpson's own, with the last track, "Springtime In Alaska," written by honkytonker Tillman Franks. Jimmy Patton and his band back Simpson as he reprises some singles he recorded in the '50s and early '60s, such as his trucker tune, "The Alcan Run" and "I'm An Oilfield Boy," though some tracks may be from the old, original masters. It's all pretty good!
Jimmy Simpson "...Sings Kiana Kid And Other Favorites" (Sourdough Records, 196--?) (LP)
Jerry Sims "He's My Dad" (Bigg Tyme, 1972) (LP)
A DIY country set from a guy who mostly recorded gospel material, but goes secular here, with a mix of original material (most of the songs are written either by Sims or two guys who share the same publisher, Sam Ratliff and Bob Zackery) with a few cover tunes, including one by Howlin' Wolf, of all people. There's some bouncy, untamed electric guitar as well as some nice pedal steel -- the album's highlight is probably the title track, a pugnacious, goofy defense of "my dad," a working-class guy who ain't all slick and fancy, but worked his butt off to give his son a good life. Great stuff. The whole record is kind of neat -- an authentic, grassroots indie outing, and pretty good musically. I couldn't find much information about Sims: the Bigg Tyme label had an address in Modesto, California, and some of his other records come from there as well, so I guess the Central Valley was his home base. Anyone know more about him?
Jerry Sims "Coast To Coast" (JBS) (LP)
Jerry Sims "This Is Now... The Best Of Jerry So Far" (MGR, 2003) (CD & MP3)
Although there's a picture of Sims in his teenage garage years on the cover, these are later recordings -- maybe from the '80s or '90s? -- with modest, modern, tinkly keyboard-led pop arrangements... Not mch country twang to be heard here, though.
Rich Sims "Country Love Triangle" (QCA Recording Studios, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Denny "Dumpy" Rice)
Ouch. Now, I'm not one to use these reviews of "private" records as an opportunity to mock these little-known artists, though sometimes you have to call 'em like you see 'em... As the too-revealing liner notes explain, middle-aged songwriter Rich Sims was kind of a jack-of-all-trades, a one-time rodeo rider who eventually became "a successful business executive with a large insurance company," Sims was born in New Mexico and moved around a lot, but was living in the Midwest (Boyden, Iowa, to be precise) when he recorded this album... One thing he wasn't naturally born to, though, was music. Despite his very apparent enthusiasm, Sims sings out of tune, writes lyrics that stray out of the meter, and has trouble phrasing inside the tempo when he sings... Although his heart is in every performance, this still winds up falling in the so-bad-it's-good category, sort of a honkytonk Mrs. Miller kind of affair. The backing band is decent, though a bit thumpy and by-the-numbers. Still, there are some tracks that hold up and might be fun in a mix, notably the she-took-everything-in-the-divorce novelty number, " '65 Ford Pickup Truck" and "I'm Better At It Now," Mr. Sims's song extolling the virtues of middle age. I also like how the liners mention that he was in a Fort Worth-based group called "Cowboys For Christ..." I bet their meetings were fun!
The Sin City Band "The Sin City Band" (Straight-Face Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Fred Kern)
This one's a little iffy. These guys from Newark, Delaware were aiming for an eclectic sound, mixing hippie twang with what I'm sure they fancied as more sophisticated pop-jazz stylings. When they play just plain twang, it's fine -- they had some assertive, enthusiastic pickers on banjo, pedal steel and electic guitar, and on uptempo tunes sounded kinda like New Riders Of The Purple Sage. But the slower songs and the jazzier riffs reveal a number of problems -- clunky tempo changes, fey vocals, etc. Still, their hearts were in the right place, and this is notable East Coast indiebilly... Worth a spin, but not one that really won me over.
The Singing Sweethearts "Together Forever" (Canatal, 1959) (LP)
(Produced by Art Snider)
This was a Toronto-area country duo, made up of husband and wife Reg and Elanor Bartley. Mr. Bartley owned a barber shop in Long Branch, Ontario, and liked to sing as a sideline. According to the (charmingly misspelled) liner notes, they played with American artists such as "Max Weisman and Le Roy Van Dyke" as well as Canadian country acts like Chef Adams and Bill Long. The songs are mostly covers of stuff like Hank Williams, and Johnny & Jack, though there are some originals including one by the Bartley's, "My Doll."
The Sir Douglas Quintet -- see artist profile
Gene Sisco "Coal Diggin' Country Boy" (Riverside Sound/Triple G Records, 19--?) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Hoffman)
This album is a set of all originals, written by former rocker Gene Sisco... When still a teenager in the early 1960s, Sisco was in an Ohio rockabilly band called the Ramblin' Ramblers, with singer Donnie Bowshier -- they put out some singles and toured with Hardrock Gunter... This set is more solidly country, though, and of a much later vintage -- the early '80s perhaps? Sisco also seems to have moved to Kentucky somewhere along the line...
Betty Jean Sites "A Heart Full Of Country" (Budro Records) (LP)
Skeptic Union "From The Hills Of Arizona" (SMG, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
A band from Kingman, Arizona with all-original material written by Dan Phillips... This was more in a strummy-acoustic, spacey soft-rock/folkie/psych mode, though you do hear some twang in there. Mostly it's pretty starry-eyed and spaced-out, with some moments that have a Jonathan Edwards-esque feel to them. Mellow, amatuerish, terribly earnest and sincere.
Gene Ski & The Mavericks "Nashville Music" (1971-?) (LP)
A native of Green Bay Wisconsin, Gene Ski (nee Eugene Kurowsky) is best known for his macabre rockabilly classic, "Six Feet Down," which he recorded in 1966, while in his early twenties. This album was recorded several years later when Ski and his band the Mavericks owned and performed at own club in Mentor, Minnesota. The album features a half-dozen Gene Ski originals, including a version of "Feeling Bad," which was the flip side of the '66 single, along with tunes such as "Juke Box Blues," "Papa Had Wild Blood," "Lookin' Out This Window" and "It's A Different Kind Of World," as well as a few classic country covers, songs like "From A Jack To A King" and Leroy Van Dyke's "The Auctioneer." Not a lot of info about this one, though apparently the band included Minnesota keyboardist Jerry Basore on Cordavox; Basore played in several local country groups from the early '60s onward.
Skinny & Liz "Skinny & Liz" (A&R/Hill Creek Records) (LP)
(Produced by Aubrey Richardson)
This duo from Northern Arkansas performed old-timey and hillbilly country and folk tunes at the Mountain View Folklore Society's weekend shows. They are backed here by Jim Walker on lead guitar and Gerald Ivy on bass, playing a set mostly made up of Depression-era oldies, with a mix of secular and gospel material. Unfortunately, the album doesn't give their full names... anyone out there know more about these folks?
J. B. Sky "Reach For The Sky" (Gypsy Child Records, 1977) (LP)
Sleepless Nites "Live At The Garden" (Sleepless Nites) (LP)
A Floridian bluegrass/twang band with a diverse repertoire covering material by Gram Parsons and the Burrito Brothers, jazzman Chick Corea, along with songs such as Bill Kirchen's "Too Much Fun" and rock oldies like the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love." This album was recorded live at the Detroit Hotel's Garden Restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida on August 28, 1982, by a quartet that included Chris Fanfil on mandolin, Lance Lubin playing bass, Stephen Stadler plunking banjo and Dennis Wallace on guitar.
Slewfoot "Live At The Bowery" (Homa, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by David Barnes & Danny M. Hilley)
A working band from Anderson, South Carolina, these folks were playing a regular gig in a Myrtle Beach bar when they cut this record. Looks like a bunch of the songs were originals as well...
Slide Bar "Hard Livin' Country Boys" (Neon Cowboy Productions, 1988) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Duggan & Larry Benson)
Straight outta Reydon, Oklahoma, brothers Buddy Parman and Lyle Parman led this rockin' twangband, writing all but one of the songs, penning tunes such as "Outlaw," "Weekend Cowboy," "Simple Life" and the title track, "Hard Livin' Country Boys." They cap things off with an unlikely cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" (go figure!) and the pickin' is all from their own local band, except for some steel guitar courtesy of Speedy West, Jr.
Sligo Studio Band "Introducing..." (GBS Records, 1981) (LP)
Sligo Studio Band "Sings Super Hits" (GBS Records, 1981) (LP)
Sligo Studio Band "Sings Super Hits Old & New" (General Broadcasting Service/GBS Records, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Ernie Bivens & Vince Chory)
Del & Sue Smart "Singing Country Favorites" (Alshire/Somerset, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by Cliffie Stone)
This is the lone album by Del and Sue Smart, a husband-wife duo who headed West from Missouri back in 1950, tried their luck in LA and then settled down in California's Great Central Valley, where they became fixtures on the West Coast country scene. The Smarts recorded several singles and toured regionally in California and the Pacific Northwest, but they never quite made enough momentum to crack into the national market. This is a charming record, if a bit low-key for a Bakersfield album -- there's some swell pedal steel and electric guitar, as well as some jaunty, uptempo tunes, but mostly it sounds like the band was being reined in, and there isn't quite as much bounce as you might like... (Unfortunately, this is one of those cheapo budget albums and doesn't have any liner notes, so the backing musicians are unknown...) Del Smart passed away in 1984, though Sue Smart remained active in the California country scene, though more on the business side of things, building up the booking agency that she and her husband started in the '70s. At any rate, if you like the Bakersfield Sound, you'll want to give this one a whirl.
Bobby Earl Smith "Muleshoe Dry Creek Inn" (Jackalope Records, 1980) (LP)
Austin local Bobby Earl Smith was a member of Marcia Ball's old band, Freda And The Firedogs, whose near-miss early-'70s grab at the brass ring of fame was part of the outlaw scene's legend for years and years. Atlantic Records honcho Jerry Wexler came to Texas to cut an album with them, but left it in the can for whatever reasons -- Ball went on to cut one more country record, but turned towards the blues instead, while her Firedogs cohorts went on to projects of their own. Smith was a criminal law attorney (even back in the '70s) so he had a real day job, though he obviously kept up playing music, too. On this privately released album, Smith called in an all-star cast of Texican buddies, including Marcia Ball, along with Alvin Crow, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and even the elusive Milton Carroll, for a groovy, rootsy down-home set. Good luck trying to track this one down, though some of the songs resurfaced a couple of decades later on his Rearview Mirror album, seen below.
Bobby Earl Smith "Rear View Mirror" (Muleshoe Records, 2000)
Gary Smith "We Had Love" (JOHNdANNA Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Gary Smith, A. V. Mittelstedt & David McCumber)
The trick to this record is that you just have to skip Side One, where all the goopy stuff is frontloaded, in a misguided attempt to catch the last lingering vapors of the then-dead countrypolitan sound. Side Two shows more promise: a Houston, Texas songwriter with a set of almost all-original material, Gary Smith kicks the second half off of his album with "Put A Nipple On A Bottle Of Ripple," a robust novelty number that joins a few other country tunes in the booze-bottle-as-pacifier subgenre. Nothing else on this album is quite as good, although his version of Dallas Frazier's "Elvira" is okay, and the twang on this side is a welcome relief after the drippy songs on Side One. The slow stuff is way too gooey and croony-countrypolitan for me -- Smith sounds a lot like Roger Miller when he's in ballad mode, but sings even slower, if you can imagine. Most of this album is overly self-serious and lethargically paced -- a country quaalude on vinyl. But fans of mega-mellow countrypolitan might want to check it out. Maybe. Included in the local, Lone Star backing band are guitarist Randy Cornor and Robby Springfield on steel guitar, as well as Russell Cooper on bass and harmony vocals. Not the greatest record, for sure, but it has its moments.
Herbie Smith "By Request" (Astral 7 Records) (LP)
Herbie Smith "For Country Lovers" (Astral 7 Records, 1971-?) (LP)
(Produced by Herbie Smith & Wes Owen)
A picker and singer from Dayton, Ohio, Smith plays several Kris Kristofferson covers, one by Haggard, and some pop stuff such as the inevitable "Proud Mary" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and one Smith original, "I Can't Say I'm Sorry" credited to his own Astral Seven Publishing. This album was recorded with local musicians such as Ed Mull on steel guitar, Eddie Drake on dobro, and Dumpy Rice playing piano. I'm guessing at the release date, based on the inclusion of "Help Me Make It Through The Night," which was a hit for Kristofferson in 1970.
