Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: The Blissed-Out Birth of Country Rock, Vol. 1: 1966-1
Appropriately enough, the first volume of Bear Family's seven-volume country-rock series Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels kicks off with the voice of Gram Parsons, the man who wrote the line that gives this project its title and the man commonly acknowledged as the Hank Williams of country-rock. Parsons wasn't the first or only West Coast cowboy to get to this hybrid of Bakersfield country, Nashville craft, hippie ideals, and rock & roll amplification, which this double-disc, 41-track set makes perfectly clear. Gram gave country-rock a mythos and enduring sex appeal but he was supported by a number of long-haired refugees, Music City freaks, and Hollywood misfits, all of whom feature prominently on this compilation. Covering the years 1966-1968, this first volume happily blurs borders not just between country and rock but between the respectable and not, rightly finding place for Rick Nelson and the Monkees' "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round" in between Parsons' first band International Submarine Band and his second, the Byrds. Other L.A. folk-rockers show up, namely Buffalo Springfield and Bobbie Gentry -- who was always halfway between California and Tennessee -- and they also have a strong presence on the first disc. The second has places for the Band and Bob Dylan but this collection of 1968 sides is heavy on the Byrds (who had then enlisted Parsons to complete their country makeover, the Dillards and the Beau Brummels, along with the Everly Brothers, who were the only '50s survivors working in this idiom. Every one of these names will be familiar to aficionados of country-rock and perhaps even to fellow travelers, but surprise isn't quite the goal of this set. What this intends to provide is a portrait of the rise of country-rock in all its wooly glory and Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels does so, quite gloriously.