JD Souther may be regarded as the unsung hero of the Los Angeles country rock axis including Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and the Eagles. He collaborated to no small degree with the latter, on the ambitious Desperado (Asylum, 1973) album as well as other numbers through their entire their career, including their first number one hit "Best of My Love." And it's even arguable his eponymous solo debut is superior to that iconic group's first record, especially as heard in the newly-expanded edition issued by Omnivore.
That's in part because of the spare uniformity of the sound, grounded in a stable rhythm section of bassist Bryan Garofalo and percussionist Gary Mallaber, over which Souther plays guitar himself, often in the company of his peers of the era including Glenn Frey ("Kite Woman," "Jesus in ¾ Time") and another most valuable player of the West Coast cowboy clan Ned Doheny ("White Wind," "It's the Same"). And, thanks in part to the beneficence of Asylum founder David Geffen, who as Souther recounts in his essay in the booklet as packed with information as evocative images, there are contributions from players outside the realm of Hollywood otherwise famed for their musicianship.
Seminal Cajun musician and influential country-rock figure Gib Guilbeau plays fiddle on "The Fast One" to accelerate that opening track appropriately, while Wayne Perkins (a pedigreed Souther musician who once auditioned for the Rolling Stones and played on records of Bob Marley and The Wailers ) adds a guitar part on "Out to Sea" that reaffirms the longing at the heart of the song. The simplicity of the closing track that follows, "Lullaby," suits its intent too as Souther renders it all by himself with as much tenderness as "How Long" captures the most high-spirited point of the whole record: it's not just payback to Souther the Eagles recorded this on their comeback album Long Road Out of Eden (Lost Highway, 2007)this song sums up this sound of Seventies as accurately as any other tune of these times.
The inclusion of seven previously unreleased bonus tracks on John David Souther not only illustrate the abundance of ideas at work during the gestation of the album, but how closely "The Fast One" and "How Long" encapsulate what's now defined as contemporary country. Yet, as reedy as is Souther's voice on its own, there's a resolute, soulful undercurrent in his singing that's mirrored in the strength of his original material, virtues especially evident in two tunes of these seventeen cuts that didn't make the record: both the lighthearted tone of "One in the Middle" and the palpable ache of "Silver Blue" radiate the live feel in the musicianship throughout the album as well as Souther's careful choice of evocative words and images in his writing.
While the cover photos of the artist, looking way past just world weary, posit him as some contemporary American Gothic figure, the man's hindsight, like the remastered sound on the CD, is impeccable as captured by essayist Scott Schinder. JD Souther is as crystal-clear in his present day recollections ( and his assistance in its reissue )as he was purposeful over four-decades ago in choosing to produce this stellar record himself.
The Fast One; Run Like a Thief; Jesus in 3/4 Time; Kite Woman; Some People Call It Music; White Wing; It’s the Same; how long; Out to Sea; Lullaby; Kite Woman; Jesus in 3/4 time; The Fast One; Run Like a Thief; How Long; One in the Middle; Silver Blue.
JD Souther: vocals, bass, guitar, piano; Ned Doheny: guitar; Glenn Frey: guitar, piano; Gib Guilbeau: fiddle, violin; Wayne Perkins:bottleneck guitar, guitar; David P. Jackson: bass, keyboards, piano; Joel Tepp: bass, harp; Michael Bowden: bass; Bryan Garofalo: bass; John Barbata: drums; Gary Mallaber: drums, Keyboards; Mickey McGee: drums.
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