J. D. Smith & Darlene Vance "Just The Two Of Us" (Transworld Records, 19--?) (LP)
Although this record label was from Bristol, Virginia, I believe J.D. Smith and Darlene Smith Vance were a brother-sister duo originally from Pike County, Kentucky. By the time Mrs. Vance passed away in 2001, she and the rest of her family, including JD and her other siblings, had moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Not sure when this album came out, but it has an early/mid-'80s look.
Jon Smith "Living The Country Life" (Mulberry Records) (LP)
(Produced by Mike Scott)
Kit Smith "From A Prison To The Free World" (Turquoise Records, 1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Woods)
Straight outta Bakersfield, T. D. "Kit" Smith was an ex-con and a big fan of Merle Haggard... Born in Alabama, raised in Texas, and incarcerated for a crime not specified in his album's liner notes, Smith settled down in California where he drove trucks and became an iron worker. He wrote most of the songs on here -- there's an old Bob Wills song, "Convict And The Rose," that kicks things off -- and they tell a story of jailhouse conversion ("I Saw The Master's Face") and reentry into civilian life, on "From A Prison To The Free World." He also pays homage to John Wayne on "The Duke Is Gone," which he wrote the day that Wayne died.
Mike Smith "Country Volunteers" (Auction, 1976) (LP)
This band from Ann Arbor has roots that date back to the early '70s, when pickers Michael Smith and Kevin Lynch started jamming together at coffeehouses and bars, particularly at a place called Mr. Flood's Party, where they eventually became the house band. They first adopted the name "Country Volunteers" in 1974, and kept that name throughout the decade, while the band's membership fluctuated (as they are wont to do...) This was their lone album as the Country Volunteers, a nice mix of old-school hill music (Roy Acuff, The Carter Family) and Mike Smith originals with a western swing feel... Among the guest players on this album is banjoist Bill Keith, who had an instrument specially designed for him by the banjo company Smith co-owned. Towards the end of the decade, the Country Volunteers began to morph into the Cadillac Cowboys, a band that continued to perform for many years, and has released at least one album under that name. The group has an unusually detailed website that gives a very complete history of the band, as well as the local scene they were part of...
Mike Smith & The All-American Band "Hell Yes I Cheated" (Silver Fox Records, 1983-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jesse Evatte)
This South Carolina band worked for the George Jones "Possum Holler" restaurant chain, circa 1977-78... The liner notes talk about their work "in the last few years" since then, so I'm guessing this is an early '80s album. The title track is a Glenn Sutton song, recorded by numerous artists, with additional songs by Wayne Kemp, Bobby Braddock, and some other intriguing songwriters. Dunno if any of these guys really went on to do much in the music biz, but they had a nice whirl at grabbing the brass ring on this disc...
Sammi Smith - see artist discography
Smoke "This Highway" (1979) (LP)
Smokey & Sam "Age'in Romeo" (Hillside Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Smokey & Sam Sinclair)
Sam Sinclair and Smokey Sinclair were a husband-wife duo from Suffolk, England who recorded this indie album at a studio in Ipswich, mainly as a love-letter to each other, but also in tribute to the American roots music they clearly both revered... Neither was a particularly strong singer, but their backing band was pretty good, and this album is packed with original material (and several nice cover songs) including Smokey's affectionate homage to her hubby, the adorably mis-apostrophed "Age'in Romeo," which gives a wink and a nod to the foibles of middle-aged men. She wrote several songs on here, he adds a few as well. I don't know if the Sinclairs played at pubs, or what, but this is certainly a charming memento of the British country scene, back in the days of disco. Oh, and for those of you keeping track of steel guitarists, sideman Roger Peachy adds some nice licks on this disc.
Michael Smotherman "Michael Smotherman" (RCA-Windsong, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Milt Okun)
Chances are, this one has slipped under your radar until now... It's definitely worth tracking down, though. Originally from a tiny town called Erick, Oklahoma, straight out of high school in the early '70s pianist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Smotherman made his way out to LA, playing in the rock band Buckwheat and later landed a gig playing keyboards with the avant-rock group Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.. His more rural Sooner roots came out, though, and after meeting fellow Okie Roger Miller, Smotherman started writing more country- and roots-oriented material, and had remarkable success getting his songs placed with big-name established artists such as Glen Campbell, Ray Charles and Waylon & Willie. On this solo set, Smotherman rolls through a variety of styles, opening with an earthy roadhouse number that brings Gary Stewart or Delbert McClinton to mind... There are also hints of Dr. John, Little Feat, and various Southern Rock and Memphis soul sounds, with cameos by Campbell and Miller on a tune or two. All in all, it's pretty tasty, although within the album's wide variety, there are a few iffy tunes, though nothing that really falls flat. Smotherman recorded several more albums -- and says he was never that happy with any of them -- but increasingly he concentrated on his career as a songwriter. Right after this record came out, Glen Campbell recorded an entire album's worth of Smotherman's material (1978's Basic) and by the 1990s, Smotherman had moved to Nashville, where he penned several hits for that era's crop of stars, including tracks by Trace Adkins, Brooks & Dunn, Lila McCann, and even Kenny (Sauron) Rogers. Not bad for a kid from Oklahoma!
Pete Smythe "The Bottom Ten From The Barbed-Wire Network" (Stylist Records) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux & Danny Epp)
Talk show personality and bandleader Pete Smythe hosted the "Pete Smythe General Store," a long-running series of radio and TV shows in the Denver area, portrayed as cracker-barrel sessions held in the fictional general store of the equally fictional East Tincup, Colorado. Smythe was a radio performer and script writer in the 1940s, as well as leading his own jazz-oriented regional dance bands. When he started his radio show, he took on a country music persona, but regularly invited jazz and mainstream pop artists onto his show, jamming with guests such as Chet Atkins and Duke Ellington, with backing from his band of locals. The show ran from 1948-1969, and this souvenir album gives some idea of what the show was like, with numerous photos of Smythe, his band, and numerous celebrity guests.
Doak Snead "Think Of Me Sometime" (Crazy Cajun, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux & Danny Epp)
Texas native Doak Snead was a notable member of the early '70s Austin scene, and later enjoyed some modest success as a mainstream songwriter in Nashville... This was his first album recorded under his own name...
Doak Snead "Powderhorn" (Hear-Say, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Lloyd Maines & Doke Snead)
Idiosyncratic, far-flung country-folk twang with a few forays into semi-acoustic soft rock... A lot of this reads like truly eccentric oddball-local stuff -- real naif-art stuff -- although there are several songs that will resonate with fans of Texas singer-songwriter material. The best track on here is Snead's autobiographical, heartfelt "A Family Portrait," where he remembers growing up dirt poor, with one of the most vivid images being his father wearing two pairs of socks to hide the holes, but telling his kids it was because the weather was cold ("Perhaps the most honest song I ever wrote," he observes in the liner notes... Certainly it's the track that stood out the most for me.) Other songs have a distinctly Guy Clark-ian feel, such as "Tribute To Dorothy Thomas" and "The Ballad Of Dogger Lee," a weeper about his childhood pooch. Some songs ramble musically and are a little too dorky for me, but others hit home, and as he usually does, steel guitarist Lloyd Maines adds a lot of oomph to the proceedings. Not a classic album, but worth checking out if you're diving deep into obscuro Lone Star twang.
Roy Sneed "...And The Western Gentlemen" (Custom Fidelity) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Evans & Clark de Coux)
This live album was recorded at the San Luis Obispo Men's Colony, on the central California coast, probably sometime around 1970-71... Bandleader Roy Sneed (1924-2005) was a Louisiana Hayride regular who also played bass with Bill Carlisle in the early 1950s. The Western Gentlemen band included a jazz player on trumpet and vibes as well as more traditional country instrumentation... The more current songs in their repertoire included "Silver Wings," "Is Anybody Going To San Antone" and "Okie From Muskogee."
Curly Snow & The Snowmen "Our Kinda Country" (High Country Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Hunter)
Southwestern pedal steel player Curly Snow led his band, the Snowmen for several decades, at least as far back as the late 1960s, when he was playing gigs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had a long stint as the house band for the Sandia Inn in the mid-'70s. I'm not sure but I think this album -- which looks to be of early '80s or late '70s vintage -- might have been his only record. Anyway, it's a nice set, ranging from Ray Price-style countrypolitan to more vigorous honkytonk, with Snow swapping licks with fiddler Red Herron, while his son, Mike Snow keeps the tempo going on drums. It's all cover tunes, but sweetly played and with great confidence.
Rick Snow "Beaten, Robbed And Raped In LA" (Snow Tracks, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Snow & Dave Jones)
Snuff "Snuff" (Elektra, 1982) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Gernhard & Ron Saint Germain)
Originally formed as a trio in the early '70s, Snuff expanded and evolved into a successful late '70s bar-band from Virginia Beach, Virginia that scored a major-label contract. Their deal resulted in two albums, both recorded locally in Richmond, VA. This debut set is basically glossy pop-twang/soft southern rock that might be considered sort of proto-red dirt music, despite the slick early '80s production. There are definite country-rock touches as well, including a nod towards Little Feat called "Willin' (A Tribute To Lowell George)" and a perky twang tune called "The Boys From Oklahoma." There's also a nice version of Steve Gillette's "Happy Hour," which was the band's lone entry into the country charts, pegging out at #71, before the band pivoted to more of a rock-oriented direction. Around the time this album came out, Snuff performed frequently at local clubs such as Country Comfort and The Tobacco Company.
Snuff "Night Fighter" (Elektra, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Phil Gernhard & Ron Saint Germain)
They shifted focus a little here, aiming more directly at the pop-rock market... They met with about the same level of success: the single, "Bad, Bad Billy" peaked at #88 in the pop charts, and that was about it for Snuff as a national act. The band has stayed together/reformed/etc. through the decades, though, and remains a local fave.
Diane Solomon "Live On Tour: Recorded At The 1981 Glen Campbell Tour" (Bulldog, 1981) (LP)
An American country singer who emigrated to the UK in the early 1970s, Diane Solomon became a popular folk and country singer, even landing her own TV show on the BBC. She recorded several albums, including this live set made when she joined Glen Campbell as part of his UK road show.
Sonoma Drifters "Sonoma Gold" (D & M Records, 1980) (LP)
The Sons Of The Purple Sage -- see artist profile
Chic Sorenson "Sings His Own Songs" (Blue Seagull, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by Ralph Grasso)
I couldn't find a lot of info about this guy, but here's what I got... Originally from Idaho, Sorenson apparently had a song included on Johnny Western's 1962 Have Gun Will Travel album, and wrote the music for the 1974 trash-exploitation film, Pets, which featured vocals by former beauty queen Terri Rinaldi. (Ms. Rinaldi, who was Miss Alabama, 1960 also sings a duet with Sorenson on this album, "Strangers On A Crowded Street"; she previously made an record of her own, with a bunch of his music on it...) Anyhoo, this album starts off strong, with a folk-country twang and stark production style that frames his songs well, in sort of a John D. Loudermilk/Burl Ives/Lorne Greene kinda way... But the material grows weaker and weaker as the record progresses, and Sorenson's singer-songwriter philosophizing wears thin and comes close to self-parody. Side Two closes with "Guide Me, Lord" (not the same song Merle Haggard recorded, but a similar sentiment) and I suppose Sorenson could have had a career in 700 Club-style Southern Gospel, but he seems to have faded from sight after this came out... Fans of cowboy(ish) folk-pop poetics might get into this, though there are better albums in the genre...
The Sorry Muthas "Greatest Hits, Vol.3" (Wampus Cat, 2007)
Old-timey, jug-band-y, acoustic blues and a little bit of swing from a retrodelic band that wowed the Twin Cities crowd back in the late '60s and (very) early '70s... Alumni include steel player Cal Hand, blues picker John Kolstad, and the folk duo Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson, who were involved in the very earliest incarnation of the Prairie Home Companion show. This isn't as "country" as a lot of the other stuff here, but it sure was hippie-counterculture and DIY...!
