John Fogerty – The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again
1. John Fogerty hails from the same state that Buck Owens once made his home, and the two might have had a lot more in common had they been closer in age. As it is, the older Owens took a more traditional country route in forging his Bakersfield sound, and the younger Fogerty flavored his slice of Americana with rock and roll and r&b. On his new record The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again, Fogerty returns to the classic country covers of his first solo outing, this time with a crack band including Buddy Miller, Kenny Aronoff, and Greg Leisz. Oh yeah, and two of the Eagles and some guy named Bruce Springsteen.
2. Fogerty takes the opportunity to pay tribute to some of his heroes who made the country music that belied CCR hits such as “Green River” and “Lodi”. He takes on Buck Owens himself with “I Don’t Care” and Ray Price with “I’ll Be There” and “Fallin Fallin Fallin”. A testament to his devotion to this era of country is the band he surrounded himself with, who ably fill the tracks with more twang than any top-10 country artist. Fogerty obliges the band with old-school shout-outs as they take their solos, adding to the charm. On Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party”, Timothy B. Schmit and Don Henley show up putting their best foot forward with a thick layer of harmonies that recall Nelson’s original track. “Moody River” also benefits from some excellent harmony vocals that make it one of the more upbeat murder ballads I’ve heard.
3. John Prine’s “Paradise” and John Denver’s “Back Home Again” get the acoustic treatment with a bluegrass feel spiked by Leisz’s ace dobro work. Prine is a nice choice for the discerning country listener who might scoff at the inclusion of a John Denver song, but Fogerty’s earnestness makes the two sit naturally on the same record. In fact, Fogerty’s earnestness and obvious passion for these songs are what make this record work. These tunes are so dead simple that it would be impossible pull them off if you didn’t believe in them whole-heartedly, and John Fogerty leaves no room for doubt about that.
4. Wrapping up the record, Fogerty pays tribute to one of the great close-harmony duos of all time with his cover of the Everlys’ “When Will I Be Loved”, featuring an exuberant Bruce Springsteen. Here, the duo manage to combine the longing of the original with Fogerty’s rough-around-the-edges style that is damn near perfect. It would be hard to miss with this combination of American rock legends, but they somehow manage to beat expectations, even with a somewhat awkward vocal ad-lib in the middle.
4. John Fogerty has written an incredible amount of American classic songs (remember, Creedence was only a working band for about four years). I have always thought he and Tom Petty were musical doppelgangers, with Petty seeking the California sound via Gainesville and Fogerty seeking the Florida swamp-rock sound via California, but this record showcases the golden country music where their interests cross paths. These songs need more tribute, and need more artists like Fogerty who are willing to update them for a younger audience. Here’s to hoping this isn’t the only reunion of the Blue Ridge Rangers.
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