Michael Nesmith-Magnetic South
October 24, 2008
Magnetic South (Pacific Arts 1970)
I’ve already covered the history of Michael Nesmith on a previous post, so we’ll skip the biographical information. Magnetic South is his followup to his debut album, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, and it is the first where he begins to really shine as a mellow, somewhat stoned country rocker. I really cannot explain why I rank a former Monkee as an equal to your Nick Drakes, Jackson c. Franks and Gram Parsons, but his music is so unforced and relaxed. There is a cozy vibe to his albums that make them seem like home. His appropriations of West Coast psych and traditional country balladry don’t aim for innovation, but a simple good time. Although “Hollywood” sort of veers into some honkytonk Doors fantasia, the rest is just a bunch of straightforward country tunes bedecked in bellbottoms.
Although he lacks the charisma and tragedy of a Gram Parsons, Nesmith’s string of solo albums should have cemented with a much stronger reputation than the former Monkee with a Liquid paper fortune. “Keys to the Car” could pass for a George Jones number, but the awkwardly yodeling vocals and chorus about getting stoned would make ol’ George drive his lawnmower off the road. So I don’t become too obscure, Jones was once caught driving his lawnmower to the bar when his car keys were out of his reach. Nesmith is also comfortable with twangy cosmic ballads that document the weary life of a traveling musician where cities, roads and people just melt one rorshach inkblot. Magnetic South isn’t his best effort, but it does pave the way for the progressions made on Loose Salute and Nevada Fighter.