Sour Mash "Drinks And Goes Home" (IGL) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Peterson)
The first album by this swinging Omaha-area band. Lots of cover songs, such as "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," Paul Siebel's "Louise" and some honkytonk oldies, as well as a few originals, including Jim Pipher's "Last Call Lover," and Randy Barger's "New Man Underground" and "Canadian Hotels." I haven't actually heard this one: anyone out there know what year it came out?
Sour Mash "Sour Mash" (Candy Apple, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by James A. Ludwig)
An amiable country-rock/swing revival band from Omaha, Nebraska, Sour Mash more or less split their repertoire between Asleep At The Wheel-style swing-standards covers -- of songs like "Mack The Knife," "Chatanooga Choo-Choo," and "Barnyard Boogie" -- and tunes from the Emmylou Harris/Gram Parsons canon, such as "Love Hurts," "That's All It Took" and "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose." Yeah, they're derivative: singer Pam Harms had a major Emmylou jones, and the debt to the Wheel is equally clear... But they're charming nonetheless, a nice, unpretentious local band who got the chance to make a couple of records... and did pretty well!
Southbound "A Little Bit Of..." (Music City Records, 1979)
(Produced by David A. Praet & Mildred S. Hammonds)
Frank Hardy, Andy Pollard and the wonderfully-named Lobo Loggins were the three youthful lead singers for this twang band out of Anniston, Alabama, with pedal steel added by a guy named Travis McCurley, who looks like he might have been a few years their elder. They cover some country stuff -- songs by David Allan Coe, Larry Gatlin and others -- but also play some of their own songs. Included are Hardy's "Broken Man," "Lovin' You A Little," by Loggins, and "Simple Man," by Pollard, as well as a few other songs that look like originals, but aren't credited to anyone in the band. They look like such nice young men!
J. D. Souther -- see artist profile
Joe South "Classic Masters" (Capitol, 2002)
A handy 12-song summation of the hippie-era recording career of songwriter Joe South, a twangy, soul-drenched pop genius who wrote a remarkable string of radio hits, ranging from Lynn Anderson's "Rose Garden," one of the defining moments in the 'Seventies countrypolitian scene, to the thunderous hard rock anthem, "Hush," which put the band Deep Purple on the map. South's own versions of these songs are markedly different than the hits -- his "Rose Garden" is cluttered and compact, while his "Hush" is wildly funky and fun. Also included here are "Games People Play," a top Pop hit for South himself in 1969, as well as "Walk A Mile In My Shoes," which was one of his few actual country entries, and several lesser well-known gems from his back catalog. It's more rock than country, but still funky and down home, and worth checking out to see how these great songs found their genesis.
South Loomis Quickstep "South Loomis Quickstep" (Grass Mountain, 1979) (LP)
An amiable set of progressive bluegrass from Northern California... These folks played around Sacramento and the SF Bay Area since the mid-1970s, and when the time came to record their first album, fiddlers Mark O'Connor and Tiny Moore added instrumental heft to their sound, along with banjoist Allan Hendricks, who was pretty zippy himself. They packed their debut album with a bunch of fun cover tunes: Peter Rowan's "Midnight Moonlight," Michael Martin Murphey's "What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round," a 'grassed-up rendition of "Friend Of The Devil" and a nice, scrappy version of "I'll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle." They (goofily) try to clean up the grammar on Gram Parson's "Sin City," and also ambitiously tackle one of David Grisman's spacegrass jazz tunes, "Opus 57." The band had obvious limitations -- the vocals don't quite come together, and O'Connor was playing on another level than most of the other pickers, but if you're willing to accept a level of amateurism, they were a pretty accomplished band with a strong repertoire that reflected some of the best music of the era.
South Loomis Quickstep "Satin Rose" (Copperwood, 1980) (LP)
Where their first album was full of cover tunes, their second album showcased original material written by various bandmembers. Unfortunately it's an uneasy -- some might say unsuccessful -- mix of bluegrass and progressive country-folk, mostly in the Byrds/Dillards range, but with a few dips into softer country-folk material ala John Denver. I guess the hope was for some sort of Desert Rose Band type vibe, but it doesn't really come together, and often feels a bit dreary. The musicianship was solid, even though Anger, O'Connor and Moore had moved on -- the delicate pedal steel by Bill Edwards stands out, though Allen Hendricks' banjo work and Ted Smith's mandolin both get buried in the mix. I guess this is worth a spin, though none of the songs really stood out or stuck with me.
Southern Crescent "Train Time" (USA Records, 1985)
Founded in 1980, this band from Greenville, South Carolina made a go of it in the 'Eighties, releasing two albums and touring regionally before deciding to scale back and become a band-for-hire, rather than trying to make it big on the stadium scene. Their albums are more country and Southern rock-oriented, though later they became more aligned with the "beach music" mellow rock sound of the area.
Southern Crescent "Peaches" (Axbar, 1987)
Southern Crescent "Halfway Home" (Major Recordings, 1982) (LP)
Southern Empire Band "Tex's Jubilee Presents -- Live: Perry Jones Southern Empire Band" (1982-?) (LP)
(Produced by Perry Jones)
Mostly recorded at the Heavenly Recording Studios, but also includes a track recorded live on Sacramento country station, KRAK. With gal singer Svella Jones singing lead on three of the songs.
Southern Empire Band "The Right Combination: SEB III" (Axbar, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Perry Jones)
Hailing from the town of Rio Linda, California (near Sacramento) this West Coast band had clear commercial aspirations and somehow hooked up with the same Texas indie label that later launched the career of Top 40 star Mark Chesnutt... The same magic wasn't happening in '85, though, possibly because these guys were just a little too amateur and not-ready-for-prime-time, although considering what Country radio sounded like at the time, they can be forgiven for the tinkly keyboards and tinny guitars. The song title that drew me to this album, "Vote For Willie," turns out to be exactly what I wanted, a novelty tune about Willie Nelson, and it's also the highlight of the album, a cheerful ditty proclaiming Willie as the nation's potential political savior. I guess he would have legalized weed, at least, although the lyrics don't mention that...
Southern Image Band "Down The Road" (1982) (LP)
(Produced by Sonny Deaton)
Easygoing, unpretentious country-pop from a Lafayette, Tennessee band that started in 1979 and kept together for several decades after releasing this LP in the early '80s. Brothers Keith and Paul Ballou are the lead singers and while at first they may seem a little underwhelming, they grow on you after a while, particularly when singing covers songs such as JJ Cale's "Tulsa Time," Merle Haggard's "Swinging Doors" and even John Denver's "Back Home Again." There's a sincere, laid-back, no muss-no fuss feel about this album that's kind of nice... They also cover a few of Alabama's early hits -- "Tennessee River," "Love In The First Degree" -- that underscore the band's devotion to group-vocal harmony, but again, it's so low-key and relaxed you can't help but get drawn in. The Ballous and various cohorts kept this group going well into the Facebook era, and you can kinda see why the hometown folks would want to come see 'em play. Definitely worth a spin!
Southwind "Southwind" (Venture, 1969) (LP)
This was the first album by the LA band Southwind, who were originally from Oklahoma and are largely remembered as the first band of songwriter John ("Moon") Martin, who later reemerged as a neo-retro rocker in the New Wave era... Here is is in earlier days, making the hippie scene down in SoCal... At the time, though, he wasn't the band's main songwriter, with keyboardist Fontaine Brown and bass player Jim Pulte doing most of the writing. Fontaine Brown was the most accomplished member of the band, having worked with rock'n'roller Del Shannon for several years, as well as some early stuff with Bob Seger in the late '60s; he later hooked up with Dave Edmunds, and had some success as a songwriter in Nashville. (Pulte, it should be noted, also recorded a couple of solo albums after Southwind broke up, and did a little session work, though he mostly seems to have faded from the scene...)
Southwind "Ready To Ride" (Blue Thumb, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Tommy Li Puma)
This is probably Southwind's best-known (and best-selling) album... Although they could legitimately lay claim to a small chunk of country-rock history, there's a lot more post-jug band boogie-rock running through this album, with acid-drenched electrified hippie rock ala the Grateful Dead or Big Brother & The Holding Company being the predominant influence. If you're into authentic hippie rock and are eager to find more, this disc is worth checking out. But other than a cover of Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'," and the album's closer, bassist Jim Pulte's "Ruby Eileen," there isn't really all that much twang.
Southwind "What A Place To Land" (Blue Thumb, 1972) (LP)
Southwind "Southwind" (Cammeron Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Paul Huliba)
Not to be confused with the country-rock jamband above, this was one of several groups to use this name. In this case it was a bluegrass band from Fort Wayne Indiana featuring Kenny DeMarcus (guitar), Jim Corell (mandolin), Kent McLeroth (banjo), Len Prescott (bass) and Vic Rigsby (fiddle). Rigsby composed an original tune, "Kentucky Fried Fiddle," though mostly this was an album of cover songs, drawing on bluegrass standards and gospel songs, honky-tonk country tunes like "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" and even a version of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider."
Southwind "You've Heard It All Before" (Southwind Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Joe Horner & Southwind)
And here's yet another bluegrass band named Southwind, this one based in Richmond, Virginia and active mainly in the late 1970s and early '80s. Bandmembers included Larry Heath, Bob Lewis, Frank Pope, Jim Hatch and Bob Oeriel, with a repertoire that was a mix of traditional bluegrass standards and country- and folk-based material such as Willie Nelson's "Good Hearted Woman," the Bob Wills oldie, "Faded Love" and Gordon Lightfoot's "Redwood Hill." Anyone have more info about these folks?
Speakeasy "Showcase" (A. P. Inc.) (LP)
(Produced by Claude Donica, John Nickel & Jack Moore)
Although this album came out on a Cincinnati, Ohio label, the band was from Tulsa, Oklahoma, working as the house band at the Speakeasy nightclub. The quartet included lead singer Eddie Bishop, guitarist Gary Benningfield, singer Barbara Axley and banjo plunker Bobby Anderson, who played a bluegrassy mix of country, pop and bluegrass tunes. They cover several Beatles songs, do a twangy tuneup of "Proud Mary," along with "Stand By Your Man," "Games People Play" and Terry Fell's "Truck Drivin' Man." There were also a couple of originals: "Shake That Dust Off My Feet" by Gary Benningfield and "Crosses Made Of Wood" by Eddie Bishop, which Bishop also released as a solo single. The group also released another album as a trio in the late '60s, but that was more distinctly a folk-scene thing (although they were also covering the Beatles, with a version of "Rocky Raccoon...")
Don Speer And The Hudson Profit Expedition "This Is The Big One" (Charter Records, 197--?) (LP)
No date or much other info on this eclectic set, which is packed with cover tunes ranging from bluegrasser oldies like "Uncle Pen" and straight-up country, like "Six Days On The Road" to funkier stuff, and more rock-oriented tunes, notably an eight-minute jam on Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie," as well as a couple of Neil Diamond songs. Don Speer may have been related to legendary Southern Gospel singer Brock Speer, patriarch of the Speer Family band, who is also known for singing backup vocals on some of Elvis Presley's earliest recordings. (Although I think an old 1973 notice in Billboard identifying him as Brock Speer's son was inaccurate.) Apparently, during the early 1970s Don was the manager of Larry Benson's independent regional Benson Sound Studio in Oklahoma City, although by the time this record was made, he was living in the Pacfic Northwest and was pretty longhaired and hippie looking... I couldn't find much info about the other guys in this band -- lead guitar Dale Wilson, bassist Phil Cavin or drummer Rick Belyea -- and I don't think any of them stuck with msuic as a full-time gig. If anyone has more info about this band or this album, I'm all ears.
Sunny Spencer "Mama Don't Allow" (Ripchord, 1977)
A veteran of Roy Rogers backing band, The Sons Of The Pioneers, multi-instrumentalist Sunny Spencer was a decades-long show business veteran by the time he recorded this solo set... Spencer played at the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans Museum in Branson; he also did gigs in Vegas and played dixieland jazz with Al Hirt... On this album he turns to some real hillbilly/western oldies, stuff like "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again," along with a slew of western swing tunes. It kicks off with "Mama Don't 'Low," which was the big showstopper in his live shows, with Spencer switching between the nearly two-dozen musical instruments he played.
