If the Flying Burritos invented country rock then the Long Ryders pretty much created Americana so it was always bizarre there was no decent retrospective of their impressive back catalogue.
Now they have courtesy of Cherry Red who have pulled together a four CD box set with tracks selected by singer/guitarist Sid Griffin and bassist Tom Stevens from all three of their albums plus 20 rare or unreleased songs thrown into the pot. All four members of the band also contribute track by track sleeve notes.
The quality of this package matches the songwriting as it is easy to forget just what a classic their debut Native Sons is – featuring the mighty I Had A Dream – and there’s a great lost take on Masters of War thrown in.
State of the Union saw the band getting some decent studio time which they used wisely cranking out top class tracks like Capturing the Flag and Mason-Dixon Line as the whole Americana concept really came to fruition. Most people remember their breakout single from that album Looking for Lewis and Clark, so it’s good news the band have included a quite incendiary version recorded live on the Old Grey Whistle Test – ask your parents, kids – who were big fans of the band
Recorded just before they split up in 1987 Two Fisted Tales is the weakest of the three albums, but still had decent enough tracks like Baby’s In Toyland and Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Take Me Home.
But all this leads to the live CD recorded in Holland on the Native Sons tour and you can hear the band knowing they are on the brink of their breakthrough, but they totally smash it reminding us what a great live act they were . In fact, Roger McGuinn told them their records were only really a souvenir of their live shows, and Griffin as himself says they never really captured The Long Ryders live act on record.
If you like Black Crowes, Son Volt or Wilco then you will love this beautifully curated box set but more than that one of the key bands of the 1980s, who shone so brightly for such a short time, are finally being given the respect they deserve.