Ray Condo And The Hardrock Goners Ray Condo And The Hardrock Goners

As an ’80s suburbanite raised on mainstream radio and drawn to garage rock, it was Ray Condo who first seduced me into loving country music. His gripping voice sounded like Hank Williams going right off the rails; Edgar Bridwell’s fiddle was fiery, haunting and evocative; the rockabilly rhythm section made all those cliché comparisons between country and punk ring true, especially when he was usually heard sandwiched between wacky weirdoes on Og Records compilations or on bills with the Gruesomes and Shadowy Men. Condo was born in Vancouver, formed the Hardrock Goners in Montreal and returned to his hometown after they broke up (to form the western swing band the Ricochets, which found many fans in the swing revival of the late ’90s). His death last year sparked a series of tributes and many fond memories that resulted in this career overview: 17 tracks from their five albums handpicked by the Goners themselves. Any quibbling about track selection is moot — it’s a pure joy to hear this material brought back to life from out-of-print vinyl. It is, however, fair game to ask for more extensive liner notes — perhaps a detailed biography, testimonials from his contemporaries and more samples of the amazing gig posters. What’s indisputable is that Condo and his band sound just as electric as they did 20 years ago and could teach most current neo-country revivalists more than a few lessons. Condo dealt mainly with covers and he showed excellent taste by digging for deep cuts; the only easily recognisable track here is "St. James Infirmary” and it’s actually the weakest of the bunch. By the time the album ends with the heartbreaking "Pocketful of Rainbows,” as did his 1986 debut classic Crazy Date (which deserves its own reissue), Condo’s place as one of Canada’s finest country singers ever is easily secured. (Crow-Matic)