BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
After 45 years of shifting line-ups, with only founding member Rusty Young as a constant, Poco still perseveres. And while the recent defection of longtime co-leader Paul Cotton deprives the band of one of its principal songwriters, the band’s seminal country rock sound is still flourishing, at least in the view of a core fan following. Fortunately then, All Fired Up, Poco’s first new studio offering of the new millennium, retains the trademark elements that brought the band its initial distinction, i.e., their celebratory sound, vibrant harmonies and nimble picking and playing. As long as those instrumental additives remain intact, Poco will always excel in more than name alone, but with fewer voices in the mix, it also remains a challenge to reach that high bar established so early on. That said, there are several echoes of that earlier era. Opening track “All Fired Up” — featuring a rare cameo from original drummer George Grantham — revels in the same celebratory style that marked “Good Feeling to Know” and “You Better Think Twice.” “Pucky Huddle Stomp” joins “Grand Junction” as a rousing addition to their instrumentals arsenal. Likewise, “Love Has No Reason,” with its sprightly intro and killer choruses, recalls their infectious outlays of old. Nevertheless, the best song of the set may well be “Hard Country,” bassist Jack Sundred’s rugged lament decrying the heartbreak and hardship facing the nation’s family farmers. A re-recording of a track culled from Sundred’s superb first solo album, 2005’s By My Own Hand, it asserts the fact that Poco’s current incarnation is clearly capable of keeping the band’s legacy alive.
DOWNLOAD: “All Fired Up,” “Hard Country,” “Love Has No Reason