Saddled up for another wild ride and dang me they’ve done it again. The Godfathers of Americana have produced not so much an Indian summer of an album but more of a California wildfire! Their last record ‘Psychedelic Country Soul’ released 3 years ago received universal acclaim and this new album continues to mine a rich vein of twanging country rock combining the jangle of The Byrds with the influences of the Laurel Canyon set of yesteryear’s.
Looking out from the sleeve of the new record, the band look like a gnarled bunch of extras from the old 50’s Western TV show ‘Gunsmoke’. But, they still play with fire in their bellies, the difference being that in the twinkling twilight of their careers they carry it off with a hell of a lot more know-how and precision. Like its predecessor their newie is a smorgasbord of sounds, from tub thumping rockers to western swing ditties and all points in between.
Great records have a déjà vu type quality, an immediacy that connects the sensory organs so that long after the music stops your brain is still playing the songs on repeat. Sure the Ryders wear their influences on their sleeves but they deliver them in a way that sounds authentic and is crafted with sincerity.
In the grand tradition of the band they kick off with Rickenbacker’s to the fore on the irresistible ‘September November’, cleverly using old western imagery to describe modern day corruption in a swirling maelstrom of loud guitars and kick ass violins!
Stephen McCarthy’s ‘Seasons Change’ takes us back to the sound of The Byrds early albums, great dynamics and a catch in the vocal to evoke memories of Gene Clark at his finest.
Changing pace, the shimmering ‘Flying Down’ could be a lost Jim Webb song, with it’s Duane Eddy vibe conjuring up images of big skies and lonesome highways and where the WITCHITA LINEMAN is probably still on the line. Great song.
Can’t leave things without mentioning ‘Tom Tom’ – a tribute to late band member Tom Stevens. It’s a truly heartfelt and beautiful eulogy for their old friend and it appropriately moves at a stately pace. You can feel the sadness in every note from his long time brothers.
A lot of bands reform just to re-tread past glories and make a last few Shekel’s. That is categorically not the case with the Long Ryders. To be making music this good at this time in their lives is just astounding; their last two albums stand tall with anything they’ve produced thus far. Long may they travel the dusty roads of melancholia.