The Long Ryders – Psychedelic Country Soul

Good music is often the product of unexpected alliances and strange bedfellows, so it makes a certain perverse sense that in 2019 Paisley Underground heroes and alt-country progenitors the Long Rydersreleased their first studio album in 32 years, and in a roundabout way we have gangsta rap icon Dr. Dreto thank for it. In the ’80s, Larry Chatman was part of the Long Ryders‘ road crew, and he’s since gone on to become Dr. Dre‘s personal assistant, helping to oversee Dre‘s Los Angeles recording studio, Record One. Chatman was able to stake his old friends in the Long Ryders to some studio time at Record One, and the result is the band’s comeback album, 2019’s Psychedelic Country Soul. While the Long Ryders had staged periodic reunion tours since they called it quits in 1987 (most recently in 2016, following the release of the box set Final Wild Songs), heading out to play material from the back catalog and recording a fresh batch of songs are two very different things, and given the circumstances that prompted its creation, one would be forgiven for expecting this project to sound a little stiff or tossed off. Thankfully, those expectations would be dead wrong. Psychedelic Country Soul is every bit as satisfying as 1984’s Native Sons and 1987’s Two-Fisted Tales, and it’s within throwing distance of their best album, 1985’s State of Our Union. This is a somewhat more subdued album than what the Ryders delivered in their salad days, with fewer fist-pumping anthems in the manner of “Looking for Lewis and Clark” and more contemplative, midtempo numbers (though their tribute to the love of music and the music of love, “The Sound,” comes close). But “What the Eagle Sees” and “Greenville” show that this band can still turn up the heat when they want, and even at its quietest, Psychedelic Country Soul sounds deeply committed and from the heart. They connect especially well on the country-flavored jangle pop of “Greenville,” the moody and lovelorn folk-rock of “Molly Somebody,” the fiddle-infused acoustic heartbreak of “If You Want to See Me Cry,” and the litany of modern injustices in “Bells of August.” All four members of the band — vocalist and guitarist Sid Griffin, guitarist and vocalist Stephen McCarthy, bassist Tom Stevens, and drummer Greg Sowders — contributed to the songwriting, and the sound and feel of the music is a joyous re-creation of what they’ve always done best, while the performances are crisp and energized, as taut and passionate as ever. And Ed Stasium‘s production is smooth but natural, flattering these musicians without intruding on the natural punch of their music. In 2019, the Long Ryders have an awful lot to say, and on Psychedelic Country Soul they’re sharing their message with the heart and soul that made them great. It was real nice of Dr. Dre to give them a chance to put it all on tape. (By Mark Deming –

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