22 Jun "Gram Parsons: Gram Parsons Archives, Vol. 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969."
By Gary Von Tersch
Gram Parsons Archives, Vol. 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969
Between 1968 and 1973, seminal country rocker Gram Parsons managed to only record two solo albums and never toured much beyond the West Coast, either with his Flying Burrito Brothers band (that included the bluegrass-seasoned mandolinist Chris Hillman and pedal steel virtuoso Sneaky Pete Kleinow) or his later Hot Band (with Emmylou Harris and James Burton) before his untimely death in 1973. The 21st Century, however, has seen a resurgence of interest in all things Parsons, with this two-CD set of hitherto live and unreleased recordings hot on the heels of a Rhino Records documentary titled Gram Parsons. Fallen Angel.
Taped in 1969 at two Grateful Dead shows by the Dead’s ace musical meister Owsley “Bear” Stanley, the sound is clean and crisp as Parsons and the Burrito Brothers, from the small stage of San Francisco’s celebrated Avalon Ballroom, succeed marvelously in joining such seemingly divergent types of music as honky-tonk country, blues and rock into a rootsy, Appalachian-flavored sound that would be called Americana today.
Parsons had just begun to write songs at the time, so there are only a few originals (both versions of the cultural commentary “Sin City,” “Hot Burrito #2” and the jaunty “Train Song” are exemplary) but his choice of covers is peerless from Red Simpson’s rowdy “Close Up The Honky Tonks” (the band’s usual set-opener) and the Wilburn Brothers’early hit “Somebody’s Back In Town” to jukebox-tested Mel Tillis, Willie Nelson and Autry Inman favorites. Parsons even dives headlong into picks from his youth with inspired reworkings of Little Richard and Hank Williams classics.
Also included are two bonus track “home recordings” (more please) and a booklet with a pair of informative essays and a wealth of candid period photos by Andee Nathanson