You might say that this album began in 1955. That was the year that Bill Haley and his band of hillbilly boppers took "Rock Around the Clock" to England. Riots ensued wherever they played. They left slashed cinema seats and wrecked theaters in their wake. British youth was never the same.
You could make a case for this album's genesis occurring in 1956. That was the year that a young Keith Richards put his ear up against his radio speaker, transfixed by the sound of country picker Scotty Moore churning up audio froth behind Elvis Presley. Keith still idolizes Scotty to this day and frequently cites "I'm Left You're Right She's Gone" and "Heartbreak Hotel" as his most inspiring guitar moments.
Years earlier, little Mick Jagger had met his neighbor Keith on the playground. One boy asked the other what he wanted to be when he grew up. Keith replied that he wanted to be a cowboy like Roy Rogers and play the guitar.
Maybe that's what started all this.
Or maybe it was the day in 1958 when a starstruck Mick went to see rockabilly great Buddy Holly and his Crickets band in concert during their tour of England.
Maybe it was in 1963. That was the year the newly formed Rolling Stones went on tour themselves for the first time. They were an opening act on a package show starring Nashville's Everly Brothers.
In 1964 The Stones recorded Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" and Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On." In 1965 the group toured the American South for the first time, performing in Nashville's Municipal Auditorium on Nov. 16th. Such musical connections seem scattered throughout the illustrious history of The Rolling Stones.
The group's 1968-73 friendship and collaboration with country-rock star Gram Parsons has been much discussed by fans of both acts. The "Country Honk" recording on Let It Bleed is one direct result of that relationship; and tracks on the Beggar's Banquet and Exile on Main Street albums also indicate it. At various times, "Sweet Virginia," "Tumbling Dice" and "Torn and Frayed" have all been cited as Parsons-influenced Stones performances. The Stones recall that Gram turned them on to records by Merle Haggard, Jimmie Rodgers, Lonnie Mack, George Jones and Hank Williams during their time together. He, on the other hand, was deeply influenced by their rock-star lifestyle and attitude.
You see, influence in the music world is quite often a two~way street. Although it would be a stretch to say that The Stones left an indelible mark on modern country music, their songs have been sprinkled on Nashville albums from time to time - ranging from Johnny Cash's 1978 reading of "No Expectations" to John Anderson's lively 1985 treatment of "It's All Over Now."
Charlie Walker charted with "Honky Tonk Women" in 1970, and since then the song has also been sung by Hank Williams Jr., Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The Flying Burrito Brothers and Old & In the Way have tackled "Wild Horses." In 1980 Johnny Cash recorded "The Last Time." J.D. Crowe & The New South took "As Tears Go By" to biuegrass fans. Tom T. Hall, Earl Scruggs, Steve Young and Bill Keith all did "No Expectations" years ago. And you would be foolish not to admit that every contemporary performer in Nashville listened to the world's greatest rock band at some time in their life.
Maybe this whole thing was ignited when Keith Richards came to Music City to record "Say It's Not Me" with George Jones in 1994. Then again, it could have been those 1996 sessions with Nashville's D.J. Fontana and Scotty Moore for the All The King's Men CD.
Whenever this project "started," it surely has been gestating for a long, long time. Whether you want to point to the rockabilly invasion of England in the 1950s, the British invasion of America in the 1960s or the country-rock experiments of the 1970s, there has never been a time when the music of The Rolling Stones has not been colored by their cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.
It's time for a payback. During the past few months country stars have been gathering in Nashville's studios to offer a tip of the Stetson to The Rolling Stones. The result is Stone Country.
If you want proof that music is truly a universal language, this is the record. Rock's baddest bad boys and country's youth brigade would seem to have little in common. But Nashville is first and foremost a songwriters' town; and the Jagger/Richards compostions are nothing if not first-rate examples of craftsmanship. Thus, as each tune kicks off you'll find both a smile of recognition and a jolt of surprise at how easily it "translates."
Is there any doubt in your mind that rebel Travis Tritt is the perfect choice for "Honky Tonk Women?" Backed by the blazing electric guitars of Pat Bucannan and former Steppenwolf member Larry Byrom, Tritt and ex-Fleetwood Mac wailer Bekka Bramlett roar through this Stones classic like it was tailored just for them.
Tracy Lawrence takes "Paint It Black" down a backwoods lane, the vocal mixed up front, country style. Dave Pomeroy's heartbeat bass and Tony Harrell's B-3 organ are nearly as prominent in the performance as Brent Rowan's imitation of the famous Middle Eastern guitar riff that ruled the original version.
Deana Carter brings a fragile innocence to "Ruby Tuesday," making the character seem far more wistful than she was 30 years ago. Tulsa's percolating combo The Tractors turn "The Last Time" into a rollicking two step. Rodney Crowell gives "Jumpin' Jack Flash" a hepcat workout.
Two of the most startling transformations come from Sammy Kershaw and BlackHawk. "Angie" becomes a surprisingly effective country vehicle with Sammy's phrasing, Stuart Duncan's fiddling and Paul Franklin's steel guitar. BlackHawk's bluegrass-meets-country rock arrangement of "Wild Horses" is immensely refreshing. The sizzling picking spotlights Van Stephenson's acoustic guitar and sideman Eric Silver's mandolin. The flawless harmony blend that happens when group member Stephenson and Dave Robbins join lead singer Henry Paul on the choruses is an undeniable highlight of this Stones salute.
Master showman Collin Raye takes on "Brown Suqar," and his vocal sure makes the spicy proceedings sound like a whole lot of fun. Little Texas gives "Beast of Burden" a Southern drawl. Previously known as a part of Bette Midler's pop repertoire, the song works extremely well as a country lyric, perhaps because of its poor-but-proud theme.
"No Expectations" is a drawling, acoustic shuffle in the hands of Nanci Griffith and the Nashville pickers. Doug Lancio's resonator guitar and James Hooker's B-3 organ are particular standouts.
Finally, there is "Time Is On My Side" as interpreted by the incomparable George Jones. With its string section, soft choral harmonies, mid-song recitation and Sonny Garrish steel guitar, this is a classic Nashville Sound outing.
Stone Country might not win The Roiling Stones an invitation to appear on The Grand Ole Opry any time soon. But it does remind us that great songs belong to everyone, whether they come from a back street in London or a back porch in Tennessee.
And as they say on Music Row, the proof is in the picking.
Robert K. Oermann
Jeff Sydney, Bruce Tenenbaum, Tom Siiverman, Dan Hoffman, Phil Kovac, Wayne Rosso, Andy Hewitt, Jordan Berliant, Ed Thomas, Holly Browde, Liz Silverman Ring, Jed Grodin, Carol Sloat, Laure Dunham, Lewis Kovac, Jimmy Bowen, Allan Rider, David Briggs, Sandy Friedman, Jeff Kempler, Esq., Gary Falcon, Ken Kragen, Rick Alter, Tina Smith, Steve Ripley, Burt Stein, Julie Devereux, Steve Cox, Christy DiNapOli, Evelyn Shriver, Tim Dubois, Jim Ed Norman, James Stroud, Luke Lewis, Scott Hendricks, Rick Blackburn, Paul Worley, Tony Brown, Bruce Hinton, Lori Lousararian, Ashley Smith.
Mastered at Future Disc
(C) (P) 1997 Beyond Music
Manufactured and distributed by Tommy Boy Music
New York, New York 10010
All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.
Compact Disc Digital Audio
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