Published Feb 12, 2019The Long Ryders released three albums of near-flawless country-rock during the 1980s. The "buckskin" element of the Paisley Underground, the California-based band burned out rather than fade away. Thirty-two years later, the Long Ryders — in their classic formation — return.
As vigorous as they ever were, the reformed group appear at the top of their game, with youthful aggression replaced by measured maturity. Confidence runs through the album, giving it Heartbreakers' precision well before a dramatic rendering of Tom Petty's "Walls."
Produced by Ed Stasium (producer of 1987's Two-Fisted Tales) in an eight-day burst at Dr. Dre's Record One studio, with Psychedelic Country Soul, the Long Ryders show they are well-equipped to take a leading role in modern Americana.
With three capable vocalists, the album features diverse approaches to the band's jangle-rock. Stephen McCarthy's songs — empowering and soulful ("Greenville,") yearning ("California State Line,") and dreamily trippy ("Psychedelic Country Soul") — provide the album's accessible, country-laden backbone.
Tom Stevens has two lead vocals, the "Stage Fright"-evoking "Bells of August" and "Let It Fly," one of the album's highlights, and on which the Bangles' Debbi and Vicki Peterson appear.
As assured as Sid Griffin has always appeared, 30-plus years ago he couldn't have delivered "If You Want to See Me Cry," and the politically shaded "All Aboard," with the poised restraint apparent here. His co-write with Stevens, "What the Eagle Sees," is challenging and sharply focused, while "Molly Somebody" provides the album's most acute ache.
"Gonna Make It Real," another McCarthy lead, has the smoothest of the group's vocalists singing, "It ain't so hard, to comprehend — now you know, how the story ends." The Long Ryders story shouldn't end here: they still have much to offer. (Omnivore)