Various Artists

Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: The Blissed-Out Birth of Country Rock Vol. 4: 1971

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The fourth volume of Bear Family's seven-edition country-rock history Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: The Blissed-Out Birth of Country Rock kicks off with Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen's locomotive rendition of "Hot Rod Lincoln," possibly the hardest-rocking cut yet featured in this series. It's a good indication of how things were changing in 1971, the year chronicled in this double-disc set. What began as a mellow breeze blowing out of Southern California grew grittier as it swept across the country, picking up musicians who were perhaps a little rowdier than the previous generation's. That's another way of saying that there are a lot of bands featured on this installment of Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: Commander Cody, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Randy Bachman's Brave Belt, Cochise, Cowboy, Head Hands & Feet, Twin Engine, and Poco, every one of them bringing a heavier backbeat. When combined with a slight diminishment of the literate singer/songwriters that dominated Vol. 3 -- the moody Mickey Newbury shows up toward the end of the collection, but both Kris Kristofferson and John Prine seem comfortable showcased alongside the shaggier country-rockers here -- helps give this installment a funkier feel, a suspicion confirmed by the funkier acts included here: Link Wray and Lonnie Mack riding the roots movement, Hoyt Axton roaring through "Never Been to Spain," Sir Douglas Quintet sending out "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," Freddy Fender, wherever he is, and this comp's great re-discovery, Alex Harvey, a sensational singer/songwriter who wrote "Delta Dawn" and "Tulsa Turnaround" (and has nothing to do with the British rocker who shares his name). This kind of relaxed, down-and-dirty groove is so addictive that it's easy not to realize that Gram Parsons is M.I.A. (the Chris Hillman-led Flying Burrito Brothers are here, though), but that only underscores how by 1971 the movement Gram set into motion grew into its own thing.

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