Splinter "The Place I Love" (A & M Records/Dark Horse, 1974) (LP)
(Produced by George Harrison)
Sure, it's a bit of a stretch to add this spacy '70s rock record to our list of "country-rock" albums... But since it's basically-sort of a secret George Harrison solo album, and since we all dig George's love affair with rockabilly and twang, it's worth checking out, both for the country stuff, and the Beatles-y pop. On paper, the British band Splinter was the Newcastle-based pop duo of Bill Elliott and Bobby Purvis, though Harrison was a heavy presence on their first album, playing numerous instruments, singing harmony and definitively shaping the album's sound. In short, if you like Harrison's early solo stuff, or the Badfinger albums, you oughta love this as well. George plays lead guitar, 12-string, dobro, mandolin and Moog, impishly disguising himself under a variety of easily-cracked pseudonyms ("Hari Georgeson", "Jai Raj Harisein," etc.) This was the first record released by Harrison's Dark Horse label, and the sessions included several powerhouse players drawn from the post-Beatles crew -- Klaus Voorman, Billy Preston, Gary Wright and the like. Several songs, such as "Somebody's City" and "China Light," have a powerfully Harrison-ian feel, with the keening, sensitive vocal style, and the song "Costafine Town" was a successful pop single in the UK. The twangier tunes include the acoustic-oriented "Drink All Day," which showcases some sweet dobro licks courtesy of Mr. Georgeson... This disc was not a huge commercial success, but it is a lovely album, with haunting melodies and a very recognizable sound. Definitely worth a spin!
Splitwater Creek "Split 3 Ways" (Splitwater Creek, 1980)
Spring Wheel "Spring Wheel" (Gulf + Western/Green Bottle Records, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Maduri & Arnie Rosenberg)
A goofy, hippie-era gem, full of unintentionally hilarious songs. This pop-oriented country-rock group was originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where lead singers/songwriters Mike Hay and Ron Jankowski had played together in some youthful, mid-1960s garage-pop bands. They were one of a scant few bands signed to the short-lived Green Bottle label, owned by one-time Hollywood mogul Charlie Greene, and while musically ambitious, the album is thinly produced with a tinny mix that lends itself well to the band's country component, but falls short on their more grandiose moments. There's a prominent Grateful Dead influence -- the Dead in their perkier, more melodic boogie-pop mode -- and some of the uptempo tunes, such as the opening and closing tracks, "Always In All Ways" and "You Ain't Got Nothin', " have a nice, twangy feel. Also running through the record are airy vocal harmonies, from the post-Byrds, CSNY/Poco musical school, and this is where things get fun. There are some truly laughable lyrics, fuzzy-headed, pretentious, flower-child hippie stuff about pretty colors and lullabies, put together in a clunky, artless, charmingly naive kinda way. These guys were clearly hoping for a hit, and though I suppose there's an almost-but-not quite quality to this record, it seems more likely that this album simply wound up being just another music business tax writeoff... Steely Dan fans may delight in (or revile) their absurdly perky cover version of "Only A Fool," where the starry-eyed Spring Wheelers really don't seem to get the cynicism and darkness of the song's lyrics. Pricelessly kitschy stuff. The group also included several of the duo's Cleveland cohorts, including Jankowski's brother Russ and bassist Artie Dussault, who had played with them in local garage bands such as the Tree Stumps; after this band broke up, Ron Jankowski moved out to California, eventually becoming born again and devoting himself to playing Christian pop, while Mike Hay started another local country-rock group called the Stone River Band.
Joel Ray Sprowls' Lincoln Jamboree "Live Saturday Night Country Music Since 1954" (LP)
Joel Ray Sprowls' Lincoln Jamboree "Live - Kentucky State Reformatory" (Lincoln Jamboree Records, 1977) (LP)
A prison concert album by an Opry-esque outfit that featured singers Camille Bingham, Lou Bingham, Charles Durham, Little Becky Sue, Ronnie Benningfield and Vicki Kidd, as well as instrumentalists Carlton Noel and Donnie Shafer. They sing gospel, folk songs and country oldies (such as the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming" and George Jones' "Window Up Above.") It's actually a surprisingly good album -- lots of energy and talent, solid pickers, great enthusiasm... The comedy skits aren't so great, but I bet the inmates still appreciated the thought.
Jean Stafford "Flowers For Mama" (Hadley Records, 1974) (LP)
This is the debut album of Australian country singer Jean Stafford, who nails the Loretta Lynn-soundalike bullseye on song after song. A strong voice, even though her phrasing can feel a little flat at times. If you like Loretta or Rose Maddox's rough-edged rural tones. Stafford was one of Australia's premier country singers during the 1970s, winning numerous awards while sticking pretty close to a traditional, rootsy sound.
Jean Stafford "Jean Stafford" (Hadley Records, 1975) (LP)
Stage Brush "Thank You Very Much: Our 1st Album" (Boss Records, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Tom Jung)
A live album, recorded at Bimbo's nightclub, in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. This group formed out of an earlier rock/oldies cover band called Briskoe, which played around Minneapolis in the early '70s... They switched to country and changed the band name in 1975, still playing oldies, though now covering honkytonk and country classics from the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. By the time they cut this album, they were hip to longhair twangtunes such as "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother" and "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance," which were included in this live set. Starting in 1976, Stage Brush became the house band for the Blainbrook Bowl, a venue in Blaine, Minnesota and played there for nearly a decade, as well as at Holiday Inns throughout the state, and stayed together until 1990.
Stagebrush "Steppin' Out" (Sound 80, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Steve Nelson & Stagebrush)
Stagecoach "Stagecoach" (1976) (LP)
(Produced by Stagecoach & Frank Arnett)
Straight-up '70s country-rock, DIY-style, from San Diego, California...
Stanley Staggers "Country Collection" (STS Records, 1976) (LP)
This album is all cover tunes -- very mainstream material, but on a very low-budget vanity album, with no artwork on the back cover.
Jim Staggs "Tears And Alibis" (GSM, 1979-?) (LP)
Originally from Muncie, Indiana, singer Jim Staggs (1937-2006) played in country bands for several decades, including a stint in Vegas during the '70s. He cut a few singles on the Camaro label in the late '60s/early '70s though as far as I know, this was his only LP. This album includes some outlaw-themed stuff, like "Sex Crazed Cowboy," as well as the title track, "Tears And Alibis." And just for the record, he was not the same Jim Stagg who was a Chicago rock deejay famous for having traveled with and interviewed the Beatles during their early American tours.
Stampfel & Weber "Going Nowhere Fast" (Rounder, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Doyle & John Swenson)
More nutty stuff from Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber of Unholy Modal Rounders infamy... They reprise a bunch of wonderful songs from the days of yore -- vaudeville, Appalachian and Tim Pan Alley oldies, novelty songs and sweet, sincere ballads given a disjointed, squeeky fiddle-and-careless guitar makeover. True to form, Stampfel & Weber play their music in a seemingly haphazard manner, playing "sloppy" just because they can, their actual mastery of the material is so complete that they can relax and enjoy themselves and know their audience will still be along for the ride. Interspersed with the kooked-up renditions of older tunes are some legitimately weirder originals, such as "Jeannie's Dream," a rambling recitation about a woman who finds some old records in her attic and has the cops called on her when she plays them too loud. If you're already tapped into the whole Rounders/Clamtones vibe, you're sure to enjoy this record as well.
Patti Stanford "Introducing Patti Stanford -- Singing The Final Call" (Little Giant Records, 1977) (LP)
Patti Stanford "A Star Rising In The North" (Canasee Records, 197-?) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Wood)
A solid set from upstate New York's Patti Stanford, who sings in a light, clear countrypolitan style worthy of comparison to '70s gals such as Donna Fargo and Lynn Anderson. The album slips from straight-up country-pop into more AOR-oriented soft rock, with maybe a little hint of Karen Carpenter in the mix. Stanford headed to Tennessee to cut this album, with backing by a number of Nashville's finest -- D. J. Fontana, Greg Galbraith, Doug Jernigan, and Bunky Keels, along with the Cates Sisters singing backup. Nothing earthshaking or innovative, but certainly a better-than-average indie album, with smooth, confisent vocals and a professional accompaniment throughout. If you like off-the-radar countrypolitan, you might want to track this disc down.
Pete Stanley & Roger Knowles "Banjo Bounce" (Transatlantic, 1973) (LP)
Pete Stanley & Roger Knowles "Picking And Singing" (Transatlantic, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Ritchie Gold)
A dazzlingly good bluegrass'n'old-timey set from British banjoist Pete Stanley and guitar picker Roger Knowles... This is really quite good -- an excellent repertoire, performed with vigor and conviction. There's a bluesy folk feel to many tracks that reminded me of Norman Blake (and indeed, they cover Norman Blake's "Last Train From Poor Valley," along with tunes by Charlie Poole, Red River Dave, J. E. Mainer, John Prine and the Osborne Brothers... An unusual album for the Transatlantic label, but a good one!
Star Dust "Yellow Jacket" (Stardust Records, 1979) (LP)
A country-rock band from San Antonio, Texas that really played both country and rock... This was their first album and was definitely on the twangier side, including songs such as "Hee Haw," "Loose Louise" and "Some Longnecks Are Rednecks."
Star Dust "Live" (Stardust Records) (LP)
This time around they got more bar-bandy conservative, and less twang-auteur, playing things like medleys of the Beach Boys, Beatles and Kinks along with rock-solid oldies like "Kansas City" and "Great Balls Of Fire", and even a cover of the Pointer Sisters' "Yes We Can, Can."
Star Spangled Washboard Band "A Collector's Item" (Flying Fish, 1977) (LP)
Jan Stark "Ladies Can Be Outlaws, Too" (Ambassador, 1980) (LP)
Produced by Don Davis, Jack Logan & John Denny)
This looks cool, though I couldn't find any information about Ms. Stark or this album. It includes the song "Any Old Cowboy Will Do," which seems to be an original.
The Starlite Ramblers "The New Starlite Ramblers -- 1977" (Rambler Productions, 1977)(?) (LP)
An excellent country-covers bar-band from Southern Colorado, the Starlight Ramblers Band (originally "The New Starlight Ramblers Band") was founded in 1975, and became one of Colorado's premiere indiebilly bands. They recorded several albums in almost a decade together, although it wasn't until their last record that they focussed on writing and recording original material. On this debut disc, they took their cues from bands such as Asleep At The Wheel, playing mainly cowboy and western swing oldies such as "Tumbleweeds," "Thanks A Lot," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," Marty Robbins' "Doggone Cowboy" and "Ghost Riders In The Sky." It might not have been original, but it sure was real!
The Starlite Ramblers "Ain't It The Truth" (Rambler Productions, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by Steven Holland Gerber & Steve Dahl)
This album features more well-selected oldies from folks like Don Gibson, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb, as well as newer tunes like Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina." They also seem to have been pals with songwriter Gary McMahon -- he's not in the band, but they recorded three of his songs on Side Two of the album, including one of his best, "I'm A Real Live Buckaroo." The picking's pretty good too - a thumpy rhythm section but chunky guitars and a pleasantly plinky honky-tonk piano. Lead singer Michael Golden does some nice yodeling, as well as some impressive auction calling on Leroy Van Dyke's "The Auctioneer." (He also sprinkles a few curse words into this live performance, which is ironic considering his later career as a Christian Zionist preacher and conservative radio show host... But, whatever. We've each got our own paths to follow...) Anyway, this is a decent record with its feet equally in the longhair and old-timer traditions, and plenty of twang for all.
The Starlite Ramblers "Live At Apple's" (Rambler Productions, 1981) (LP)
The Starlite Ramblers "It's Enough To Make A Cowboy Outta You" (Rambler Productions, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by RPI)
Excellent! The Ramblers really upped their game on this album of all-original material, with over half the songs written or co-written by keyboard player Steve Fahl, a couple by guitarist Tim McDonald and the rest by Michael Golden. He also cedes some of the vocals to the other guys, and while this album has some rough edges musically (which I like) it also sports a bunch of first-rate obscuro-billy tunes, including two anti-disco anthems, "It's Enough To Make A Cowboy Outta You" and "Cowboy Songs And Beer." The best performances sound a lot like Red Steagall, though some tracks are a little sloppy, particularly the ones where Golden passes the mic to the other guys in the band. But if you're looking for first-rate, pre-hipster indie-twang, this album's a doozy. The album highlight might be "Piece Of Cake," a stinging satire of the stoner-slacker lifestyle, with amiable vocals by McDonald.
