Country Funk III: 1975-1982

Various Artists

(LP - Light in the Attic Records #LITA 1941)

Review by Mark Deming

Conventional wisdom has it that there's a sharp divide between white and Black culture in the American South, but music fans know that ain't necessarily so. Country and rhythm & blues are both steeped in similar blues and gospel traditions, and not only did a lot of country folks like to dance to a funky jam every once in a while, a lot of the same Southern studio cats played on both kinds of records. Zach Cowie, Patrick McCarthy and Matt Sullivan gave the place on the Venn diagram where the two styles overlapped a name with 2012's Country Funk: 1969-1975, a fine compilation they curated for Light in the Attic Records. Seven years after a second volume appeared, LITA has brought us Country Funk: 1975-1982, Vol. 3, with Jason Morgan and Patrick McCarthy drawing up the track list. This volume digs deep enough into the 1970s that disco rather than funk is the real calling card of many of these tunes, but thankfully most have a deep groove that's not as stiff and an easier hip-shake than most production-line disco of the era. The easygoing sway of "Shake the Dust" by Steven Soles, the cool but emphatic seduction of "One and Only One" by Eddie Rabbit, and the party-hearty mood of "I Got the Fever" by Ron Galbraith certainly put them ahead of most of what passed for mainstream dance music in that era. Elsewhere, Dolly Parton is looking for good times on "Sure Thing," Billy Swan has a truly superior alien abduction story on "Oliver Swan," Conway Twitty reaffirms his status as Nashville's leading love man on "Night Fires," and Jerry Reed reliably delivers swampy rhythms and funny lyrics on "Rhythm & Blues." The fact Delbert McClinton, J.J. Cale, and Tony Joe White are all represented with superior cuts should surprise no one (White's is even previously unreleased), but the relatively unsung Terri Gibbs delivers a stunner with "Rich Man," a more cynical sibling to Bobbie Gentry's "Fancy," and if Ronnie Milsap's "Get It Up" can't fill up your dance floor, your guests have fallen asleep. Country Funk: 1975-1982, Vol. 3 is less revelatory than the original, since LITA's crate diggers thoroughly established that this oft-ignored crossover exists, but if you want to check out what happens when Nashville and Memphis decide to get together to have some fun, this album will send you to the land of the twangy good groove.