John Fogerty ‘The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again”

Posted 28 May 2011 in 00s, Americana, Singer / Songwriter, Walt Falconer

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#388 in the Series) is John Fogerty, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again

Creedence Clearwater revival, in 1973, was the hottest band on the planet.  The group  was praised as the successors to the Beatles hit making machine with a strong string of hit singles that included  “ Proud Mary”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, and many more. John Fogerty, the main songwriter, leader, and lead singer , was one of only a handful of artists to make The Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest guitar players (40), and the 100 greatest vocalists (72).

So what do you do as an encore on the heels of all this success? If you are John Fogerty, you make the baffling decision to record an album of classic country songs in an era when no one was listening to country music, Waylon & Willie had short hair, and Luckenbach was just a ghost town, population 3.  As a further head scratcher and not so subtle message to his ex- band mates, Fogerty played all of the instruments himself. More Bam Bam than Bonzo, his mechanical drumming style was the only part of the album that was not solid.  The album was called “The Blue Ridge Rangers”, and yielded a minor hit with Jambalaya (On The Bayou), and a stellar version of “Today, I Started Loving You Again”.  It actually worked.  Country music at its finest.

The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again is a sequel of sorts to the original album.  Released in 2009, this time Fogerty used a sparkling line-up of session musicians including Buddy Miller on guitar and Kenny Aronoff  on drums.  The real highlight of this album is the song selections themselves, and his choice of collaborating artists. The album opens with the tone setting “Paradise”, a John Prine song that talks about a simpler time, in a simpler town, with plenty of banjo, and a heavy dose of “Hillbilly Noir”. For “Never Ending Song of Love”, the Delaney and Bonnie song, the country vibe continues while John puts on his Roy Orbison glasses and does a mean imitation, while he dances the “Cotton Eyed Joe” to the fiddle solo in the middle of the song.  The third song, Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” is the best of the lot.  With backing vocals and verse trading provided by Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmitt of the Eagles.

Hearing the lines:

People came from miles around, everyone was there
Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air
‘n’ over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise

Was worth the price of admission alone.  One of the very few cover versions I like better than the original song.

“I’ll be there (If You Ever Want Me)” is a Ray Price classic that does not stray too far from the original, but seems to come more alive with the strong vocals and superb production values on the track.  Fogerty borrows a track from his Zombie album with a Creedence style song  “Change in the Weather”.  The song is a nice tempo change and comes just about in the middle of the album.

I think I am going to call Bruce Springsteen and ask him to record my ring tone.  He seems to agree to every other collaboration.  He recently collaborated on the new Ray Davies’ album See My Friends, Rosanne Cash’s The List and also sang with the Dropkick Murphy’s on their  excellent Going Out In Style album released in 2011.  So, it comes as no surprise that Bruce shows up here lending his vocals to a “countrified” version of Phil Everly’s “When Will I Be Loved” to close the album.

If you’re like me you love hearing old classic county songs “souped” up with modern technology and high production values. This album delivers on that front and more.  It is particularly refreshing to note that this album was released by Fantasy records, a label that had for many years refused to let Fogerty sing any of his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs live in concert.  Give this one a listen then go back and listen to the original “Blue Rangers” album.  Who knows, you might just end up liking country music.

— Walt Falconer

Track listing

  1. “Paradise”  John Prine  3:50
  2. ”Never Ending Song of Love” Bonnie Bramlett, Delaney Bramlett 3:02
  3. “Garden Party” (featuring The Eagles’ Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit) Rick Nelson 3:51
  4. “I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)”  Buck Owens 2:27
  5. “Back Home Again” John Denver  4:27
  6. “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” Ray Price, Rusty Gabbard 2:57
  7. “Change In the Weather” (also recorded on Fogerty’s Eye of the Zombie album) John Fogerty 4:03
  8. “Moody River” Gary Daniel Price 3:10
  9. “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” J. Gillespie 2:33
  10. “Fallin’, Fallin’, Fallin'”  D. Deckleman, J. Guillot, J.D. Miller 2:30
  11. “Haunted House” Robert L. Geddins 4:36
  12. “When Will I Be Loved” (featuring Bruce Springsteen) Phil Everly 2:37

Backing band

  • Buddy Miller – electric guitar, acoustic guitar,
  • Kenny Aronoff – percussion, drums,
  • Greg Leisz – steel guitar, lap steel, dobro, mandolin,
  • Jay Bellerose – drums,
  • Jason Mowery – fiddle, dobro, mandolin, back vocals,
  • Herb Pedersen – back vocals, harmony vocals,
  • Jodie Kennedy – back vocals, harmony vocals,
  • Oren Waters – back vocals,
  • Chris Chaney – bass,
  • Dennis Crouch – bass,
  • Hunter Perrin – fingerstyle guitar, electric rhythm guitar.

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