Liner Note Author: Colin Escott.
Illustrator: Colin Escott.
Photographer: Colin Escott.
On the third volume of Bear Family's seven-entry country-rock chronicle Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: The Blissed-Out Birth of Country-Rock, the label moves into 1970, a year that saw a nascent, long-haired Americana gain popularity but also get a bit weirder. Thanks to the Band's success -- Music from Big Pink turned heads in 1968, but 1969's The Band found its way onto the Billboard Top 10, bringing the group to the cover of Time in the opening weeks of 1970 -- there were now hordes of fellow travelers, including hippies like Jefferson Airplane, trying on overalls for size. The Airplane brought in Jerry Garcia to play steel on "The Farm," one of the 38 tunes featured on this double-disc set, a collection of songs that also includes two cuts from the Grateful Dead's twin '70 releases, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. If the San Franciscan hippies were embracing roots, so were the blissed-out Los Angelenos. Led by Gram Parsons, who spent much of 1970 closing out his run with the Flying Burrito Brothers, these creatures of the Canyon included Mike Nesmith, who was just breaking free from the Monkees, and Rick Nelson, continuing the path they started in 1969 -- a journey that can be heard on the second volume of Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels -- but the '70s saw the rise of idiosyncratic singer/songwriters like Jesse Winchester, Eric Andersen, and Townes Van Zandt, along with Nashville rebels David Allan Coe and Kris Kristofferson, the latter also seeing success via a cover of "Me and Bobby McGee" from Janis Joplin. A new wrinkle came in the form of the wooly, hard-driving rockers from the south, a breed typified by the Allman Brothers Band but also encompassing Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. A lot of the lesser-known names here -- Swampwater, Goose Creek Symphony, Country Funk, Wildweeds -- fall outside of these parameters, skewing closer to the bright, wide-open sound of Poco, a feel that might typify how country-rock felt at the start of the '70s: after all the heaviness of the '60s, it seemed like a new day was dawning. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine