Tompall Glaser

Tompall Glaser and His Outlaw Band

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1977 was the height of country outlaw fever, and Tompall Glaser was digging deeper into the blues than any of his contemporaries, with the possible exception of Mickey Newbury, who had influenced him profoundly when it came to production, texture, dynamics, and arrangement. Though not as well-known as his pals Willie and Waylon, Glaser had a style and a band that were second to none. With Mel Brown on lead guitar, Glaser and Fred Newell on rhythm, and Ben Keith of the Stray Gators (from Neil Young's backing band on Harvest) on dobro and pedal steel, anchored by Red Young on keys, Charlie Polk on drums, and bassist Teddy Reynolds, they were unbeatable. But it's the smooth swamp glide of Glaser's voice that is the key to his best records, and this is his classic. Sounding alternately wasted and worn, yet full of a slow-burning fire that comes from down in the belly like the best blues singers, Glaser delivers every time with electricity and rough-hewn elegance. This ABC album features one of the best openers to appear on any outlaw country record: "You Can Have Her" is a slow-building brush fire that is rooted in the same southern-fried soul and rock that Delaney & Bonnie put across. The band, which erects a towering wall of dirty, greasy country-rocking blues and funk, is accompanied by a chorus of female backing vocalists that gives the record a real Muscle Shoals feel. At over five minutes, it has the time to develop into the bumping and grinding anthem it is. But what follows is so strange it's hard to believe it's on the same record. It's a version of the Miller/Stevenson classic "Please Release Me." Glaser sings it through the first half accompanied by only a piano in slow, pained fashion, creating an almost unbearable tension before opening it all up in the last two choruses. But it just gets better with "Tennessee Blues" and "Come Back Shane," two of the most gorgeous country ballads he ever cut, and the honky tonker "It'll Be Her," all rounding out the first side. Side two kicks it with the infamous "It's a Ain't Fair Medley" of "Look What Thoughts Will Do," "Pretty Words," and "It Ain't Fair," all waltzing in the grand bass-thumping outlaw fashion. While "Sweethearts or Strangers" is a fine song, it pales in comparison to the two closers, the redneck lovers' anthem "Let My Fingers Do the Walkin'" and Glaser's signature tune, the countrypolitan blues rocker "I Just Want to Hear the Music," with its stuttering guitars, sweetly fingerpicked acoustics, mandolins, sweeping strings, pumpin' Jerry Lee-styled piano, and fiddles bleating in the best R&B sweatbox fashion. Tompall Glaser and His Outlaw Band is the Glaser record to own.

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