Country rock

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Country rock is a subgenre of popular music, formed from the fusion of rock and country. It was developed by rock musicians who began to record country-flavored records in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These musicians recorded rock records using country themes, vocal styles, and additional instrumentation, most characteristically pedal steel guitars. [1] Country rock began with artists like Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, The International Submarine Band [2] [3] and others, reaching its greatest popularity in the 1970s with artists such as Emmylou Harris, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Michael Nesmith, Poco, Charlie Daniels Band,  and Pure Prairie League. Country rock also influenced artists in other genres, including the Band, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, and George Harrison's solo work, [1] as well as playing a part in the development of Southern rock.

Contents

Characteristics

Rock and roll has usually been seen as a combination of rhythm and blues and country music, a fusion particularly evident in 1950s rockabilly. [4] There has also been cross-pollination throughout the history of both genres; however, the term “country-rock” is used generally to refer to the wave of rock musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s who began recording rock songs with country themes, vocal styles, and additional instrumentation, most characteristically pedal steel guitars. [1] John Einarson states, that "[f]rom a variety of perspectives and motivations, these musicians either played rock & roll attitude, or added a country feel to rock, or folk, or bluegrass, there was no formula". [5]

History

Origins

Gram Parsons in 1972 Gram Parsons.jpg
Gram Parsons in 1972

Country influences can be heard on rock records through the 1960s, including the Beatles' 1964 recordings "I'll Cry Instead", "Baby's in Black", "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party", and their 1965 recording "I've Just Seen A Face", the Byrds' 1965 cover version of Porter Wagoner's "Satisfied Mind", on the Rolling Stones "High and Dry" (1966), as well as Buffalo Springfield's "Go and Say Goodbye" (1966) and "Kind Woman" (1968). [1] According to The Encyclopedia of Country Music, the Beatles' "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party", their cover of the Buck Owens country hit "Act Naturally" and their 1965 album Rubber Soul can all be seen "with hindsight" as examples of country rock. [6]

Former TV teen idol & rockabilly recording artist Ricky Nelson pioneered the Country Rock sound as the frontman for his Stone Canyon Band and recorded the 1966 album "Bright Lights & Country Music" and the 1967 album "Country Fever". Bassist Randy Meisner joined briefly in 1970 after leaving Poco and before joining Eagles.

In 1966, as many rock artists moved increasingly towards expansive and experimental psychedelia, Bob Dylan spearheaded the back-to-basics roots revival when he went to Nashville to record the album Blonde on Blonde , playing with notable local musicians like Charlie McCoy. [7] This, and the subsequent more clearly country-influenced albums, John Wesley Harding (1967) and Nashville Skyline (1969), have been seen as creating the genre of country folk, a route pursued by a number of, largely acoustic, folk musicians. [7]

Dylan's lead was also followed by the Byrds, who were joined by Gram Parsons in 1968. Parsons had mixed country with rock, blues and folk to create what he called "Cosmic American Music". [8] Earlier in the year Parsons had released Safe at Home (although the principal recording for the album had taken place in mid-1967) with the International Submarine Band, which made extensive use of pedal steel and is seen by some as the first true country-rock album. [1] The result of Parsons' brief tenure in the Byrds was Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968), generally considered one of the finest and most influential recordings in the genre. [1] The Byrds continued in the same vein, but Parsons left before the album was released to join another ex-Byrds member Chris Hillman in forming the Flying Burrito Brothers. The Byrds hired guitarist Clarence White and drummer Gene Parsons, both from the country band Nashville West. The Flying Burrito Brothers recorded the albums The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969) and Burrito Deluxe (1970), which helped establish the respectability and parameters of the genre, before Parsons departed to pursue a solo career. [1]

Expansion

Emmylou Harris playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2006) Emmylou Harris 2006 2.jpg
Emmylou Harris playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2006)

