VARIOUS ARTISTS – Country Funk II 1967-1974

Album: Country Funk II 1967-1974

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Light In The Attic

Release Date: July 15, 2014

Country Funk 2 7-14-14

www.lightintheattic.net

BY FRED MILLS

Boasting such heavy hitters as Willie Nelson, Jackie DeShannon, Dolly Parton, JJ Cale and Kenny Rogers, Light In The Attic’s second Country Funk volume isn’t as compelling as the flawless first volume (released in 2012), but it’s only slightly less so. BLURT described the former—which included the legendary likes of Tony Joe White, Bobby Charles, Dale Hawkins, Link Wray and Bobbie Gentry—as providing “an invaluable service by introducing a key musical time, place and sound to a new generation of acolytes…. when it comes to music like this, feel is everything, analysis secondary [and] when the record’s done, you might not necessarily be able to define country funk, but you’ll sure recognize it when you hear it in the future.”

With that in mind, then, this new entry in what we can only hope will be an ongoing series converses in the vernacular of what is presumably a recognizable dialect now—swampy, sexy, boozy, twangy and, yes, undeniably funky stuff. Packaged, as previously, in a handsome tip-on gatefold sleeve with illustrations by Jess Rotter (who additionally collaborates with writer Jessica Hundley for a comic book story on the gatefold titled “Country Funk: A Luv Story Starring The Hot Dawgs”), Country Funk II is an archivist’s delight.

With any such compilation, the fresh discovery factor always holds the most potential, and CF2 does not disappoint. From Jim Ford’s psychedelic funk blowout “Rising Sign” (as noted previously, Ford was one of the clear standouts on CF1, and here he does not disappoint) and Donnie Fritts’ truth-in-titling “Sumpin Funky Going On” which out-swamps even the likes of Tony Joe White, to Hoyt Axton’s down ‘n’ dirty chicken-pickin’ stomper “California Women” and the perpetually underrated Thomas Jefferson Kaye’s sinewy, sexy “Collection Box,” this is the sound of weekday woes weeknight woo, Saturday night sinnin’ and Sunday morning prayin’, equal parts outlaw country, Memphis gospel and New Orleans boogaloo.

And for sheer jaw-dropping oddball genius it would be hard to top “Nobody,” a gonzo slice of psychedelia stitched together by… drumroll please… Larry Williams, Johnny Watson and The Kaleidoscope. Look up those names if you have to. Other familiar names with winning tracks are Townes Van Zandt, Dillard and Clark (that would be Doug and Gene) and Ian & Sylvia Tyson’s early band the Great Speckled Bird. One big surprise: the inclusion of the ever-delectable Jackie DeShannon, who gamely attempts The Band classic “The Weight,” a somewhat odd choice given how tall a shadow that tune casts, but for the most part she holds up her end of the bargain.

Meanwhile, and interestingly, some of the aforementioned heavy hitters have the least interesting turns on the album. Willie Nelson’s 1975 tune “Shotgun Willie,” for example, has all the right components in place—loping beat, Memphian horns, humid Muscle Shoals vibe—but it’s still a slight number. And Dolly Parton, typically, sucks all the air out of the room with a boot-scootin’ piece of fluff called “Getting Happy.” Those quibbles aside, the listenability factor of the album remains high, and overall it is highly recommended.

Overall, if the first volume was a five-out-of-five star precious gem, this one’s a respectable four-star diamond in the rough. (The vinyl, incidentally, is gorgeous, pressed on heavy wax and housed in a sturdy tip-on sleeve; some consumers may have been lucky enough to also score a special Country Funk bandanna, suitable for tying one’s hair back or keeping the sweat at bay while workin’ out in the fields.) The fact that the two releases have already sparked a serious Jim Ford obsession on the part of yours truly would suggest that Light In The Attic has succeeded once again. To quote a famous politician, “Mission accomplished.”

DOWNLOAD: Jim Ford, “Rising Sign”; Hoyt Axton, “California Women”; Donnie Fritts, “Sumpin Funky Going On”

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