Monday, 13 June 2016

The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)

Every time I hear this album, my mind immediately goes back to a moment in a documentary programme I watched in the mid-90s about the history of rock in the 1960s.  I can't remember whether this was a series, or a one-off, or even what it was called.  The one thing I've never forgotten though is the moment it cuts away from the chaos of Altamont to a peaceful country highway, Hickory Wind starts playing, and country rock is born.  Even though the chronology's back to front* (this album predates Altamont by a year), it was still a great piece of narrative direction, and it introduced me to Gram Parsons and to Sweetheart Of The Rodeo.
* there's always the possibility that I'm remembering this completely wrong; it has been twenty years now!

All I knew of The Byrds up until then was their debut album - still good in its own way, but by 1968 Jim McGuinn was Roger, and was rebuilding The Byrds from the ground up.  Initially planning a comprehensive history of American music, along came Gram Parsons and an immersion in pure country.  Sweetheart Of The Rodeo is completely on-point in its song choices - alongside Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard and the Louvin Brothers sits brand new material from a mythic session that Bob Dylan was then deep in the midst of, and a couple of stunning songs from Parsons himself.  One Hundred Years From Now is where it's at, folks - one of my all-time favourite Byrds songs.

Nobody knows what kind of trouble we're in; nobody seems to think it all might happen again

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