Country rock was a particularly popular style in the California music scene of the late 1960s, and was adopted by bands including Hearts and Flowers, Poco (formed by Richie Furay and Jim Messina, formerly of the Buffalo Springfield) and New Riders of the Purple Sage. [1] Some folk-rockers followed the Byrds into the genre, among them the Beau Brummels [1] and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. [9] A number of performers also enjoyed a renaissance by adopting country sounds, including: the Beatles, who re-explored elements of country in songs such as "Rocky Raccoon" and "Don't Pass Me By" from their 1968 self-titled double album (often referred to as the "White Album"), [10] and "Octopus's Garden" from Abbey Road (1969); [11] the Everly Brothers, whose Roots album (1968) is usually considered some of their finest work; John Fogerty, who left Creedence Clearwater Revival behind for the country sounds of the Blue Ridge Rangers (1972); [12] Mike Nesmith, who had experimented with country sounds while with the Monkees, formed the First National Band; [13] and Neil Young who moved in and out of the genre throughout his career. [1] One of the few acts to successfully move from the country side towards rock were the bluegrass band the Dillards. [1] Doug Dillard left the band to form the group Dillard & Clark with ex-Byrds member Gene Clark and Bernie Leadon. [14]

Peak

Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, brought elements of country rock into the band during the 1970s Dickey Betts Pistoia Blues Festival 2008.jpg
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band, brought elements of country rock into the band during the 1970s

The greatest commercial success for country rock came in the 1970s, with the Doobie Brothers mixing in elements of R&B, Emmylou Harris (the former singer with Parsons) becoming a star on country radio, and Linda Ronstadt, the "Queen of country-rock", creating a highly successful pop-oriented brand of the genre. [15] Pure Prairie League, formed in Ohio in 1969 by Craig Fuller, had both critical and commercial success with 5 straight Top 40 LP releases, [16] including Bustin' Out (1972), acclaimed by Allmusic critic Richard Foss as "an album that is unequaled in country-rock", [17] and Two Lane Highway , described by Rolling Stone as "a worthy companion to the likes of the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo and other gems of the genre". [18] Former Poco and Buffalo Springfield member Jim Messina joined Kenny Loggins in a very successful duo, while former members of Ronstadt's backing band went on to form the Eagles (two members of which were from the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco), who emerged as one of the most successful rock acts of all time, producing albums that included Desperado (1973) and Hotel California (1976). [15] However, the principal country rock influence in the Eagles came from Bernie Leadon, formerly of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Eagles are perceived as shifting towards hard rock after he left the band in late 1975. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils had hit singles “If You Wanna Get To Heaven” (1974) and "Jackie Blue" (1975), the latter of which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. The Bellamy Brothers had the hit "Let Your Love Flow"(1976). In 1979, the Southern rock Charlie Daniels Band moved to a more country direction, released a song with strong bluegrass influence, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", and the song crossed over and became a hit on the pop chart. [19]

Legacy

Outside its handful of stars, country rock's greatest significance was on artists in other genres, including the Band, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones and George Harrison's solo work. [1] It also played a part in the development of Southern rock, which, although largely derived from blues rock, had a distinct southern lilt, and it paved the way for parts of the alternative country movement. [1] The genre declined in popularity in the late 1970s, but some established artists, including Neil Young, have continued to record country-tinged rock into the twenty-first century. Country rock has survived as a cult force in Texas, where acts including the Flatlanders, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and California-based Richard Brooker, have collaborated and recorded. [1] [20] Other performers have produced occasional recordings in the genre, including Elvis Costello's Almost Blue (1981) [1] and the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand , which was one of the most commercially successful albums of 2007. [21] In 2013 British country rock band Rocky and the Natives released Let's Hear It For the Old Guys with two American members, drummer Andy Newmark and acoustic guitarist Bob Rafkin. Rafkin had written Lazy Waters for The Byrds from the 1971 album Farther Along and Andy Newmark had played on the 1973 Gene Parsons album Kindling. Later in 2013 Rocky and the Natives country rock cover of John Lennon's Tight As was included on the Lennon Bermuda album.

See also

Related Research Articles

Gram Parsons American singer-songwriter

Ingram Cecil Connor III, known professionally as Gram Parsons, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. Parsons recorded as a solo artist and with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He popularized what he called "Cosmic American Music", a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and rock.

The Byrds American rock band

The Byrds were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member. Although their time as one of the most popular groups in the world only lasted for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds are today considered by critics to be among the most influential rock acts of their era. Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and McGuinn's jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar was "absorbed into the vocabulary of rock" and has continued to be influential.