The Starlite Ramblers "1992" (Rambler Productions, 1992)
This is a momento of an early '90s reunion show... From 1985-91 Michael Golden fronted "The Colorado Band," which featured some of the guys who'd been in the Ramblers, in particular bassist Jerel Wood, and I guess when the Colorado Band folded, they decided to do a Starlight Ramblers "farewell" concert... Around this time Golden also took a shot at making it as a songwriter in Nashville, though I'm not sure how successful that outing was. He's mostly been in Colorado as far as I can tell, and got heavily into the Christian fundamentalist thing which seems to have been his full-time gig for a long time... A long ways from the drinkin', cheatin' songs of his youth! Hmmm. I know about Golden, but whatever happened to the other guys in the band? Anyone know?
Buck Starr & The Country Outlaws "On Tour" (Starr Records - date unknown) (LP)
(Produced by the Malerba Brothers)
From the album art -- with the giant lapels and even larger muttonchop sideburns -- these guys look like your stereotypical, semi-longhair '70s lounge band, which I suppose they were, although this album gets into deepier, twangier country than I'd imagined. The funniest detail is the "Buck Starr" pseudonym, which has a couple of extra layers... As near as I can figure, Buck might have been the guy's name, but I think he was actually Mike Malerba, who plays bass in the band, along with his brother Tony, who plays drums. In the credits, they're Mike and Tony "Starr," while on the song credits, he lists himself as Malerba, and apparently at the last moment he decided "Buck" sounded even cooler, but forgot to update the credits... Or something like that. Anyway, this is pretty good indie material, with an even mix of cover tunes (George Jones, Johnny Paycheck, Charlie Rich, Jerry Chesntnut and a version the Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man") and strong original material by Mike Malerba, including forlorn weepers like "If You Need Me" and "I Hope I Did The Right Thing." Hailing from Pinellas Park, Florida, Starr has a vocal similarity to Hank Locklin -- and a stylistic one as well, although the music has a more perky, early '70s Nashville feel than the gooey stuff Locklin had devoted himself to... Unfortunately, there's no info about when this came out, and it's hard to tell from the fashion -- it has a 1976-ish feel to it, but it could have been recorded as late as '81 or '82, allowing for fashion disasters. Anyone have more info on these guys?
Cal Starr "New Voice In Town" (Capaco Records, 1962) (LP)
Country singer Cal Starr worked in radio and TV all across the Midwest and South, but found his most success as a concert promoter, putting together package shows in Chicago and the Great Lakes region. This may have been his first album, although he also recorded a number of singles.
Cal Starr "...And Guitar In Nashville" (Fraternity Records) (LP)
(Produced by Ray Pennington)
This disc is a late '60s recording, cut in Nashville for a Cincinnati-based label. It was also a publishing showcase/demo set for the Pamper Music company, where producer Ray Pennington was a longtime staffer, working as composer, engineer and A&R man, and all the songs on this album were from their publishing wing. There's no dat on the album, but the liner notes mention an event in 1966, so this is at least later than that.
Cal Starr "Volume Three" (Rocket Records) (LP)
Kenny Starr "The Blind Man In The Bleachers" (MCA, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Jones)
He's hardly a household name, even to fans of '70s country, but Kansas-born Kenny Starr had a major hit with the title track, "The Blind Man In The Bleachers," a sentimental novelty song along the lines of "Patches" or "Phantom 309" that soared up to #2 on the charts. He never topped that one, and although he had lots of singles, this was his only full major-label album. That's too bad, since the rest of this record is pretty darn good. Of course, I'm partial to the classic studio style of the '60s/'70s-era Decca-MCA producers, with their clear, bright, vibrant sound and emphasis on the melody. And Starr was an artist who fit in well, crooning in a soulful mode that reminds you of Conway Twitty, but also with a few rough edges that ground him in traditional country. Also, there's another novelty weeper on here called "The Calico Cat," which got my attention just because I love kitty-cats. This one's definitely worth tracking down and giving a spin.
Kenny Starr "Kenny Starr" (SRO) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Starr & Terry Rose)
This appears to be an indie record that Starr released well after his mid-'70s salad days... The "SRO" label stands for "Starr-Rose," and was based in Nashville.
Ringo Starr "Beaucoups Of Blues" (Apple, 1970)
(Produced by Pete Drake)
On his second solo album, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr indulged his love of country music, a predilection towards twang which ran back to his winning rendition of the Buck Owens classic, "Act Naturally," as well as two songs he wrote himself, "What Goes On" and "Don't Pass Me By." With veteran pedal steel player Pete Drake acting as the album's producer, Ringo helmed a quick Nashville session that included tons of top talent, pickers such as Charlie Daniels, Jerry Reed, Ben Keith, Jerry Kennedy and Dave Kirby, as well as a teenage Jeannie Kendall singing a duet on "I Wouldn't Have You Any Other Way." That was one of several songs written by Chuck Howard; off-the-radar songsmiths Sorrells Pickard and Buzz Rabin also contributed material, giving this album a fresher flavor than if Ringo had gone in for a bunch of country cover tunes (this in contrast to his first album, which was a reverential set of jazz-pop standards...)
The Staton Brothers Band "The Staton Brothers Band" (Epic, 1972) (LP)
(Produced by John Simon)
The lone album by this SF Bay Area quartet -- an amiable but decidedly second-string hippie rock band, these guys are sometimes mentioned in relation to the country-rock sound, but I think it's more accurate to peg them as a harmony-oriented soft-rock band, ala Crosby Stills & Nash. Sure, they wove in some banjo, dobro and lap steel, but only a couple of songs really have what I'd call a "country" sound. Mostly this is pretty innocuous stuff, although a few tracks are a bit torturous, notably the gooey, gospel-styled "Bridge To Your Faith," which closes the album. Both Staton brothers, Jeff and Mike, went on to more successful careers as backup musicians -- notably playing with Stephen Bishop in the '70s -- and as Nashville songwriters, under the new names of "Jeff Jones" and "Billy London." Here they are when they were still kids, working in the Northern California hippie-rock scene...
George Stavis "Labyrinths" (Vanguard, 1969)
A real folk-freak gem. After a stint in an eclectic college rock band called Federal Duck, where he contributed a few odd, old-timey country ideas, George Stavis took his love of the banjo several steps further and created this intense solo album, with five long tracks that pushed the humble banjo straight into the avant garde. Here, Stavis does for the banjo what Robbie Basho did for the guitar, or John Coltrane did for saxophones, taking a folk instrument and crafting a deep, challenging, expressive instrumental set, melding Appalachian folk, avant jazz and various strains of what would now be called "world music." As would be expected in an album from 1969, Indian classical music is a big influence, and while Stavis can't use a 5-string banjo to replicate the drone of a sitar, he does get the modalities right, and perhaps more impressively his percussionist -- someone playing a very simple single drum -- gets into an intense, tabla-like frenzy, alternating this with a hambone rhythm out of old vaudeville. Stavis covers John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," which probably gives the best impression of what this album sounds like -- I've seen it described as "psychedelic," but I think that's a misnomer: rural jazz is more like it, and pretty dense, rewarding, substantive jazz at that. Fans of later banjo experimentalists such as Tony Trischka and Bela Fleck might want to check this one out... Although this is an obscure album, in many ways it set a benchmark that still challenges the banjo plunking community. (Note: Stavis later was in a late-'60s/early '70s San Francisco Bay Area psychedelic folk group called Oganookie, and released at least one other solo album, many years later...)
Red Steagall - see artist discography
Steamin' Freeman "Greatest Hits" (Caramba, 1975)
Recorded live at Moonie's Irish Pub in SF...
Steamin' Freeman "Full Steam Ahead" (Caramba, 1976) (LP)
A fun, inventive acoustic rock/hippie twang album from the San Francisco Bay Area... Violinist and bandleader Taylor Freeman Lockwood cleverly mixed a lot of different styles into what was called "gypsy rock" at the time, drawing on boogie-blues, bluegrass, SF-style acid rock, bluegrass, Doug Kershaw-style cajun music and Byrds-y country-rock. He's backed here by a confederation of veteran Marin County musicians, including guitarist Larry Cragg (one of Neil Young's go-to guys) and pedal steel player John McFee, known at the time for his work with the local rock band Clover, but destined to back Elvis Costello on his first album, then as a member of the Doobie Brothers. At any rate, this might be a scrappy, DIY souvenir album, but there was some serious talent gathered together, and Freeman has a nice strong presence as a singer and bandleader. The songs are fun, goofy, super-West Coasty novelty tunes, all interlaced with excellent fiddling and good picking throughout. A hippiebilly classic, for sure!
Steel City Band "Steel City Band" (?) (LP)
This was an obscure twang band from Alabama, not to be confused with the obscure funk group from Ohio of the same name...
Don Steele "Let's All Pull Together" (1983) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Sherrill)
Bonnie & John Steele "John And Bonnie" (Ram Records, 1975-?) (LP)
(Produced by Gerald Bennett)
This Texas duo covered a bunch of 'Seventies country-rock and AOR staples -- along with Kris Kristofferson standards such as "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Me And Bobby McGee," you get renditions of "Desperado" and "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles, Michael Murphey's "Wildfire," and a couple of oldies like "Since I Fell For You" (from the pop side) and "She Thinks I Still Care" (from country). Although the repertoire definitely tilts towards country, the instruments are limited to keyboards and acoustic guitar, so don't look for a lot of pedal steel or twang on this one.
Don Steele "Renegade Heart" (Catholic Community Services, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Rick Johnson & Dennis Knutson)
A Seattle-area school superintendant who had recorded an earlier album that raised money for school scholarships, Dr. Don Steele got Willie Nelson to pitch in on this album, which includes a song called "Thank You, Willie." Willie sings along on a version of "Healing Hands Of Time." This album was a benefit for Seattle's Catholic Community Services, a charitable organization that worked with homeless youth.
Rocky Steele "In Nashville" (First American Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced and arranged by Billy Williams)
Apparently, aspiring country star Rocky Steele had a publicity strategy that involved giving out his albums for free at various gas stations, auto shops and car dealerships. (My copy of the album came with a sticker reading "compliments of Harbor Quik Pik Self Service Stations"; I've seen others from National Auto Sales, a car dealership in Bellevue, Nebraska, etc.) I guess it wasn't the greatest plan ever, since no one knows who Rocky Steele was or when he made this album, but the good news is that there are plenty of copies still floating around, and it's actually a pretty good record. Steele was a solid singer, a countrypolitan crooner with a little bit of grit in his voice, sort of in the Dave Dudley/Roy Drusky range, though not as robust as, say, Conway Twitty. There are some cover songs on here, but half the album -- five of the songs -- are credited to Rubel & Connors (whoever they were...) and others may be originals as well. I'm not sure if Mr. Steele was actually Mr. Rubel or Mr. Connors, but it seems fairly likely. If anyone has more info, I'm all ears.
Jim Steffan "Downhome" (Pin Records, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by David Torretta & Stephen Gardner)
Dean Steiding "Take Me Back" (Eagle Records, 1983) (LP)
Stetson "Stetson" (Fast Trout, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Ridley Pearson & James A. Corwin)
A fairly clunky rock-and-country album from a scrappy band out of Bellevue, Idaho... Three songwriters share the credits and the microphone, with Mia Carroll opening the album with her own "Let Him In," a rather frank song about loneliness and horniness that has a so-bad-it's-good quality to it, not just because of the uncomfortably personal lyrics, but also because of her vocals, and the semi-primitive recording quality. The bar-band has chops, and mixes blues-rock and twang riffs with confessional-folkie-style lyrics... Brothers Brad and Ridley Pearson also contribute lyrics that are introspective and unwieldy... This isn't a pop-oriented record as much as a true product of their artistic and philosophic yearnings. I'd be hard-pressed to recommend this based on the music, but if you enjoy obscure, self-released albums simply based on sincerity and authentic personal expression, this one's a doozy. (Worth noting in the liners: a shout-out thank you to future KFAT/KPIG deejay Dallas Dobro, who -- I hadn't known this before -- seems to have been an Idaho native before hanging his hat in the Santa Cruz Mountains... Who knew??)
