Decades before the term “Americana” was created so
that the cool kids could listen to country music without seeming, well…uncool…the
good fellows of Goose Creek Symphony were rockin’ the early-70s with their
unique and invigorating elixir of hillbilly blues and country-rock, what Gram
Parsons once wisely called “Cosmic American Music.”
Problem is, sitting comfortably somewhere between the Flying
Burrito Brothers and Uncle Tupelo didn’t fly too high, commercially, during the
Nixon/Ford years, and after releasing a handful of spectacular albums that
never grabbed the ears of few beyond their rabid tho’ small fan base, Charlie
Gearheart, Paul Spradlin and crew called it quits around 1978 or so.
Thankfully, sensing that the musical currents were changing, the Goose got back
together in 1990, and they’ve been creating new fans ever since with sporadic
touring and recording.
The point where the Goose was cooked, if you will, was in
1974 when Columbia Records made literal pate out of the band’s fourth album, Do Your Thing But Don’t Touch Mine.
Saddling them with an unsympathetic (and evidently first-time) producer rather
than let the band produce themselves as they had been, Goose fans considered
this to be the weakest of the band’s works, and when it went nowhere fast, the
label dropped ’em quicker than…well, I don’t really need to make this analogy,
After its “one and done” experience with Columbia, Goose Creek Symphony retreated to Vancouver B.C. to record
their fifth and, for a while, their final album, Head For The Hills. The story here gets murky, and not too many
folks even whisper the truth up in the back hills of ole Kentucky, but evidently the album would be
released and copies pressed up, but few seemed to have made their way out of
the label’s warehouse. Although not really a “lost album” like the
Goose’s The Same Thing Again, which
was shelved before it got to the pressing plant, Head For The Hills suffered a slow death nonetheless.
The truth is, there’s nothing on Head For The Hills that departs from the Goose’s tried-and-true
formula. Reissued by the band itself a decade ago on CD, this new “special
edition” reissue of Head For The
Hills features pristine remastered sound, spiffy new cover artwork courtesy
of Chris Kro, and it restores a song – “Workin’ For The Devil” – that
was on the original vinyl but dropped for the earlier CD release.
Since the band’s tasty interplay of acoustic and electric
guitars, ragin’ fiddles, and vocal harmonies wasn’t broke in ’75 when they
recorded Head For The Hills, they
didn’t work too hard to fix it. Although Goose Creek’s mix of twang-and-bang
was a couple of decades ahead of its time, the ensuing years have proven that
their trademark sound has held up remarkably well against the ever-changing
face of popular music.
Opening with the traditional “Goin’ Down The
Road,” the band establishes its intent with a laid-back and uber-twangy
performance that creates the country equivalent of Phil Spector’s “wall of
sound” (fence of sound?), with plenty of guitars and fiddles driving the mix.
Gearheart’s anti-industry “Number One Gravy Band” lampoons rock star
excess with some rather ribald admissions and an outright challenge for the
audience to listen to some “down home music.” The “Pretty
Mama/Hey Good Lookin'” medley successfully welds Gearheart’s original
romantic-rocker with a cover of fellow traveler Hank, Senior’s sly hillbilly
The Goose pulls off a similarly ambitious pairing with
“Head For The Hills/Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” matching Gearheart’s
humorous satire of the “back to the country” movement with the Carter
Family’s original country-gospel anthem. The lost track, “Workin’ For The
Devil,” is a good ole-fashioned, tear-jerking cheatin’ song worthy of the
Louvin Brothers, while the up-tempo “People Like Me” is the sort of
inclusionary “feel good” number that the Goose’s closest modern
doppelganger, Bonepony, would jam on.
Methinks that Goose Creek Symphony long ago made peace with
the fact that they’d never be chart-toppers or world-beaters, and that’s OK.
All these guys ever wanted to do was make music that people would enjoy, and
although it probably wouldn’t have made any difference back in the day had Head For The Hills received the
distribution it deserved, the fact that this timeless music is flying high
again is good enough for long-time fans of the Goose.
Standout Tracks: “Without
A Reason,” “Workin’ For The Devil,” “Lazy” REV. KEITH