Monday, May 31, 2010

How To Do Country Rock Correctly

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

This is one of two songs on the list (the other is a country song) that has two versions. Both are worth getting.

SONG: Train Leaves Here This Morning
ARTISTS: Dillard & Clark; Eagles
SONGWRITERS: Gene Clark / Bernie Leadon
ALBUMS: The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark; Eagles
YEARS/LABELS: 1968; A&M (Dillard & Clark) / 1972; Asylum (Eagles)

I consider myself a working musician. I just like to perform for people.
(Bernie Leadon)

The Eagles did not invent country-rock. Ray Charles discovered Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and Gene Pitney recorded with George Jones while most of the Eagles were still in high school, and Poco was singing, "There's just a little bit of magic in the country music we're singing" before Messers Henley and Frey had even considered takin' it easy. Nevertheless, somehow the band has come to define country-rock, almost to the exclusion of the genre's real pioneers (while some people may recognize the name Gram Parsons it would be difficult to find someone who could name a song).

This is obvious in the case of the 1968 Dillard & Clark song, "Train Leaves Here This Morning." Gene Clark co-wrote the song with Bernie Leadon for the first Dillard & Clark release The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, which appeared the same year as Poco's debut Pickin' Up the Pieces. Interestingly enough, "Train Leaves Here" co-writer Bernie Leadon and Poco's first LP bassist Randy Meisner would both join the Eagles three years later.

Leadon has a good voice for country music to go along with his musicianship (Leadon is the banjo player on all the Eagles songs that feature the instrument), and no doubt his influence with Dillard & Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers helped push the Eagles toward the country-rock sound in their early albums (a sound that noticeably vanished with Leadon's departure after the One of These Nights album). Leadon did not sing the Dillard & Clark version (the lead vocal on that version is Gene Clark), but his Eagles version is equally beautiful.

The song is a pained tale of a man who "lost ten points just for being in the right place at exactly the wrong time" (which is one of the best opening lines of any song the Eagles ever recorded). The lost love who "signed me to a contract" is now gone, leaving behind the address of 1320 North Columbus. The narrator takes his mind off of his heartbreak by watching "the smoker pass it on" and getting a chuckle out of the mispronunciation of the name Leadon (which is pronounced LED-in) as "lead on."

Dillard & Clark had a short existence before moving on to other country-rock projects. Gene Clark died of a heart attack at the young age of 46 in 1991. After leaving the Eagles Bernie engaged in a few projects before finding some success with a novelty act, Run C&W (a bluegrass band that did R&B songs). Both men are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Clark with the Byrds and Leadon with the Eagles), and both men are responsible for this gem of country-rock.

Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away
When My Rowboat Comes In
When I Lift Up My Head
Rose of My Heart
Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Swallowed By the Cracks
Stealin' Time
Starting Tomorrow
Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

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