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After the runaway success of the Allman Brothers' classic Brothers and Sisters LP -- an album on which Dickey Betts virtually architected the open loping country sound with his newly found singing voice and easy, slimmed down guitar style -- the guitarist decided to try his hand at a solo album. Highway Call is, in essence, the second chapter in Betts finding his own voice as not only a singer, but also as a songwriter as well. At a brief half-hour in length, Highway Call is nonetheless an emotionally powerful slice of small country life offered with a vast emotional landscape. The tone is nostalgic in that each of the songs here reflects memory and the yearning for a simpler, less cluttered life lived in the open spaces, away from the chaotic roil of rock stardom and all of its trappings. The title track reflects an acceptance of Betts' life as an itinerant musician, destined to play out his hand on the road. There isn't a hint of regret in the ringing, slippery guitars and harmony vocals, but there is a sense that life could have been different. On "Let Nature Sing," Betts calls forth the spirits of America, from its rock and crags, its lakes and panoramic vistas, and from the ghosts of the people who've traipsed through Betts' life, leaving an emotional and indelible impression upon him. Each song here, such as "Rain," with its sideways pedal steel, or "Long Time Gone," with its runaway slide, or even the aforementioned "Let Nature Sing," with its glorious dobro and fiddle (courtesy of Vassar Clements) underscoring Betts' lead and the ringing pedal steel of Jon Hughey is a testament to the pastoral in American life. And for Betts, the rambler, gambler, and hard living guitar man, there is no contradiction. All of his cards are on the table in "Hand Picked," a nearly 15-minute country swing romp through Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, the Allmans, and bluegrass, Betts creates the ultimate road instrumental. The listener can hear Clements and Betts roaring down the two-lane blacktop on the back of a flatbed truck, ripping this one out with easy abandon. Highway Call stands as the artist's finest solo moment, one that holds his true voice easily expressing itself far from the madding blues wail of the Allmans, deep in the center of a Georgia holler with the sun beating down on the peach trees or on the incessant babble of a backwoods creek calling his listeners to the mystery inherent in simple living and in playing honest, heartfelt music.
|Label:||Polydor / Umgd|
Performance CreditsRichard Betts Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Electric Guitar,Vocals
Oscar Underwood Adams Mandolin
Vassar Clements Fiddle,Violin
Jeff Hanna Acoustic Guitar
John Hughey Steel Guitar
Chuck Leavell Piano
Frank Poindexter Dobro,Vocals
Leon Poindexter Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Walter Poindexter Banjo,Vocals
Johnny Sandlin Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Percussion
Stray Straton Bass,Vocals,Background Vocals
Tommy Talton Acoustic Guitar
Dan Toler Guitar
David Walshaw Percussion,Drums
Reese Wynans Harmonica
Rambos Background Vocals
Frankie Lombardi Drums
Pedro Arevalo Bass
Mike Kach Keyboards
Technical CreditsVassar Clements Composer
Johnny Sandlin Producer,Engineer,Remixing
Sam Whiteside Engineer,Remixing
Richard Betts Composer,Producer
Hideki Masubuchi Liner Notes
William Matthews Cover Art
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One should definitely note that Dickey Betts' first solo album sounds verry little like the Allman Brothers Band. This is pure country music, and though it contains Betts' signature guitar playing, it is quite a change from Idlewild South. This is closest to Brothers and Sisters (imagine six songs of ''Ramblin' Man''). The songwriting is great, and the players inject a lot of energy into the songs. The instrumental ''Hand Picked'' follows in the footsteps of ''Jessica'' and ''Elizabeth Reed'' by filling out 14 minutes but never getting tiresome. True, Betts is no great shakes as a singer, but he has a chorus of backup singers that balance out his weak voice. This is very different from his later solo albums, which are either pop-oriented or hard-driving blues. Not bad, but quite different from the Allmans.
Like many other fans, I have been waiting for this album to come out on CD. In the early to mid seventies many rock musicians started looking to country music for inspiration as with the ground-breaking "Will the Circle be Unbroken". Dickie Betts, of the Allman Brothers Band, was just one of many. However, what sets him apart from many of the other Southern Rock bands was his ability to create a completely new hybrid of country music and sustain it throughout a whole album, albeit a pretty short one. Elvin Bishop could do it for a few songs but he was still stuck in the blues and was always looking for a hit (although his first few Capricorn albums are fantastic). What Betts has created is an amalgam of bluegrass, folk, jazz, rock and swing; a very tasty morsel indeed. On Highway Call, Betts wrote all the songs and sings the four with vocals. He is only a fair singer and realises his weaknesses in this department by employing some beautiful vocal support from The Rambos (Reba, Dottie and Buck Rambo - both the girls have the biggest hair you've seen); not a Sly in sight. On "Let Nature Sing" he uses the Poindexters (dobro, mandolin, guitar and banjo) as musical support. These four vocal tracks are wonderful but the real pleasure comes with side two's two instrumental tracks. "Hand Picked" is 14 minutes of pure bliss. Betts (guitar), Chuck Leavell (piano), Vassar Clements (fiddle) and John Hughey (steel) duke it out on a swingin', rockin' tour de force. I have listened to literally hundreds of different songs by these players and "Hand Picked" is one of the finest moments of each. The interplay between Betts and Clements near the song's conclusion is awesome. Bob Wills would have been proud, and that's high praise indeed. What we have here is an album that all serious country rock musicians and songwriters should listen to to see and hear how it's done. Unfortunately it's an album that the mainstream music business wouldn't allow to be made today, so it is a Godsend that it is still available. It's been a long time coming and we'll all be a long time gone so get it while you can and enjoy the delights of beautifully played and sung country rock (big "C" , small "r"). You can pay three times as much for rubbish so, at the price, this is 5 Stars worth of music.
I have been waiting for this to came to CD, for a long time! I wore this album out during the 70's! If you love Richard(Dickie) Betts, then this is the one to buy. Every song is a classic.