Artist: Gene Clark
Album: The American Dreamer
Song: "Outlaw Song"
Album: Spreadin' It
Song: "Some Other Road"
Fifty songs into Corduroy Mountain, and the time has come to recognize the genesis record for this pursuit of forgotten albums and unknown musicians. Lost in a row of dollar-bin overflow at Vinyl Solution in 2002 was Pott. County Pork & Bean Band, a name so ridiculous and captivating that I fell prey to its immediate charm. The hirstute band members on the cover—four in all—are holding court in a pig pen, the earth as dark as the pigs' coarse hair. They are clothed in denim and plaids, cowboy hippies stuck in their tiny Kansas farm community. But a flip of the cover proves more revealing and tantalizing; Jim Richardson's photography captured the local kids gathering at the local auditorium for a Saturday night of music, dancing and other shenanigans among the discarded cans of Colorado Kool-Aid.
I wanted into this world, circa 1975, where the success of a weekend night could be quantified by the number of hoots, hollers, and handclaps. Until Doc Brown makes his DeLorean available for sale, Pott. County Pork & Bean Band's Spreadin' It album will have to serve as my auditory time machine. Mixed between their set of covers—songs by Merle Haggard, Peter Rowan, and David Bromberg—were two original compositions, including "Some Other Road." The back cover features the subtitle "Alive in Belvue (pop. 176)." Listening to this song I imagine that population increasing by one.
Artist: William Truckaway
Song: "Be the One"
Walk onto the porch at Corduroy Mountain. Yesterday's clothes, a western shirt and Levi's bellbottoms, feel better today. An arid breeze pushes through wild grass and causes the unbuttoned shirt to flutter. Draw a deep pull from the jar of sweet tea, pulling the sugary residue from your upper lip with the lower. The barn and its jacket of fading paint rests at the bottom of the slope. That ol' mother can still host an all-night Saturday dance. The tandem Schwinn stands propped against the side of the house. Meandering across the scrub field like an unfurled lariat is the dirt road, its soft curves forever a siren call. A gentle moan announces the arrival of the One on the porch. She's wearing an embroidered tunic and a calico skirt. Swoon. Step down to the ground and hear the crunch of gravel under boot. A nod toward the bicycle is invitation enough.
Artist: Diane Kolby
Album: Diane Kolby
The small couch, shoved against the wall, cradled my tired, sprawling body. Steel-gray clouds drew their heavy curtain across the afternoon sky. A steady percussion of rain drops collided against the window; a cyclical drop echoed in the chimney like an amplified cowbell. I struggled from my prone position to put Diane Kolby's record on the turntable. The needle slipped into the groove, and an audible dawn swept from the speakers and filled the room. Was this an LP or a choir of sweet-voiced birds? Soon Diane began singing in tongues, her joy palpable in the nonsensical words. When the song reached its ecstatic peak, I looked outside. A phalanx of nourishing God rays streamed through the storm clouds.
Artists: The Bernie Leadon + Michael Georgiades Band
Album: Natural Progressions
Yacht rock as a genre designation has only one flaw—the concept identifies the millionaire musicians, not its blue-collar audience. Who would have been listening to Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, and Loggins and Messina and buying their records in copious quantities? The florists, chefs, and secretaries of 1970s America. For these nubile fans, a yacht would have been a dream docked beyond the fence of an exclusive marina. Water wouldn't have been a dominion to own, but rather savor as a refuge from the week's monotony. These individuals would have turned to a more affordable means of aquatic transportation—the catamaran. Much like the boogie van on land and the hang glider in the sky, the catamaran created enough of a craze in the 1970s that clubs formed wherever an inviting body of water and a sweet breeze could be found. The men would wear OP cord shorts and the women bikini tops and Daisy Dukes. After the day's rigorous sailing had come to a satisfactory end, the randy participants would unfurl blankets on the shore and watch the pink and violent sunset as they cuddled and sipped wine. Perhaps their transistor radio would be dialed to the one local station cool enough to be playing "How Can You Live Without Love?" And all would be righteous in their world.
