The Long Ryders always opened their records with a bang before moving into more introspective and varied material, and their return to recording after a 30-year absence strikes as strong an opener. Psychedelic Country Soul lead track “Greenville” stands confidently alongside “Looking for Lewis & Clark” and “Gunslinger Man” as opening statements that get the blood pumping and the feet moving. And what follows is as good as anything the Long Ryders released back when they were helping to invent what we now call Americana.
Most reunion albums succeed, if they do, on the simplest of terms: if the reconstructed band can evoke a sound that connects to their fans’ nostalgia of bygone days, then the reunion is deemed a success, the album gets played for a solid week or two, and then takes its place on the shelf among the better-known work where it stays, mostly unplayed but a permanent part of the collection because we fans tend towards completism. Such is not going to be the fate of Psychedelic Country Soul. This album doesn’t just sound like the Long Ryders used to sound 30 years ago; it sounds like the Long Ryders never left us to begin with. The playing and songwriting here is as strong as ever. Hopefully, Psychedelic Country Soul signals a lasting reunion.
The album’s 12 songs flow together to create an old-school full album experience. This is a record to pop into the car CD player on repeat for a long sing-along journey. “Let It Fly” is a brief and beautiful piece of melancholy, while the ballad “If You Want to See Me Cry” could have been recorded in 1987, or 1967; it’s just plain timeless. Similarly, “California State Line” tells a mournful story of searching for a place to belong that is as old as the West. Meanwhile “Gonna Make it Real” is a plain-spoken, uplifting love song and one of the album’s best tracks.
The band welcomes some other 1980s stalwarts onto the album. Fellow Paisley Underground alumni Debbi and Vicki Peterson of the Bangles provide backing vocals on “Let It Fly” and Walls”. Meanwhile on “Molly Somebody”, Sid Griffin shares writing credit with Steve Barton, former leader of another prime ’80s guitar band, Translator (who has himself enjoyed a comeback with 2017’s expansive, three-CD release Tall Tales and Alibis). Producer Ed Stasium provides crisp production that makes the band sound spontaneous and live, with Sid Griffin’s distinctive voice (which shows no signs of age) in the front of the mix.
Psychedelic Country Soul is a triumphant return from a band that should have been bigger back in their first go-round. Maybe this time around they’ll get the larger audience they deserve.