Rant ‘N’ Roll: CD Catch-Up – A Hippie Named Banana & Other Esoteric Delights

Folk-rock heroes The Youngbloods were formed in 1965 by New Yorker Jesse Colin Young on bass and New Englander Jerry Corbitt on guitar and harmonica. They then added multi-instrumentalist Massachusetts friend Lowell “Banana” Levinger and Memphis drummer Joe Bauer. Fifty years on, Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics (Grandpa Raccoon Records) is a super-session of sorts with bluegrass pioneer David Grisman, Ry Cooder, Darol Anger, Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks and Peter Rowan. They’ve re-recorded and rearranged such timeless ‘60s fare as the title track, “Darkness Darkness,” “Hippie From Olema” (an answer song to Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee”), the good-timey “Grizzly Bear,” “Stagger Lee,” “The Pool Hall Song,” “Sugar Babe” and five more acoustic jams. The result sounds so sweet and nice, I had to play it twice.

Serial Obsession, from New York City, are a four-piece that transcends eras, trends, glitter, hard rock, hair metal, Brit Rock or whatever kinda rock you got that pops. They’re actually kind of an anachronism in that they could care less that their sound isn’t exactly, uh, hip. It’s retrograde but it’s Cheap Trick good. Their new four-song Pull The Pin EP is the perfect antidote to all that jazz and blues I’ve been drowning in of late. Play it loud.

Much like the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles, the cream of the Nashville crop of session players in the late 1960s and early 1970s—called The Nashville Cats by insiders of the time—were so in-demand that artists as varied as Leonard Cohen, The Byrds, The Monkees, Country Joe McDonald, Simon & Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, JJ Cale, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Wings, Leon Russell and the Steve Miller Band all recorded there.

Now, with the release of a double-disc, Dylan, Cash And The Nashville Cats: A New Music City (Legacy Recordings/Country Music Foundation Records) more attention should be paid to such stellar studio stalwarts as Charlie Daniels, Charlie McCoy, David Briggs, Kenny Buttrey, Fred Carter, Jr., Pete Drake, Norbert Putnam, Pig Robbins, Buddy Spicher and about a dozen others.

Dylan came first, recording the seminal Blonde On Blonde there in 1966. “Bird On A Wire,” “Hickory Wind,” “The Boxer,” Gentle On My Mind,” “A Six-Pack To Go,” “Heart Of Gold,” “City Of New Orleans,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Sally G” and 26 more are etched-in-stone reminders of what a great musical era that late ‘60s/early ‘70s were in this town. Bonus track “Matchbox” (as performed by Derek & The Dominos with the song’s author, Carl Perkins, on Johnny Cash’s groundbreaking primetime network television program) caps it all off.

Call it a soundtrack to the current museum exhibit at the Country Music Hall Of Fame that chronicles a perfect storm of genres that culminated in a peaceful meeting-of-the-minds, culturally speaking, between longhairs and rednecks.

Me Oh My (Organic Records) by The Honeycutters from North Carolina—their third—damn near beats anything coming out of Nashville these days. Singer/songwriter/producer Amanda Anne Platt is an irresistible and irrepressible force of nature. It’s all so authentic, organic, acoustic, sprightly, lively, lyrically profound and catchy that—when buoyed by Tal Taylor on mandolin and Matt Smith on pedal steel, electric guitar and dobro—you can’t get these songs out of your head. “Jukebox” should be the obvious single but the title track, “Carolina,” “Texas ’81” and “Lucky” could all be hits if these old hairy ears can still pick ‘em. Americana comes up aces here. It’s just the latest example that the real cool country is on the outside looking in at the soulless heap of commercial drek constantly shoved down the gullets of impressionable know-nothings. Hey, I ain’t going so far as to say country music sucks in 2015 because Willie, Merle, Kinky, Emmylou & Rodney, Mavericks, Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter and about a dozen others are still vital. You just have to know where to look. And a good start would be to go no further than The Honeycutters.