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Two country rock albums from 1976/7,
This review is from: Southwest / Sandman (Audio CD)
Prior to the original release of these two solo albums from Herb Pedersen's short-lived solo career, he was probably best known as a top session man for the likes of Gram Parsons, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. He'd also been a member of acts such as The Dillards, Vern & Ray, Flatt & Scruggs Band and Country Gazette, so his bluegrass / country rock / roots pedigree was second to none.
Both albums were produced by Mike Post (whom Herb had first met as part of a tour in 1963) and the connection lasted well beyond 1977, with the versatile Herb later working on music for shows such as The A-Team and Hill Street Blues!
The opening track on "Southwest" sets the tone for what's to come, with a superb reading of The Beatles `Paperback Writer'. For me, this is up there with Dillard & Clark's `Don't Let Me Down' (from an album also reissued by BGO - The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark / Through the Morning, Through the Night) as one of the finest country rock style Beatles covers - it's got a fine groove and some terrific harmonies.
The other main highlights are the self-penned `Jesus Once Again', which has a killer chorus ("set me free, once again") and superb electric guitar playing by Larry Carlton, and the truly lovely album closer `Wait A Minute' - a poignant song about life on the road which Herb still performs to this day (check the version on At Edwards Barn).
Among the other tracks, the driving `Rock & Roll Cajun' is a rocky number, `If I Can Sing Along' is a light romantic ballad, and `The Hey Boys' is notable for some excellent David Lindley fiddle playing. A slower track is `Our Baby's Gone', which features backing vocals by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, while Herb revisits his bluegrass background with a cover of Bill Monroe's `Can't You Hear Me Callin''. Overall, it's a fine album of hook-filled pop/country which fans of the genre should enjoy.
"Sandman" kicks off with the impressive title track, and other standouts include the epic `Cora Is Gone' (which includes Dolly Parton on harmonies), the uptempo and catchy `Tennessee Sal', a strong take on `Fair And Tender Ladies', and `If I Lose' (where Parton features again, alongside other such luminaries as Lowell George and Johnny Rivers). "Sandman" is the weaker of the two albums, but there is still much to admire.
Herb Pedersen was invited to join John Denver's band shortly after the release of "Sandman" (alongside James Burton and Hal Blaine) which curtailed his solo career somewhat. He later scored major mainstream country hits as a member of The Desert Rose Band (which also featured Chris Hillman).
"Southwest" was previously released on CD in 2002 by the Acadia label but is long-deleted - BGO's new edition definitely has the edge sound-wise with a fresh new remaster. The only previous CD edition of "Sandman" appears to be an expensive import on a Korean label, so with BGO's usual quality package (detailed notes, original artwork, photos, song lyrics, musician credits etc.) this 2-on-1 release is definitely the best way to buy two largely (and unfairly) forgotten country rock gems.