Lawrence Hammond

Coyote's Dream

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Not a very well known entity in the Takoma catalog, this LP is a solo outing by a singer, songwriter, and picker who had previously been involved with a psychedelic country combo based originally out of Antioch, Mad River. The Ohio group predictably flowed its way onto the San Francisco scene during an era when hippies and, more importantly, hippie musicians embraced country & western.

The music of this cultural fusion was well documented and includes some famous masterpieces. Despite some obvious drawbacks, Coyote's Dream rates right up there with any great country rock moment, sometimes even surpassing the threshold with a track such as "Trucker's Nightmare," a superb, hard-edged ditty that doesn't appear to have ever been included on any of the numerous compilation sets devoted to songs about truckers. Ignoring this album may have been something of a religion, yet certain listeners seem to cling to it. For example, a highly accomplished steel guitarist carefully copied the vinyl to distribute in burned CD form to other prospective fans, complete with hand-drawn cover and notes in which no knowledge of any particular sidemen accompanying Lawrence Hammond is admitted. Actually, some of the sidemen are the same dudes who played on similar material from the period that achieved much more commercial success, particularly fiddler Byron Berline. The fine pedal steel player is Bill Weingarden.

Hammond`s singing style may have been one of the problems if reactions of music critics can be trusted, not always the right philosophy but basically considered reasonable in this case following careful comparison of said voice and said criticism. Yes, "a voice to crisp an aardvark's nose hairs" is a little mean. Meanness may be excused as a reaction, however, after absorbing a few of the man's stylistic mannerisms, among them a falsetto maneuver as uncomfortable as someone unwanted sitting down at a campfire.

"I spent the entire album listening to each word, waiting for another one of those falsettos in sheer dread" commented a member of the network that had received dubs of the project as a further distribution of the steel guitarist's original donation. The reactions of a varied group of enthusiastic music listeners is interesting in any case, demonstrating the great appeal of this LP as clearly as it underscores the frightening aspects of Hammond vocalizing.

A critic who had always seemed kind of kinky -- yet an expert in country & western of all sorts nonetheless -- admitted that he had become a prisoner of the first track, unable to proceed further, not out of dislike but the total opposite. Feelings like this about a song entitled "George Gudger's Overalls" will not seem extreme to anyone who has experienced the song itself. It is one of the few songs in the history of music about a pair of pants, and if that is not enough includes a round of indecent exposure , the songwriter coming up with good rhymes for both "in the raw" and "in the nude." Another reaction touches on lyrics as well, speculating whether even the great Roger Miller had managed to come up with a rhyme based on the name of union thug Jimmy Hoffa. Unfortunately, the latter listener became more enamored with Hammond than was emotionally healthy, lapsing into a severe depression when nobody actually showed up to "sit a spell" and "drink a few" as promised in an endearing portrait of "Uncle John Mills." Not exactly sure of what to make of the following reaction, it is included because of the relevant reference to twangy guitars, a really attractive part of the entire album: "Hey this was the first thing I listened to after replacing one of my headphone ear pieces with a wad of scotch tape. I am not sure what happened to the earpiece, I think it got dragged the length of the corridor in a hotel on a marble floor. Anyway I like the scotch tape better, it twitches and tickles my ears when the guitars are twangy, I like it so much I am going to revisit my entire country collection."

The record also sounded good to a film projectionist who while not admitting it actually was experiencing even worse playback deficiencies then the aforementioned head-taper, as opposed to home-taper. "I had the soundtrack to Exodus playing in the background, it sometimes drowned out Coyote's Dream." Finding a copy in pristine audio conditions to form an individual judgment will no doubt take longer than listening, the album features only eight songs and lasts just a bit longer than a half-hour.

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