Buffalo Springfield Canadian-American folk rock band

Buffalo Springfield was an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California by Canadian musicians Neil Young, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin and American musicians Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. The group, widely known for the song "For What It's Worth", released three albums and several singles from 1966–1968. Their music combined elements of folk music and country music with British Invasion and psychedelic rock influences. Like contemporary band The Byrds, they were key to the early development of folk rock. The band took their name from a steamroller parked outside their house.

Al Perkins is an American guitarist known primarily for his steel guitar work. The Gibson guitar company called Perkins "the world's most influential dobro player" and began producing an "Al Perkins Signature" Dobro in 2001—designed and autographed by Perkins.

Folk rock is a hybrid music genre combining elements of folk music and rock music, which arose in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in the mid-1960s. In the U.S., folk rock emerged from the folk music revival and the influence that the Beatles and other British Invasion bands had on members of that movement. Performers such as Bob Dylan and the Byrds—several of whose members had earlier played in folk ensembles—attempted to blend the sounds of rock with their pre-existing folk repertoire, adopting the use of electric instrumentation and drums in a way previously discouraged in the U.S. folk community. The term "folk rock" was initially used in the U.S. music press in June 1965 to describe the Byrds' music.

<i>Sweetheart of the Rodeo</i> 1968 studio album by The Byrds

Sweetheart of the Rodeo is the sixth album by American rock band the Byrds and was released in August 1968 on Columbia Records. Recorded with the addition of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons, it became the first major album widely recognised as country rock, and represented a stylistic move away from the psychedelic rock of the band's previous LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The Byrds had occasionally experimented with country music on their four previous albums, but Sweetheart of the Rodeo represented their fullest immersion into the genre thus far. The album was also responsible for bringing Parsons, who had joined the Byrds prior to the recording of the album, to the attention of a mainstream rock audience for the first time. Thus, the album can be seen as an important chapter in Parsons' personal and musical crusade to make country music fashionable for a young audience.

Gene Clark American singer-songwriter

Harold Eugene "Gene" Clark was an American singer-songwriter and founding member of the folk rock band the Byrds. He was the Byrds' principal songwriter between 1964 and early 1966, writing most of the band's best-known originals from this period, including "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better", "She Don't Care About Time", "Eight Miles High" and "Set You Free This Time". Although he did not achieve commercial success as a solo artist, Clark was in the vanguard of popular music during much of his career, prefiguring developments in such disparate subgenres as psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock, and alternative country.

Roots rock is rock music that looks back to rock's origins in folk, blues and country music. It is particularly associated with the creation of hybrid subgenres from the later 1960s including blues rock, country rock, Southern rock, and swamp rock which have been seen as responses to the perceived excesses of dominant psychedelic and developing progressive rock. Because roots music (Americana) is often used to mean folk and world musical forms, roots rock is sometimes used in a broad sense to describe any rock music that incorporates elements of this music. In the 1980s, roots rock enjoyed a revival in response to trends in punk rock, new wave and heavy metal music.

Chris Hillman American musician

Christopher Hillman is an American musician. He was the original bassist and one of the original members of The Byrds, which in 1965 included Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby and Michael Clarke. With frequent collaborator Gram Parsons, Hillman was a key figure in the development of country rock, defining the genre through his work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas and the country-rock group The Desert Rose Band.

<i>The Gilded Palace of Sin</i> 1969 studio album by The Flying Burrito Brothers

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Clarence White American musician

Clarence White, was an American bluegrass and country guitarist and singer. He is best known as a member of the bluegrass ensemble the Kentucky Colonels and the rock band the Byrds, as well as for being a pioneer of the musical genre of country rock during the late 1960s.

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<i>Safe at Home</i> 1968 studio album by The International Submarine Band

Safe at Home is a 1968 album by country rock group the International Submarine Band, led by the then-unknown 21-year-old Gram Parsons. The group's only album release, Safe at Home featured four of Parsons' original compositions rounded out by six covers of classic country and rock and roll songs made famous by the likes of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Hank Snow. Described as "hippie and hillbilly in equal measure", the album helped to forge the burgeoning country rock movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sneaky Pete Kleinow

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