Steve Young

No Place to Fall

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Issued in 1978, No Place to Fall is, regrettably, the second and last album for RCA. Like its predecessor, Renegade Picker, Young's ever-evolving music is centered in the heart of outlaw country this time out, though there are, as usual, interesting twists and turns. The band is stellar, with Buddy Emmons and Buddy Spicher, Tracy Nelson, Jerry Shook, Dale Sellers, and a bunch of guitar pickers, as well as drummer Kenny Malone, among others. The material is noteworthy on many levels, not the least of which is Young's decision to record, for the third time, "Montgomery in the Rain" and "Seven Bridges Road." Once more, he reinvents both songs, fills them out, adds different textures and stresses, and as a result, in the grain of his voice the meanings widen and deepen. The title track was written by the late Townes Van Zandt, and Young's read is damn near definitive, with layers of guitars haunting the middle of the tune and his own voice carrying the lonely edge of Van Zandt's lyric into oblivion. In addition, Young delves deep into Okie blues with a barbed-wire-and-whiskey cover of J.J. Cale's "Same Old Blues," with stunning slide guitar work. But it is in the cover of Mentor Williams' composition "Drift Away" -- the multi-million-seller recorded by Dobie Gray -- that Young offers his greatest surprise. This is a soul song, performed by a soul singer originally, and here Young, while keeping the song's intent essentially the same, transforms it into a country prayer. The same can be said for his loose cover of Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright"; Young reworks the melody slightly while emphasizing different parts of the lyric as the band fills in the cracks to bring an entirely new light to the song. No Place to Fall failed ultimately to sell, but it did a great deal to bolster his confidence as both a bandleader and as a producer. Young is a survivor, albeit on the fringes; he is one of the few whose records are so consistent as to be essential listening for anyone interested in late 20th century country music and rock & roll.

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