An American Trilogy: Looks Like Rain/'Frisco Mabel Joy/Heaven Help The Child

An American Trilogy: Looks Like Rain/'Frisco Mabel Joy/Heaven Help The Child

by Mickey Newbury

During his lifetime, Mickey Newbury was always regarded more as a songwriter than as a singer or recording artist. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, Willie…  See more details below


During his lifetime, Mickey Newbury was always regarded more as a songwriter than as a singer or recording artist. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Linda Ronstadt, Charlie Rich, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and Joan Baez all recorded his songs. That said, Saint Cecilia Knows (the Newbury estate's label) and Drag City are seeking to change that impression with An American Trilogy. It's a four-disc set that collects the albums Looks Like Rain (1969), Frisco Mabel Joy (1971), Heaven Help the Child (1973), and a disc of rarities; it also contains a booklet in a handsome, ten-panel, fold-out digipack. The albums, whose tapes were thought to be lost in a fire, have been pristinely remastered. Looking back, it was a small miracle that Elektra let Newbury make these records at all. Through his shrewdness as a negotiator and his track record as a songwriter, he convinced the label to allow him to make three conceptually linked records. The sound on them is like nothing in country music before or since: they are full of sound effects, spatial ambience, and melodrama, and delivered with subtlety and a novelist's attention to detail. The music merged minimal country tropes with Texas songwriter storytelling and Southern gospel, and employed contemporary folk and pop arrangements. Looks Like Rain reveals Newbury's writing range and production savvy. The sound effects (such as an incessant rain throughout) and delicate psychedelic embellishments etch the record in its time, but there is so much space surrounding songs like "She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye," "33rd of August," and "San Francisco Mabel Joy" that they stun in their quiet intensity. Newbury's grainy tenor and his elegant phrasing keep the album from descending into pure desperation. On 'Frisco Mabel Joy, the studio becomes more of a musical instrument. It opens with Newbury's "An American Trilogy," which contains the Civil War-era songs "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "All My Trials." Elvis may have (over)blown it as a theatrical patriot's anthem, but Newbury's version is restrained and elegiac, as if the promise and hope expressed in those songs has been lost -- or even erased -- along history's way. It introduces the rest of the album, where rain continues to fall, women continue to depart, and problems mount; the characters in these songs question life metaphorically and literally. In lieu of the opener, it's easy to hear "How I Love Them Old Songs" and "The Future's Not What It Used to Be" are insightful questions to a nation at large. The instrumental interludes and the depth of emotion in "Frisco Depo" and "How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid for His Song)" are devastating personal narratives. Heaven Help the Child is a progression; it feels more like a Jimmy Webb record than anything else. Its pop arrangements are more pronounced, but the songs, whether they be historical tales (the title track, which takes place in 1912, and "Cortelia Clark"); broken love songs ("Sweet Memories," and "Good Morning Dear"), or the lone redemptive paean to romance ("Song for Susan" -- Newbury's wife), lose none of their emotional power. The re-recording of "San Francisco Mabel Joy" that closes the disc underscores the personal vision of the songwriter who inhabits each song on these three albums. The rarities disc is just that. It contains demos, unreleased tracks, and a radio performance, and is well worth inclusion. What Newbury displayed on these records was an American life, whose experiences crossed race, class, and even historical boundaries. The set is an essential document that places Newbury in the pantheon of singer/songwriters where he has always belonged.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Drag City


Disc 1

  1. Write a Song a Song/Angeline
  2. She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye
  3. I Don't Think Much About Her No More
  4. T. Total Tommy
  5. 33rd of August/When the Baby In My Lady Gets the Blues
  6. San Francisco Mable Joy
  7. Looks Like Baby's Gone

Disc 2

  1. An American Trilogy
  2. How Many Times (Must the Piper Be Paid For His Song)
  3. Interlude
  4. The Future's Not What It Used To Be
  5. Mobile Blue
  6. Frisco Depot
  7. You're Not My Same Sweet Baby
  8. Interlude
  9. Remember the Good
  10. Swiss Cottage Place
  11. How I Love Them Old Songs

Disc 3

  1. Heaven Help the Child
  2. Good Morning Dear
  3. Sunshine
  4. Sweet Memories
  5. Why You Been Gone So Long
  6. Cortelia Clark
  7. Song For Susan
  8. San Francisco Mabel Joy

Disc 4

  1. If You Want Me To I'll Go
  2. Sunshine
  3. Sad Satin Rhyme
  4. Wh You Been Gone So Long
  5. I Don't Wanna Rock
  6. Let Me Stay Awhile
  7. Flower Man
  8. Good Morning Dear
  9. On Top of Old Smokey
  10. Interlude: How Man Times (Must the Piper Be Paid For His Song)
  11. Better Days
  12. How I Love Them Old Songs
  13. I Don't Wanna Rock
  14. I Don't Want Me No Big City Woman
  15. You're Not My Same Sweet Baby

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mickey Newbury   Primary Artist
Chet Atkins   Guitar
Don Randi   Keyboards
Marlin Greene   Guitar
Dennis Linde   Vocals
Bobby Wood   Keyboards
Tom Baylor   Vocals
Richard Bennett   Guitar
Kenny Buttrey   Drums
Vassar Clements   Fiddle
Tommy Cogbill   Bass
Don Gant   Vocals
James Getzoff   Strings
Emory Gordy   Bass
Jerry Kennedy   Guitar,Sitar
Kenny Malone   Drums
Farrell Morris   Percussion
John Moss   Vocals
Wayne Moss   Guitar
Weldon Myrick   Steel Guitar
Norbert Putnam   Bass
Billy Sanford   Guitar
Dennis St. John   Drums
Bobby Thompson   Steel Guitar
Charlie McCoy   Bass,Guitar,Harmonica
James Capps   Guitar
Bee Gee Cruser   Organ
Joe Osborn   Bass
Bobbie Thompson   Steel Guitar
David Briggs   Keyboards
Jimmy Haskell   Strings
Bobbe Seymour   Steel Guitar
Norman Keith "Buddy" Spicher   Fiddle

Technical Credits

Don Gibson   Engineer
Waylon Jennings   Engineer
Kris Kristofferson   Liner Notes
Martino   Engineer
Box Tops   Engineer
Roy Orbison   Engineer
Marlin Greene   Producer
Dennis Linde   Producer
Sammi Smith   Engineer
Johnny Darrell   Engineer
Stan Agol   Engineer
Bob Beckham   Producer
Jerry Kennedy   Producer
Russ Miller   Producer
Wayne Moss   Engineer
Steve Rosenthal   Remixing
Charlie Tallent   Engineer
Bobby Wright   Engineer
Tommy Knox   Engineer
Ben Fong-Torres   Liner Notes
Brian Thorn   Remixing
Chris Campion   Producer,Liner Notes
Masumi Kobayashi   Illustrations
Ray Charles   Engineer

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