Liner Note Author: David Fricke.
Recording information: Live Concert, "T Beest Goes, The Netherlands (04/06/1985); Live, BBC TV's "Whistle Test" (04/06/1985); Noah Concerts, The Esther Palais de Danse, Goes (04/06/1985).
The Long Ryders were the Odd Men Out in the Paisley Underground scene that briefly held sway over Los Angeles in the '80s. Like their peers, they felt a very personal connection with the music of the '60s, but instead of embracing psychedelia, they flew the flag for folk-rock and country-rock, putting Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, and Doug Sahm on their personal Mt. Rushmore. The Long Ryders were proud traditionalists, but they didn't live in the past. Their music was also informed by early punk and power pop in its hooky energy and sense of commitment, and if they sang of the lessons to be taken from history, they did so as progressives who knew the stories of Harriet Tubman, WDIA-AM, the Dust Bowl, and the Mason-Dixon Line had as much to say about the present as the past. If they fell short of genuine stardom, the Long Ryders more than made a difference during their 1981-1987 lifetime, particularly in their influence on the alt-country movement, which would spread like wildfire not long after they broke up. Nearly everything you need to know about the band can be found on Final Wild Songs, a four-CD box set that collects their debut EP, 1983's 10-5-60, and their three studio albums, 1984's Native Sons, 1985's State of Our Union, and 1987's Two Fisted Tales, as well as a number of rare and unreleased tracks, including a full live set recorded for radio broadcast in the Netherlands. The Long Ryders were a band that wore their beliefs -- personal, political, and musical -- on their sleeves, and in their heyday they were celebrated for what they had to say as much as the music they made. But Final Wild Songs makes it clear this combo's music has endured because they were a truly great rock & roll band, full of snap and fervent energy. The guitar interplay between Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy was pure jangly bliss, and bassist Tom Stevens and drummer Greg Sowders held the tunes together with fire, precision, and outsized personality. The Long Ryders knew when to play moody and subtle, but they could also rock out with ferocious joy, and "Looking for Lewis and Clark" still sounds like an anthem worth marching to 30 years after the fact. Final Wild Songs includes song-by-song notes from the group's members, and their often witty remarks point to how much the Long Ryders cared about music as well as the world around them. And anyone who questions the group's sense of humor should check out the previously flexi-disc only "Christmas in New Zealand" and "Encore from Hell" (the latter featuring the band jamming on stage while Griffin reads profoundly negative reviews of State of Our Union with no small enthusiasm). The Long Ryders mattered then, and still matter today, and Final Wild Songs has enough fire and fun to convince any doubters. ~ Mark Deming