Shady Stevens "It's Cool And Shady In Nashville" (Tree Top Records) (LP)
(Produced by George Lewis & Ray Warren)
Bob Stewart & The Westerniers "The Sounds Of Bob Stewart & The Westerniers: Our First" (Blue Diamond)
Lots of cover tunes but a mighty nice sound on this indiebilly honkytonk set... Stewart was a younger guy who had a Merle Haggard-ish sound... And he does cover Merle, along with Buck Owens, Lefty Frizzell, Red Steagall, Don Gibson and other classic artists, with solid backing from his own band. There are two Bob Stewart originals on here, "I Just Gave Up The One I Love" and "White Lines On The Highway" which is kind of buried on Side Two... But for listeners who can appreciate cover artists, this is a pretty solid record. Not totally sure where these guys were from -- the only mention of them I can find are show notices for concerts in Maryland around the fourth of July in 1975 (which I think is about when this album came out... although the band had been playing together since the late '60s...) And, yes, they spelled it "Westerniers" on the front and back covers, so I don't think the band name was a typo.
Gary Stewart -- see artist profile
John Stewart -- see artist profile
Lynn Stewart "Honey" (Major Recording Company, 1973-?) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Stewart)
Singer Lynne Stewart hailed from Richmond, Virginia and sang along with the Country Showmen band, featuring Jimmy Stewart on guitar and Kenny Boswell on steel. This set is heavy on country cover songs, including early '70s hits such as "Put Your Hand In The Hand," "Help Me Make It Through The Night," "City Of New Orleans" and "Top Of The World," all of which point to a 1972-73 release date, although I didn't see an actual year on the album itself.
Wayne Stewart & Friends "Aspen Skyline" (Sierra Briar, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by John Delgatto)
An outstanding "progressive" bluegrass set with a song list that digs deep into the country-folk and Southern rock of the time. The album opens with a cover of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and closes with "Ramblin' Man," mixing high lonesome classics by Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers with grassed-up rock songs by J. J. Cale and Stephen Stills. Wayne Stewart was a Kentucky native and childhood friend of newgrasser Sam Bush; he tried to make the scene in hippie California, but returned home in the early '70s to co-found a band called the Bluegrass Alliance. Then he ping-ponged around for a while -- he recorded an album with a teenaged Sam Bush spotlighted in the band Poor Richard's Almanac, and went back to the West Coast to kick around with the Dillards and other folks in SoCal scene. This album was his musical swan song -- according to the liner notes, Stewart got born again and gave up on the business side of music, but he agreed to record this album for Sierra Briar, and fronted a great band packed with little-known artists. Fiddler Vassar Clements adds plenty of tasty licks, and a couple of guys were in John Denver's early-'70s band, dobroist Steve Weisberg and banjo picker John Sommers (who had composed Denver's big hit, "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." Stewart was a fine picker himself, but it's as a singer that he really distinguishes himself -- his earthy, soulful, country-tinged vocals remind me of Peter Rowan's singing of the same era, rural stuff with a tinge of Jimmy Martin-style bluesiness. This is a nice record, definitely worth checking out!
The Stills-Young Band "Long May You Run" (RCA, 1976)
This was a one-off record by frequent collaborators and on-again/off-again bandmates Stephen Stills and Neil Young, of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY fame. It's mostly eclectic soft-rock, as you'd expect, though Young contributed about two-and-a-half decent country-rock tunes. Nowadays this is often listed as a Neil Young album, which is inaccurate though understandable: his stuff is the best material on here, and while Stills had an intriguing melodic pop sensibility, his lyrics were total crap. Case in point: the bland sexual bragadoccio of "Make Love To You," Stills' first song on the album, which is sort of a sad knockoff of his old free-love anthem, "Love The One You're With" -- with his gooey love-god persona as cringeworthy and embarrassing now as it was then. Anyway, I used to own a copy of this that someone gave me when I was a kid, and I still feel the same way about it: "Long May You Run" and "Midnight On The Bay" are really the only two songs on here worth keeping on your radar...
Duncan Stitt "It's The Music In Me" (BIRC, 1978) (LP)
Piano player Duncan Stitt was a mainstay of the late-'70s Tucson, Arizona alt-country scene, playing in the Saddle City Band and as part of the house band at the Outlaw nightclub. I believe this was his first solo album, still playing country, though he later switched to pop and R&B and other more lucrative styles.
Billy Stone "Pictures Never Lie" (Allgood Music, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Billy Stone)
Stone Country "Stone Country" (RCA, 1968)
Before he moved to Texas to become a charter member of the outlaw scene, songwriter Steve Young was in LA, working with folks like Van Dyke Parks and Stephen Stills... He also formed this hippiedelic country-rock band that put out one album, then folded up. The 2008 reissue on Rev-Ola records (linked to here) has a couple of bonus tracks.
Stone Creek String Band "Half A Live At Dino's Lounge" (Scratched Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Medlin & The Stone Creek String Band)
A South Carolina outlaw-bluegrass band recording one side of the album live at a club in Greenville and one side in the studio. They're bluegrass-y but they cover Emmylou Harris, Little Feat, Steve Goodman and Paul Simon, throw in a version of "I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande," and include one original, "Her Song," by singer-mandolin picker John Olund. As far as I know, this was their only album.
Jason Stone & The Classics "Misfortune In Gold" (Paragon Records, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Jason Stone & Gary Laney)
A youthful twangster from Freeport, Illinois, Jason Stone wrote all but two of the songs on this album, with the remaining tracks by Bobby Fischer, including "Cheatin' In The Key Of C." One song, "In Some Other Place And Time," is a duet with Arleen Harden, of the '60s-era Harden Trio -- Bobby Harden also sings backup on this album.
Stone Mountain Johnny Band "Mountain Fresh" (Cisco, 1981) (LP)
A longhaired indie twang band that played gigs in the Priest River, Idaho/Spokane, Washington area, circa 1976-1984. In case you're baffled by the band's name, "stone Johnnies" are old rock pile cairns used as trail markers, and built by shepherds, backpackers, faeries, or sometimes by pranksters out on a hike. Neat name.
Stone Oak "Riding With The Wind" (Trade Wind, 1981) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Mason & Andy Waterman)
Bluegrass and acoustic swing by an electic ensemble from Madison, Wisconsin... They do Appalachian oldies such as "Banks Of The Ohio" alongside novelty numbers like "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," which they probably learned via Asleep At The Wheel, and Bill Kirchen's party-down classic, "Too Much Fun."
Jerry Stoner & The Rhythm Masters "Our 2nd Album" (Pro-Art, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Parvin Tramel)
An odd, charming record from Saint Louis with album art that looks like it should be a super-cool set by some Midwestern hipsters, though if truth be told it's sort of super-normal... Lead singer Jerry Stoner has a distinctly middle-aged voice with a limited power supply; he wasn't a great singer, although his heart was clearly in the right place. He covers songs like "Faded Love" by Bob Wills, Red Simpson's "Close All The Honky Tonks" and the Jim Reeves oldie, "Little Old Dime," as well as some R&B numbers such as Allan Toussaint's "Mother-In-Law" and Gary U.S. Bonds' "New Orleans." It's on the uptempo stuff that the record falters most, but even though these guys were a little creaky around the edges, they still sound like they were having fun, and if you're the forgiving kind, you can kind of get onto their vibe and get into what they were laying down. Not a great record, but a cool one, in its own way... A nice snapshot of a just-plain-folks band from a bygone era. (By the way, has anyone ever laid eyes on their first album...??)
Stone's River Band "Stone's River Band" (1977) (LP)
(Produced by Stone's River Band & Fred Cameron)
Before he established himself as a solo artist, Steve Wariner worked in Nashville as a session picker, notably in the studio run by producer Mike Shrimpf. This early band includes both Wariner and Shrimpf, playing a mix of covers and originals, with Warniner playing bass, guitar and even some steel on one of the songs. The album includes three songs credited to Wariner: "Blonde Haired Woman," "My Greatest Loss" and "The Whole World Is Smiling But Me."
Stone's Throw "Suppressed Desire" (Sierra Briar, 1980) (LP)
This San Diego-based acoustic swing band picked up roughly where Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks left off, delving into vintage swing music with bright, lively enthusiasm. Founded in the late '70s, they were regional favorites and had a crowning moment when they were chosen to play at the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The group centered around singer Molly Stone, who also played flute, saxophone and bass and, as heard on this album's opening track, could yodel up some impressive scat singing. This live album captured them during a 1979 concert -- the mix is a little thin, and their performances aren't completely earth-shaking but they are charming and bright, a nice document of a well-regarded local band. This is pretty much straight-up retro-jazz, covering a bunch of Depression era classics; their versions of Oscar Levant's "Wacky Dust" and the "Chiquita Banana" song are standout novelty numbers.
Stoney Brook "Friday Night At Leon's" (Thunderhead, 1979) (LP)
Bluegrass-y stuff from a shaggy, longhaired band out of Asheville, North Carolina... Side One spotlights original material by bandmembers Gary Wiley and Don Mills, while Side Two features a bunch of golden age classics by the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs and Roy Acuff.
The Stoney Creek String Band "Half Alive At Dino's Lounge" (Scratched Records, 198--?) (LP)
(Produced by Bill Medlin & The Stoney Creek String Band)
This ragged, twangy band from Greenville, South Carolina took their cues from folks like Gram Parsons and Clarence White, with bar-band bluegrass covers of country-rock classics such as Emmylou Harris' "Amarillo," Little Feat's "Willin'," and Steve Goodman's "City Of New Orleans," along with various bluegrass and old-school country oldies. One of the band's driving forces seems to have been mandolin picker John Oeland, who also contributed the album's one original tune, "Her Song," along with some spirited though chunky solos. In general, these guys weren't what you'd call slick, virtuoso performers, but they definitely were into it and generated a pretty fun vibe. Side One of the album was recorded live at a Greenville bar called Dino's Lounge, which was the band's main stomping ground -- Side Two is a studio set. Also featured are banjo plunker Ken Camp and gal singer/bassist Gail Cook. She sounded a little rough around the edges but enjoyable as a soloist, and definitely had a little bit of a musical crush on Emmylou... though didn't we all, back in the day? A nice example of a lively local band having a lot of fun. The band was together through the mid-1980s, and as far as I know this was their only album.
Patsy Storm "The Girl That Made The Harmonica Go Country" (Storm Records, 1986-?) (LP)
(Produced by Zyndall Raney)
Step aside, P. T. Gazell...!! An acolyte of hillbilly harpman Wayne Raney, this gal from Mountain View, Arkansas cut an album of country instrumentals with a local crew made up of Hank Blumenthal (banjo), Eulaine Blumenthal (bass), Ken Burge (dobro), Scotty Branscum (fiddle) and Comer Mullins (guitar). Her idol, Wayne Raney contributes brief liner notes and his son was the session's producer.
Stouder & Kline "Cosmic Croonies" (Croonie Tunes, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by J. W. Kline & Les Stouder)
Oddball indie-folk-twang by Indiana's Les Stouder & J. W. Kline, who made the trek to Nashville to record this at the House Of Cash studios... This is a genuinely nutty, naifish album -- poorly mixed, enthusiastically performed, with oddball, introverted, inscrutable songs galore. There's enough pedal steel to qualify this as "-billy" material, though also some saxophone, for which we'll forgive them, since they misspelled the instrument ( i.e. "saxaphone") and it's not terribly prominent. The key here is the weirdo songwriting -- rambling, self-indulgent, hard to get a read on, a singular, ultra-DIY, ultra-Midwestern kinda thing... Folks who dig the Holy Model Rounders/Clamtones recordings might enjoy this as well. Highlights include "We Don't Need No Honkies," a rambling memoir which has a slightly Harvey Pekar-ish feel to it; the entire album is made up of original material, and if you like obscure outsider art, this one's for you. Not sure what happened to Kline, but Stouder apparently got into real estate and various business enterprises -- and here's his hippie past!!
