Chris Darrow – Chris Darrow + Under My Own Disguise [reissue]

January 01, 1970



Long before
the term Americana become embossed in the musical vocabulary, Chris Darrow
practically invented the genre through pure application.  Plying his skills on guitar, banjo, dobro,
mandolin and fiddle – among other instruments – he melded traditional
sensibilities to the emerging experimentation of rock and, by turns, some of
the earliest attempts to bring folk, blues and world music into the
contemporary musical fold.  After
establishing a somewhat quirky reputation with the eclectic psychedelic combo
Kaleidoscope, he cast his lot with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, where his knack
for arcane instrumentation was allowed to flourish.  That led to a series of solo albums of
underappreciated repute as well as a stint as a studio sideman that kept him
largely in he shadows even though his employers were to become among the biggest
names in the biz – folks like James Taylor, Linda Rondstadt, Leonard Cohen
among them.


More than 35
years later, Darrow still remains a somewhat shadowy figure, owing to the fact
that he was either too far ahead of his time or simply didn’t tender the sort
of commercial credo that would have elevated him to the spotlight.  A double reissue of his two seminal albums of
the early ‘70s, Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise makes an attempt
to give him his due, and while they attracted little notice at the time, the
back porch sounds and multi-instrumental versatility imbued in his rustic,
rootsy ballads still remain remarkably striking.  The mellow “Albuquerque Rainbow” and the
lazy, sprawling “To Which I Do Cling” would likely sound at home in the embrace
of any of a number of contemporary singer/songwriters while the chamber pop of
“Miss Pauline” foreshadowed the sound of revivalist bands like Over the Rhine
and various other denizens of the heartland. 
So too, in the minds of most, a song like “Java Jive” might reflect the
sound of classic country, but at the time, Darrow’s excursions in this area
remained relatively ignored.


Kudos then to
the Everloving label for bringing these two albums to light.  While Darrow is yet to be lifted beyond the
veil of obscurity, it may inspire the uninitiated to beg to hear more.


Standout Tracks: “Albuquerque
Rainbow,” “Take Good Care of Yourself” LEE ZIMMERMAN





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