Artist: Bubba Fowler
Album: ...and Then Came Bubba
Your resume couldn't have been more impeccable: the acerbic talking political blues; a recording contract with Columbia records and production by Bob Johnston; a credited spot on Bob Dylan's underrated Self Portrait album. Bubba Fowler, you could have been the new Dylan. Hell, even your initials are almost the same. Only one problem. Any new Dylan's best song mustn't be an instrumental, even when the bayou romp is so funky that Jerry Reed may have turned his head and yipped, "Son!" But thanks for applying.
Artist: Steve Young
Album: To Satisfy You
Song: "The River and the Swan"
For hours, for days, for weeks I packed. Record crates, poster tubes, cartons of books, hangers full of jackets, suitcases crammed with clothes, piles of photographs, stereo equipment, towers of compact discs, bed, dresser, and nightstand. The night before the move to California I still found myself playing God with stray belongings, what to bring and what to leave behind. When the bric-a-brac became too minute, my knees buckled and I collapsed on the staircase leading to my mom's basement, a barnacle-crusted anchor colliding with water's sandy bottom. I heaved heavy tears into the crook of my arm. Appearing in the frame of the staircase, my mom wanted to know why I was crying. Was I OK? I wondered how I would find homes for the last details in these dwindling minutes and was I insane for deciding to move so far west, a plan that still carried the fragrance of wet paint?
Mom had found a few issues of Playboy in a gym bag the first time we talked on the creaky and carpeted stairs. That incident was a dozen years prior. I felt embarrassment then; now I felt doubt's tugging undertow. Sitting at my side, mom reassured me that I was making the right decision to try something bold, to see another place in this world. If the noble adventure ever stopped being fun or meaningful, she would still be here to welcome me in her arms.
Perhaps I cried enough for mother and son. Mom remained of resolute voice even as she helped send her only child out into the great expanse. I'm sure her tears fell hard after I set out the next morning, car and trailer rumbling for parts unknown and future unimagined. This particular Steve Young song, "The River and the Swan," reminds me of the stoic facade a parent must have when the nest becomes too small, but the love remains unconditional.
Artist: Bob Frank
Album: Bob Frank
Song: "Judas Iscariot"
In his book God Is Red, Vine Deloria Jr. noted:
Theories abound as to the exact origin of the Jesus movement, but at least one reputable theory is that it came as a desperate effort by young people to get off drugs....Jesus became a drug substitute for a significant number of people....Jesus was a perpetual "high"...
Perhaps Bob Frank was a free-spirited archaeologist, unafraid to dirty his patched bellbottoms as he explored damp caves and forgotten city sites. He seems to have brushed stringy hair from his eyes long enough to discover an unknown gospel, one written by one of Jesus's more progressive disciples. In this little-studied manuscript, Jesus did not just turn water into wine. He also may have turned grass into, um, hash.
Album: On the Waters
Song: "Blue Satin Pillow"
I'm posting this fine example of firm rock for my friend Josh. During a recent brunch at Langer's Deli, he expressed his desire to hear Bread rocking out harder than their classic singles would allow. Josh mentioned scouring the blogs for concert bootlegs where he rightly expected the band to get fuzzier and wilder. But I think "Blue Satin Pillow" off of Bread's sophomore platter is downright thunderous make-out music.
Artist: Wayne Parker
Album: Oklahoma Twilight
Song: "This Van's for Sale"
Boogie vans crisscrossed America in the 1970s. The shaggy occupants searched for another breathtaking sunset, keg party, or airbrush competition. These rectangular steeds with their shag interiors were the first hybrid vehicles, running on a mixture of gas, grass, or ass. That last ingredient surely sparked many impromptu romances and road trips. The great Sammy Johns memorialized this bellbottomed era with his classic "Chevy Van." But what happened when the gas tank of love hit "E" and there were no more tokes to be had on the romance roach? Wayne Parker gives us the tragic answer song.
Artists: Black Grass
Album: Black Grass
For someone whose patron saint of losers and unrequited love is Paul Westerberg, the soaring beauty of "Lock, Stock and Barrel" hits like the surprise of finding a $50 bill on the ground. My soundtrack for desperate yearning has always been hoarse, bleary-eyed, and coated in stubble, but Black Grass offers a compelling flipside that shows even wallflowers can stand elegant and proud.