Stout & Allen "It's About Time" (Rainbow Star Publishing, 1980)
Randa L. Stout "Rendezvous With Randa" (Randa Records, 1986) (LP)
(Produced by Randa L. Stout, Wilson Dalzell & Chris Rathert)
Ms. Stout grew up in the Ozarks, in Ellington, Missouri but was living in Highland Illinois when she recorded this album, which includes a bunch of her own material.
Donnie Stovall & The Country Rock Express "Straight From The Heart And Soul" (VMS) (LP)
Rosemary (Stovall) "Rosemary" (Country Life Records) (LP)
Robb Strandlund "Robb Strandlund" (Polydor, 1976) (LP)
Songwriter Robb Strandlund was an early figure on the California country-rock scene, best known for co-writing a huge Top 40 hit for the Eagles -- "Already Gone" -- and over the years he's placed dozens of songs with big, brand-name artists. This was his first album, recorded with longtime collaborator Chris Darrow, and it remains, to my ears, one of the great classics of '70s hippiebilly country. And really, there are only two songs on here that I really like, but what amazingly great, awesome twangtunes they are: "Just Another Country Song" is an excellent song about playing for tips in a dive bar, while "All I Really Want To Do Is Go" is one of the all-time great alt-country weepers, on a par with JD Souther's "If You Don't Want My Love" and Lucinda Williams' "Side Of The Road." I've played them both on the radio about a bazillion times, and they were favorites of mine as a kid when I'd hear them on KFAT, back in the goodle days. Steel player Tom Brumley (of Buck Owens' Buckaroos) adds some really sweet licks, while singer Cindy Edwards adds some nice, twangy harmonies. (She and Darrow later joined Strandlund in a band called the Rank Strangers, which cut an album a couple of years after this... Also worth tracking down.) Anyway, this record is a real gem, with a couple of tracks that are must-haves for any devoted fan of the era's best twang. It also have his own version of "Already Gone," in case you'd like to compare and contrast.
Strange Brew "Strange Brew" (Juke Records Of Tennessee, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Farrell)
The Strommen Brothers "What A Way To Go" (Orphan Records, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Dan Hoffman & Ernie Winfrey)
The Strommens -- brothers Eliot Strommen and Del Strommen -- were from Vandalia, Montana, way up North, though they indulged in some big-city pop-country sounds. This album kicks off with a bunch of "sunshine country," poppy stuff reminiscent of Coke's "I'd Like To Teach The World" commercial, as well as the countrypolitan sounds of an earlier era. Indeed, although it's well-produced some of this sounds a little out of date -- like stuff you'd hear on the radio circa 1973. The studio crew they assembled for their Nashville sessions -- Jimmy Bryant, Johnny Gimble, Charlie McCoy, Hal Rugg, Buddy Spicher, et.al., -- were heavyweight pros hired by Nashville DJ-turned-record producer Dan Hoffman. Hoffman, who had his hands in the lucrative publishing business, funnelled several songs onto this album, including several poppy tunes written by Johnny Slate for the Tree publishing company, and one that Hoffman co-wrote with Chuck Woolery. There's also a more "outlaw" side to the album -- Side Two kicks off with Bobby David's raunchy "What A Way To Go," along with Eliot Strommen's "I Ain't Blind" and a funky cover of the country chestnut, "Cigarettes, Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women," all of which have a rough-hewn Tompall Glaser-ish feel. Nice version of Leroy Van Dyke's "Auctioneer," as well... All in all, a solid album from some Big Sky cowboys off to make it big in Music City... definitely worth a spin!
Gary Strong "Gary Strong & Hardtimes" (Central Records, 1983) (LP)
Yeah, okay, maybe he's considered to be more of a bluegrass artist, but I had to include this album since he does a cover of Don Everly's fab twangtune "Brother Jukebox," a song I really love. So, he's got my vote!
John Stuckey "A Little Exposure" (Texas Re-Cord, 1974-?) (LP)
(Produced by Huey P. Meaux)
A weird, cool, swampy Southern album that should appeal to fans of Tony Joe White and Larry Jon Wilson. A country DJ from Houston, John Stuckey had a slight local hit with the stoner anthem, "Seeds & Stems," and he released a couple of singles in addition to this album. He seems to have been tight with Jerry Jeff Walker, thanking him in theliner notes and having him as a guest on one track. Apparently he later became a well-known tattoo artist, or so they say...
Stumpwater Jak "Too Many Outlaws" (Pantheon Studios, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Carl Hamrick & Rick Hamrick)
This hippiebilly band from Phoenix, Arizona featured lead guitar by Jerry Gropp (who had recorded and toured with Waylon Jennings in the '60s), keyboards from Steven D. Brown (who had previously held down a longtime gig playing in the house band at the Palomino Club in Albuquerque) and drumming and harmony vocals by Michael Hounshell, from the local hippiefolk band Mason Bricke, along with bassist Gary Clemmons... Other than a cover of Louis Jordan's "Choo-Choo-Ch-Boogie," this album is packed with original material, songs such as "Fill 'Er Up Again," "Beer Drinkin' Song" and "Too Many Outlaws." You may detect a pattern here? Modern-day desert honkytonk, with a longhair twist.
Sugarbush Revue "Ozark Mountain Music Show" (Audioloft Studios) (LP)
(Produced by Max Sutton & Brad Edwards)
Yet another Missouri-based Ozarks musical variety show! The Sugarbush Revue's cast of musicians included Denver Golden (fiddle and guitar), Eric Gumm, Greg Harmon (banjo), Sherri Harmon (piano), and Don Sharp (lead guitar), singing a bunch of chestnuts and hits of the day. There's no date on this this one, but I'm guessing 1981-82, since they cover some contemporary Top Forty stuff like "You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma," which was a hit for David Frizzell and Shelly West in 1981 and Eddie Rabbitt's "Step By Step," also from '81.
Suitcase "Long Gone... Got Away Lucky" (Special Rider, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Frank Salamone, James Steigmeyer & Michael Scully)
Acoustic blues from the Midwestern duo of Frank Salamone and James Steigmeyer (aka Suitcase) with Alan LeSert on bass and a couple of gals adding harmony vocals on a tune or two. Salamone apparently owned a record store in Grand Rapids, Michigan and formed a musicial partnership with Steigmeyer in the mid-'70s which brought them into the orbit of the Twin Cities folk scene...The influences of blues revivalists such as Bob Brozman and David Bromberg are readily heard on this album; although Suitcase didn't quite have the charismatic razzle-dazzle of the brand-name blues dudes, this is a nice little record... If you like Bromberg, or George Gritzbach, this is worth checking out. Apparently, in later years Salamone was debilitated by muscular dystrophy and had to abandon his performing career and passed away in his 60s; Steigmeyer also performed under the stage name of "Jimmie Stagger," though I don't know if either of them recorded anything outside of this album.
The Leo Suiter Show "...Performs At The 1976 Fort Rucker 49'er Party" (Happy Valley, 1976) (LP)
Mr. Suiter was an old-timer from Daleville, Alabama who kept his band together for several decades, barely scraping by after quitting his day job as a flight instructor for the state of Alabama. While doing research on these albums, I came across some documents from a 1990 tax evasion case, where the IRS mercilessly raked the old guy over the coals, despite the fact he'd only been making peanuts -- an income barely in the thousands -- for over a decade. (I guess Suiter supplemented his music income by a little side action with some off-the-books vending machines... and the authorities tend to frown on that sort of thing.) Anyway, depressing as it is, the court case offers a very revealing look at the economic realities faced by independent working musicians who really try to make a go of it. And it's not a pretty picture... I guess he made a handful of albums, including several cassette-only releases -- when he made this one he was woking with a pretty youthful, longhaired band... The music is raggedly amateurish, but enthusiastic, and a nice snapshot of a DIY twang band, plugging away with all their heart.
Leo Suiter "Live" (Gold Ring Records, 1976) (LP)
Pete Sullivan "Where The Wind Pumps The Water... And The Cows Chop The Wood" (Pawn Shop Publishing, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Pete Sullivan & Gene Huddleston)
A West Texas native, twang auteur Pete Sullivan grew up on a hardscrabble farm near Lubbock, listened to country and western swing as a kid, and toured with various bands, playing bass for stars such as Tommy Duncan, Lefty Frizzell and a pre-countrypolitan Freddie Hart. When he settled down, music became more of a sideline, and Sullivan made his living running pawn shops in Lubbock and Garland, Texas. This album is filled with his own songs, including a tribute to the king of western swing, "I've Shook The Great Bob Wills Hand," along with some more idiosyncratic tunes such as "Sometimes I Wish I Could Turn My Life Around," "Rome Wasn't Built In A Day," and "Matamoros-Reynosa-Villa Acuna-Juarez-Blues." The band also seems to be totally local -- I don't recognize any of the names, so in my book, that's a very good thing.
Summerdog "Blue Grass" (Peek Publications, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Chip Curry)
A popular band on the late '70s Tucson, Arizona scene, Summerdog mixed bluegrass roots with western swing and border music, also producing a wealth of original material written by various bandmembers. The longhaired lineup on this album featured banjo player Chip Curry, fiddler Marc Rennard, Ron Doering on guitar and mandolin by Jon Ross. (An early incarnation of the group included banjo player Tom Rozum, who went on to become one of the key players in the Northern California bluegrass scene... I don't think Rozum ever played on any of their albums, though.)
Summerdog "Tucson, AZ" (M & I Records, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by E. C. Creigh & R. W. Darling)
Summerdog "New Moon" (M & I Records, 1979) (LP)
(Produced by R. W. Darling, Fred Porter & Roger King)
A live album, which the liner notes say was their third album... Once again, the disc is packed with original material... The band apparently reunited in 2012 and compiled a CD best-of drawing on all three of these albums, making it available to fans via Facebook and other outlets...
Kay Summers "...Sings Nashville Greats" (Autumn Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bobby Sikes)
Piano player Kay Summers in a trio with studio pros Roy Huskey on bass and Will Ackerman on drums... There's no date on this, but the repertoire is all covers of mainstream country songs of 1950s/mid-'60s vintage, along with a couple of Kris Kristofferson covers... So... maybe 1972-75-ish?
Vic Summers "Sings Alaska... As It was ... As It Is" (Big Country Records) (LP)
(Produced by Jimmy Bryant)
A historically-themed folk-lecture kinda thing, on a label from Delta Junction, Alaska... Which I think is up North, somewhere... Unless of course if you're from Fairbanks or Venetie, in which case it's to your South. But I digress...
The Sunday River Bluegrass Show "You Can Dress 'Em Up, But You Can't Take 'Em Out" (Biscuit City, 1972) (LP)
A longhair bluegrass/stringband from Colorado with banjoist E. P. Davis (later of the Hollywood Rodeo Band) and David Ferretta, who was known both as a mandolin picker and as the owner of a music store that was a focal point of the hippe-era Colorado folk/bluegrass/country scene.
Sundown "Rocky Bayou Lullaby" (Vector Records, 1979) (LP)
Well, yeah, I guess technically there's some country-rock twang on here, though this is really more of an emotive soft-pop/pop-folk record, roughly in a John Denver kinda mode. Hailing from Shalimar, Florida, Sundown was the duo of Rob Harrell and Doug Smith, with Smith doing a lot of the heavy lifting, playing bass, banjo and synthesizers, while Harrell was primarily a songwriter and lead singer. They also had some pedal steel in the mix, courtesy of fellow local David Raper, as well as some (eek) saxophone by a guy named Al Nudo. If you're looking for honkytonk'n'twang, this probably ain't your record, but they still earned a nod in the whole wide constellation of 'Seventies indiebilly DIY.
The Sundowners "Homespun Country, Volume One" (Hillside Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Richard Allison & Dave Allison)
Not to be confused with the Chicago-based old coot cowboy band, this English country group from Suffolk is fascinating in more ways than one. Bandleader Jock "Slim" Albins is credited with forming the first country band in Ipswich, and kept it together for decades -- this particular incarnation features his son Tony Albins on lead guitar, and a variety of singers, including a gal identified only as "Carol (sadly no last name was given) who sings with a charmingly English accent layered into the American-style twang, reminding me a bit of Maddy Prior. They also had a guy named Raj playing drums, so they were an integrated group as well. The repertoire is all covers of American country hits, well-chosen and earnestly delivered, though if the truth be told neither the performances or the production values will blow you away. But if you want to hear a totally charming, totally earnest set of British country enthusiasts singing their little hearts out, this is a nice record to check out.
