Tuff and Stringy Sessions 1966-68

Tuff and Stringy Sessions 1966-68

by Clarence White


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Though this is by no means the best of Clarence White's guitar work -- or even necessarily the best of his session work from 1966-1968 -- it's an important document of no less than 26 rare tracks predating his joining the Byrds. These recordings, often but not always released on the Bakersfield International label (in fact a few were previously unreleased), find White perfecting his transition to the electric guitar and country-rock from bluegrass. The confusing aspect of this phase of his career, on record anyway, is that White's presence is the only real thread running through these recordings, most (though not all) of which feature him only as a session man, rather than as the billed or featured artist. It's quite a crazy quilt of disparate tracks, combining, in varying degrees, country, pop, rock & roll, folk, and folk-rock, with some blues, R&B, Byrds, Beatles, and Cajun licks thrown in. That might not make it the easiest listen in the world, but the variety also makes it fascinating, as White fishes around numerous mixtures of country and rock on obscure recordings by Gary Paxton, Wayne Moore, the Sanland Brothers, Darrell Cotton, Gib & Jan, Jan & Clarence, Jack Reeves, Dennis Payne, the Great Love Trip, and other names known to very few, even in the record-collecting world. Alongside these are eight tracks credited to White himself, some of them previously unreleased. White and the artists explored an almost zany range of tangents, occasionally using sitar, Mellotron, and guitar through a Hammond organ Leslie unit, not to mention nut pulls for bending strings. What keeps this from being as good as it is historically interesting is the material, which is only average (if often ear-perkingly quirky) for the most part. Some of the tracks rise above that level, though, like the Byrds-like country-rock-psychedelia of the Spencers' "Make Up Your Mind," with some great fuzz effects, the blunt Dylan-ish folk-rock of Darrell Cotton's "Don't Pity Me"/"If We Could Read" single, and the beautiful country ballad "She's Gone" by Gib & Jan (though another recording of the song from the same era, by the Gosdin Brothers, is better). Especially worthy of note are a couple of previously unissued circa-1966 electric rock recordings by White's just-ex-bluegrass band the Kentucky Colonels, particularly the Beatles-influenced folk-rock of "Made of Stone" (co-written by Eric Weissberg); these might be the first studio tapes of White playing electric guitar. The lengthy liner notes by compiler Alec Palao do a great deal to chart White's progress during this particularly blurry and hard-to-follow juncture in his career. It should be noted that this is not a complete overview of White's session work during the time, which also included tracks with the Byrds, the Everly Brothers, Rick Nelson, Gene Clark, and others not represented on this compilation.

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