Ronnie Lane with Slim Chance

Anymore for Anymore (GM 1974)

I know I keep writing this…but I apologize for my absence and regular posting will resume shortly.

I only discovered this album a few years ago, but wish it had fallen into my lap much sooner. Slim Chance, Ronnie Laine’s post-Faces project, barely sounds like the work of a man responsible for the raunchy rock and roll of the Faces. In fact, it has that easygoing 70s stoner vibe that makes me love the Flaming Groovies and Holy Modal Rounders while nailing some slick Nilsson/Rundgren styled AM weepers. Hell,  their cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Bye and Bye(Gonna see the King)” makes the whole album worthwhile as Lane channels Bob Dylan circa Blonde on Blonde.  There is no weak link on Anymore for Anymore. Lane manages to synthesize the strands between psych, r&b, country, blues and folk into a thoroughly unified musical vision where it all doesn’t quite fit, but you wouldn’t change a damn thing. It’s all so well-written, played, performed and produced that a cotton-candy pop confection melds into barroom boogie into a damaged weeper without ever seeming like a well-intentioned, but uncohesive collage. Lane ain’t exactly reinventing the wheel with Slim Chance, it’s just a sloppy, passionate album where everyone sounds like they are having a fucking blast in the studio. Therefore, you get to hop on the coattails of their good mood.

If you isolated the country tunes from the rest of the album, you would have the makings of the best outlaw country recorded by a British citizen. The other half would make a far better soundtrack to Harold and Maude. Both haves capture a vibe of a man whose been burned a few too many times, but keeps hoping for brighter days ahead of him. “Don’t You Cry” is an especially moving tune where Lane is obviously crushed by a broken relationship, but he chokes back the tears to proclaim that he’s going to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. Yeah, the imagery is a bit hokey, but I feel him on the idea that moping around in your pajamas is for the birds. The more you listen to Anymore for Anymore, you kind of grow attached to Ronnie Lane. His songs are so full of hope, regret and conflicted emotions that his protagonist seem all too familiar. Therefore, I have found myself blaring this album at inopportune moments while commiserating with Lane’s cavalcade of lovable losers and determined souls. There’s something to be said for albums where you find solace, sympathy or empathy with each sentiment. Anymore for Anymore is really an unheralded album that may represent one of the best county-folk albums of the 70s.

Guy Clark-Old No. 1

July 14, 2008

Guy Clark

Old No. 1 (RCA 1975)

There are certain eras and places which are forever associated with the heyday or a particular genre. From the 60s British Invasion to the NYC and British punk scenes of 77-82, there are certain times in which there was an electricity and excitement that a new day was coming. In my opinion, country music has seen a few heydays from the Appalachian folk of the Carter Family to the heartbreaking schmaltz of the 60s, country assimilated Americana and cast itself in a new image. Sadly, Americana ain’t what it used to be and we are stuck with country’s assimilation of Bon Jovi and American Idol. Things ain’t what they used to be.

However, my favorite era of country is the outlaw mystique of the 70s where country artists soaked up all of the weed, LSD, psychedelia and rebellious attitudes of the 60s and spat it back out. You can hear the echoes of the Grateful Dead, Haight-Ashbury and psychedelic soul of the era and married to the past and it resulted in a period which I hold dear. Just off the top of my head I can name David Allen Coe, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Michael Hurley, Jerry jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, Joe Ely, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Gene Clark as individuals who pushed the enveloped of country music.

Guy Clark wrote “L.A. Freeway” for Jerry Jeff Walker and it was a hit that led to RCA signing him up to the label for his debut Old No. 1. He assembled a band that included Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and David Briggs. They provide a gorgeous canvas for Guy Clark to paint tales of leaving town for good, honkytonk hoochie mamas, intrepid hitchhikers and the perils of nostalgia. The album has little to do with outlaw imagery. This album is almost pathologically obsessed with loss and new beginnings. What makes it so sad is that he puts up this front that these new directions will be positive, but you get the inkling that he knows it will end in failure again. There is even one track “Old Time Feeling” that reminds me of Cat Stevens tacking a country tune for the Harold and Maude soundtrack. There is a fear of the future which permeates the album and it echoes a desire for things to remain the same. Lost opportunities and bad luck abound in Guy Clark’s lyrical world and it bums me out to no end. However, it is so damn gorgeous that it always ends in a draw.