Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cannon Ball















Or: the triumphant return of an obscure outlaw. Larry Jon Williams (born 1940 in Swainsboro, Georgia) was one of those musicians who couldn´t stomach the slick and conservative country establishment that ruled Nashville in the late sixties and early seventies. So he fought back and tried to do it his own way, together with pals like Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, Tony Joe White and Kris Kristofferson. The latter is on record stating about Larry Jon that ´he can break your heart with a voice like a cannon ball.´ Spot on.

Larry Jon Wilson recorded four albums in the seventies, of which I cherish his soulful ´75 debut New Beginnings most of all. Remarkably funky country rock coupled with exquisite songwriting: this is an album that should have been huge... but wasn´t. Do yourself a favour and check out the exemplary Ohoopee River Bottomland and New Beginnings (Russian River Rainbow) from that album, and Sheldon Churchyard from ´76 follow-up Let Me Sing My Song For You.

Larry Jon Wilson - Ohoopee River Bottomland MP3
Larry Jon Wilson - New Beginnings (Russian River Rainbow) MP3
Larry Jon Wilson - Sheldon Churchyard MP3

Since ´79 it was awfully quiet on the Larry Jon front. His albums hadn´t sold very well, as record company executives didn´t quite know how to put his rather eclectic music on the market. Wilson was too country to be called a singer/songwriter, and to soulful to appeal to a straight country audience. And since Larry Jon wasn´t the type to compromise, he simply dropped out and kept a low profile, doing only the occasional gig, playing when he felt like it. But now, 28 (!) years since he last recorded an album, Larry Jon Wilson´s back. The tiny British label 1965 Records managed to locate the legend last year and persuaded him to have another go at it.

Larry Jon Wilson was recorded more or less live in a 15th floor condo in Florida over a ten day period. Gone are the drums, the funky basses and the electric guitars, and Wilson of course sounds older, sadder and wiser. That mighty baritone still has it though. With just a sparse acoustic guitar and sometimes a melancholy violin for company, Wilson tells his stories in a stark setting, which brings Johnny Cash on his first American Recordings outing to mind a bit. A mix of covers - Willie Nelson´s Heartland amongst others - and originals, of which Throw My Hands Up just might be the story of his life: ´Music city´s trying to break me, they never knew how to take me, never thought it would make me wanna come home...´

Larry Jon Wilson - Losers Trilogy MP3
Larry Jon Wilson - Throw My Hands Up MP3

5 comments:

Angry, Angry Homer said...

Great! Many thanks. Sheldon Churchyard on Country Got Soul was a life changer for me, but I've only ever found a handful of other songs. That's three more now....

Ramone666 said...

You´re very welcome Homer.

David Brogren said...

Larry Jon played my concert series a couple times in the nineties. He was really a great performer and the new record is a darn fine representation of his shows. Sheldon Churchyard.... boiled peanuts... crotch rockets.... all are great. I think the early records were overproduced and his audience never found him. All you say is true about that as well. Quite a character, a true iconoclast, and an honest man and good friend...

Ramone666 said...

Thanks for your comment David. I´m envious you saw Larry Jon play live. Here´s hoping he´ll play Europe soon.

Tonopah Slim said...

He's featured in the documentary Heartworn Highways--if you haven't seen it you're in for a treat.