Gram Parsons

Return of the Grievous Angel

Composed by Gram Parsons / Thomas Stanley Brown

Song Review by

Thomas Brown was a poet who happened to be a major Gram Parsons fan; Brown showed up at one of Parsons' shows with a piece of verse he'd written for him, and Parsons was so pleased with the gift that he set it to music and used it as the leadoff track for his next album. Practically any artist would be fortunate to have a fan like Brown; "The Return of the Grievous Angel" is a beautiful and marvelously literate distillation of Parsons' musical style and the myth he created for himself, which Brown wraps up into a story that's in many ways more grand than any he created for himself. Detailing the rather romantic (if slightly improbable) adventures of some song-spinning rounder out on the road as he fends off beautiful women and ill-meaning strangers while trying to make it home to the gal he loves best, on the surface "The Return of the Grievous Angel" is a standard story within the genre. But Brown turns it into something special, bringing an almost cinematic feel to his broad, sweeping narrative and lending a perspective that's impressionistic while still maintaining a firm grasp of the iconography of classic country music. As good as Brown's lyrics are, Parsons' melody makes them all the more memorable, especially the gentle but determined chorus that gives the heartstrings a firm and determined yank. Parsons' original recording played the "lovable rogue with a heart of gold" card for all it was worth, while Lucinda Williams' 1999 rough-and-ready cover managed to up the toughness quotient a few notches.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Grievous Angel 1974 Reprise / Rhino / Warner Bros.
Gram Parsons 1982
G.P./Grievous Angel 1990 Reprise 4:19
Warm Evenings, Pale Mornings, Bottled Blues 1992 Raven 4:24
Sounds of the Seventies: FM Rock, Vol. 4 1993
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 4:26
Listen to the Music: '70s California Sound 1996
Various Artists
Rhino 4:24
Alt.Country [Simitar] 1998
Various Artists
Simitar Distribution 4:24
Piano Bar Music: Nashville Style [Nascente] 2005
Various Artists
Nascente
The Complete Reprise Sessions 2006 Rhino / Warner Bros. 4:24
Rhino Hi-Five: Gram Parsons, Vol. 2 2006 Rhino/Warner Bros. 4:24
California Dreaming: 40 of the Finest West Coast Classics 2007
Various Artists
WEA 4:22
Classic Rock: The Collection 2012
Various Artists
Rhino 4:25
The Old Grey Whistle Test: The Anthems 2013
Various Artists
Rhino 4:22
American Classics [Rhino]
Various Artists
Rhino 4:25
Born to Rock: 60 Tracks of Classic Rock
Various Artists
Rhino 4:25
Country: The Collection
Various Artists
Rhino 4:25
blue highlight denotes editor's pick