If a rock or pop musician rose to fame in the mid- to late '60s, chances are excellent that his or her closet housed a cheerful but earnest skeleton in the form of a fling with folk music. Curt Boettcher was no exception; he became a hero to sunshine pop fans for his production work with the Association, and his remarkable pop-psych studio projects Sagittarius and the Millennium, but from 1963 to 1965 Boettcher made his first impressions in the music business as the founder and leader of the Goldebriars, a pop-influenced folk act from Minneapolis, Minnesota. While the Goldebriars' repertoire for the most part was frustratingly typical for the day (a handful of popular folk standards and originals like "MacDougal Street," which sounds like a Midwestern teenager's fantasy of life as a beatnik, or "No More Bomb," a calypso-influenced antiwar song that could double as a nursery rhyme), the vocals were honestly something special, and the striking harmonies of Boettcher and sisters Dotti Holmberg and Sheri Holmberg gave the group a truly unique sound. The Goldebriars' cleverly blended vocals and the canny use of multi-tracking to give them a richer and brighter sound suggest this was where Boettcher first began to understand the possibilities of the recording studio (though Bob Morgan was the credited producer on their recordings). The Goldebriars released two albums and a fistful of singles for Epic Records during their brief history, and Walkin' Down the Line: The Best of the Goldebriars collects 25 songs from their tenure with Epic, as well as five demos (including four unreleased tracks that won them their record deal). Most of these tracks sound spare and uncluttered, with Boettcher and the Holmberg sisters joined by multi-instrumentalist Ron Neilson, while latter-period recordings include a rhythm section and additional studio players who add the slightest touch of a rock & roll mood, suggesting that with the addition of an electric 12-string, Boettcher could have had a decent folk-rock combo on his hands. As it is, the Goldebriars often sound a bit too naive and treacly for their own good (which isn't all that surprising, given than they were all still in their teens when they cut their first album), but the vocal harmonies and the group's engaging way with a melody set them apart from the dozens of Kingston Trio wannabes that were dominating the folk music scene at the time, and Walkin' Down the Line is well worth investigating for folks with a taste for the poppier end of early-'60s folk, and for Curt Boettcher fans curious about his juvenilia. The remastering for this set is splendid, and the booklet includes fine and informative liner notes from Dawn Eden.
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