As Jimmy Webb says in his quintessential book on songwriting, Tunesmith, “...it all goes back to Stephen Foster.” Of course, Mr. Foster is credited by some to be the father of American “pop"ular music. You know the song: Goin’ to run all night, goin’ to run all day, and then something about a Bob Tail Nag. Well, despite its electric name, Sid Griffin and his outfit Western Electric do not stray far away from the traditional music that Mr. Foster envisioned so many years ago when he created the first verse and chorus. Sid, formerly of the band The Long Ryders, truly understands the beauty of classic traditional instrumentation like 12 string guitars, pedal steel guitars, banjos, mandolins and a simple piano.
It would not be a stretch to suggest that Mr. Griffin and Peter Holsapple of the Continental Drifters are the heirs to the throne formerly held by the great electric folk balladeers like Gene Clark (Byrds), Gram Parsons (Byrds), John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonful) and John Phillips (Mamas and Papas). Sid is certainly a real expert on his ancestors: he published a book on Gram Parsons and coordinated a Gene Clark tribute CD that will be coming out this month.
It would be easy to say that this recording is classic Americana, AAA, roots, country rock. The comparisons might be to The Jayhawks and maybe the first Foster and Lloyd record. But this recording shimmers, vibrates and warmly overwhelms you in its own unique way.
Standout tracks include: “When I’m Walking With You” which has a beauty similar to a Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods track. “Emily in Ginger” has a nice psychedelic, drony, dreamy feel. “Everything” is a strong opening track with an uplifting chorus. “Whirlwind” reminds me of a John Phillips composition sometime around the time of his Mamas and Papas song “Strange Young Girls.” Really, the tracks are hard to isolate on, as the songs contribute well to the whole work.
If you are curious about what “Americana” or “No Depression” or “New Country” means in terms of music categories, the debut of Sid Griffin and Western Electric is not a bad place to start. In fact, start here, and if you want a list of some other good releases in the genre, send me an e-mail and I’d be happy to give you a list. For those fans of the “Americana” genre, just buy this and you won’t be sorry.