The Sundowners "Homespun Country, Volume Two" (Hillside Records, 1975-?) (LP)
And, yes, they made a Volume Two...!
Sundown Jim "...And His Willoughby Ramblers" (Willoughby Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by M. Addario)
This was the second album by this Ontario-based band, which played a mix of classic country and polka tunes. Among the country stuff are hits such as "Born To Lose," "From A Jack To A King," "Green Green Grass Of Home" and "There Goes My Everything." Like a lot of old Canadian LPs, this doesn't include a release date, but based on the repertoire it must have been sometime in the early 'Seventies, at the latest. And I'm guessing Jim took his stage name from the hero in Ernest Haycox's western series(?)
Sunshine "Three's A Crowd" (Slade Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Dicken)
A country-and-rock bar band from Minneapolis, Minnesota which featured both male and female lead singers. This album also seems to have been issued under the title/band name "Reflections And Friends," which is how the band is credited on the back cover of this version -- the other edition has a lot of the same artwork on the back cover, but a completely different front. (Odd!) It looks like these guys played both country and rock, with songs that include "Cowboys Are Just Born To Lose At Lovin'," "Gonna Party Tonight" and the intriguingly titled "Small Town Rock 'N' Roll Star."
The Sunshine Boys "On The Right Track" (1983) (LP)
The Sunshine Singers "A Ray Of Sunshine From The Sunshine Singers" (BOC Records, 197--?) (LP)
(Produced by Brad Edwards, B. J. Carnahan & M. C. Rather)
This cheerful ensemble featured a four-woman chorus -- who rather oddly are not identified in the liner notes, although the instrumental musicians are. The driving forces behind the band seem to have been multi-instrumentalist Brad Edwards -- who plays banjo, dobro, guitar, pedal steel and drums(!) -- along with piano player Ramona Bullington, whose dad is thanked on the back cover for helping make the record possible. The set list is an eclectic repertoire, mixing old pop tunes like "In The Mood" and "My Blue Heaven" with country material as diverse as John Denver's "Country Roads," Peewee King's "Slowpoke," and Faron Young's 1957 classic, "Tattletale Tears." I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that the pop oldies were added as a favor to Ms. Bullington's old pop, who probably footed the bill for the studio time and the pressing. This was one of the many countless custom pressings made in Mack's Creek, Missouri, and it's worth noting that engineer B. J. Carnahan, an old Army pal of Johnny Cash, also recorded an album of his own around the same time, which is also reviewed on this site.
Suns Of The West "At Work" (1974) (LP)
As teens in the late 1960s, brothers Neil and Terry Bagaus played in a few local South Dakota bands, eventually inheriting a group from Aberdeen, SD, called the Country Sons, which they renamed the Suns Of The West in 1969. With a long line of singers and musicians joining the band over the years, they kept the Suns together throughout the 'Seventies. This album was recorded at a studio in Minneapolis -- a few years later in 1977, bandmembers Neil Bagaus and Jenni Blocker traveled to Nashville to record an album called Two For The Road.
Super Grit Cowboy Band "Super Grit Cowboy Band" (Sound Hut, 1977) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Mattocks & Bill Lyerly)
This local group from North Carolina had some modest success on the Country charts, despite being an indie-label band with a propensity for true twang and a little bit of profanity (see the title of their second album, below...) They are also notable for starting the career of sideman and songwriter Curtis Wright, who went from here into Vern Gosdin's band, and then into a partnership with Nashville songwriter Robert Ellis Orrall, and later still became the lead singer for the post-Marty Raybon lineup of Shenandoah. Often, the guys in funky little bands like this will give up on music careers and a seldom heard from again -- but not this time!
Super Grit Cowboy Band "If You Can't Hang... Drag Your Country Ass Home" (Hoodswamp, 1981) (LP)
Super Grit Cowboy Band "Showing Our Class" (Hoodswamp, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Clyde Mattocks)
There's a wide variety of influences on this album, with a couple of unabashed Waylon soundalike songs, nods to Merle, more contemporary-sounding '80s country and a dash of bluegrass, with fancy mandolin pickin' by Dale Reno, son of truegrass legend Don Reno. The guys in the band trade off on lead vocals, with Alan Hicks, Danny Vinson and Curtis Wright taking turns on most tracks, and steel player Clyde Mattocks bopping his way through the novelty number "Pretty Girls Never Travel In Pairs" and pianist Mike Kinzie yukking it up on "Heal," a faux-gospel revival number that closes the album out. There's a slight disconnect between the high level of musicianship (particularly the crisp pedal steel) and the DIY-sounding production (most notably the flat thumping of the rhythm section...) Overall, though, this is a noteworthy indie album from a band that had commercial leanings, but wasn't trying too hard to play the fame game. Worth a spin!
Super Grit Cowboy Band "This Way To The Stage" (Hoodswamp, 1986) (LP)
The Supernatural Family Band -- see discography page
The Susquehanna River Band "Susquehanna River Band" (Baldwin Sound Productions, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Kent Baldwin & The Susquehanna River Band)
The Susquehanna River Band "Susquehanna River Band" (SRB Music/Baldwin Sound Productions, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Dave Still)
Ned Sutton "Drugstore Cowboy" (Pool International, 1978/1981) (LP)
(Produced by George Hawke)
Another nice one from the American Southwest... Singer Ned Sutton really throws himself into these brightly-produced, truly twangy country novelty tunes, and while audibly very DIY, it's also very solid and satisfying. All the songs were written by producer/guitarist/bassist George Hawke, who used to be in the fabled Dusty Chaps (along with Sutton, I believe...) Also on board is picker Shep Cooke, another desert indiebilly auteur, and sundry other locals. This is a fine record, with plenty of wit and grit, and definitely worth tracking down. I guess this was Sutton's only album... anyone know for sure?
Vern Swain "After All These Years" (Tenn-Can, 1979)
(Produced by Jerry Michael & Larry Lee Broderick)
A singer from Boise, Idaho playing all original material, with Sonny Garrish on steel and the Cates Sisters singing backup. Apparently Swain played at a bar called the Lock, Stock & Barrell...
Swampwater "Swampwater" (Starday, 1970)
This album was recorded by country-rockers John Beland and Gib Guilbeau while they were working together as part of Linda Ronstadt's early backup band... It's an interesting example of early-vintage Southern California country-rock mixing with cajun country, with sort of a Doug Kershaw-meets-The Byrds vibe. The pop-rock production is a little on the light side, though the airy high harmonies are attractive -- sort of a bridge between the Hollies and the Eagles. There's also a relatively old-fashioned '60s folk vibe on several tracks... Several members of the band wound up working with Arlo Guthrie for a few years, while Beland and Gilbeau reunited years later in a commercially successful 1980's lineup of the Flying Burrito Brothers. But given that this album came out so early in the decade, it deserves its own special spot in the annals of country-rock. Certainly worth a spin!
Swampwater "Swampwater" (RCA, 1971)
(Produced by Larry Murray & Ken Mansfield)
The second Swampwater album gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but it featured a nice dose of the RCA studio sound, and rich contributions from guest musicians such as Herb Pedersen on banjo, steel guitarists Jimmy Day and Curly Chalker, and piano player Glen D. Hardin (who was later to join Elvis Presley's TCB band, and Emmylou Harris's Hot Band...) Quite a lineup! Around this same time the guys in Swampwater were trying to hustle up gigs anywhere they could, and worked as backup musicians on a bunch of budget-line albums. For more info about these records, check out the Gib Guilbeau discography...
Sweet Daddy Siki "Squares Off With Country Music" (Arc Records) (LP)
Professional wrestler Reginald "Sweet Daddy" Siki (aka "Mr. Irresistible") was born in Texas and started his career in the American Southwest, but moved to Toronto, Canada, where he became a local and national celebrity. He was a major figure in professional wrestling during the 1960s and '70s and somewhere along the line he diversified into singing country music, as heard on this album,
Sweet Daddy Siki "Sweet Daddy Siki" (Periwinkle Records, 1972) (LP)
This album is heavy on Merle Haggard songs and honkytonk oldies and early '70s hits such as "Is Anyone Going To San Antone" and "Kiss An Angel Good Morning." No info on the backing musicians, etc. Alas.
Sweetwater "The Sky's The Limit" (Sweetwater Records, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Sweetwater & Don Lee)
A country-rock outfit from Scottsville, Kentucky whose repertoire included two early-'80s Rodney Crowell songs, "Ain't Livin' Long Like This" and "Shame On The Moon," as well as one of their own that was a little on the outlaw side, "I'm Stoned."
Johnny Swendel "First Folk Almanac" (Country International Records, 1974) (LP)
Although the cover says "folk," really what they mean is "hillbilly," with Pennsylvania-born old-timer Johnny Swendel singing some pleasantly rugged material in the style of Depression-era vintage Roy Acuff, with a touch of Jimmie Rodgers and Jimmy Davis... Stuff of that type, maybe with a trace of "outsider" singers in their as well. The backing band is anonymous, but they were good. There might be some original material on here, but it's hard to tell, since Swendel claims copyright on his arrangements of a bunch of folk tunes, such as "John Henry" and "Lonesome Valley." Anyway, it's a nice souvenir album from a guy who was a regular on several country "barn dance" shows, including a long stint on one of the stages at the WWVA Original Jamboree, and apparently cut some hillbilly boogie singles back in the rockabilly era... Anyone know more about Mr. Swendel? I'm all ears.
Johnny Swendel "Let's Put Old Glory Back" (Country International Records, 1975) (LP)
The Swing Ryders "Volume One" (Wry Records) (LP)
(Produced by Bob Yesbek)
An early '70s country cover band from Kensington, Maryland, with a repertoire including "Me And You & A Dog Named Boo," "Snowbird," "Take Me Home Country Road," "Joy To The World," as well as a version of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." The group featured steel guitar player Clyde Bloodworth and lead guitar Gill Machen, with vocals by Buck Gordon and twin sisters Carla and Martha McCartney. All the songs on here were covers.
JT Swinney/Various Artists "It's Our Old Opry House" (Artom Records, 1975) (LP)
(Produced by Kenny Wallis)
A vanity album where Mr. Swinney -- who wrote all the lyrics -- only sings on one song. The other tracks are performed by John Campbell and Othell Sullivan.
Keith Sykes "1-2-3" (Vanguard, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Jack Lathrop)
I'm trying really, really hard not to stray into mainstream folk music while putting together this hippiebilly guide, but in this case I'll make an exception. Keith Sykes was one of the many second-tier folkies who labored under the long shadow of Bob Dylan, and while some made the transition to the more expansive singer-songwriter sound, others struggled to remain relevant. Sykes came late to the party, starting his career in 1968, and this was his second album. In some ways, this record is as good a demarcation between the folk movement's glory days and it's near-final demise: Skyes beats against the walls of genre, still hammering out Dylanesque/Wood Guthrie-ish acoustic-guitar-and-vocal ditties, but his own sense of frustration and irritation bleeds through from start to finish. Two songs speak to this disaffection... The title track, "1-2-3," is a remarkable blast of pure acoustic nihilism, a flat-out precursor to '70s punk, in which Sykes, pounding away on the frets and complaining about his songwriting, swears in the first verse (singing about "beatin' the s--- out of my guitar...") and having crossed the line into the un-airable, goes on to paint a strongly negative character portrait, using the n-word in a surprisingly uninhibited way in the last verse, with a gutteral "1-2-3, 1-2-3!" as the song's chorus... All that's missing is the oi-oi-oi and you've got London, 1978 on your hands. A lot of the other tunes are tedious on their surface -- more strummy Dylan stuff -- but the album's closer, "Like A Candle," produces the emotional resonance I was searching for, and it, too, seems like a rueful folk music obituary. It's posed as a mournful love ballad, but feels like the thematic bookend to Side One's "1-2-3":
Many, many nights go by me
I'm older now with another song
But I'll remember once there was
A light inside, but now it's died
Burnin', like a candle, it has gone.
Hick Music Index