What in the hell is country funk? Here are 33 tracks for reference
July 20, 2014 9:13 PM   Subscribe

Here's a song I didn't know existed until summer 2007, when Lemon Jelly's Fred Deakin released an impeccably curated three-CD mix (full 4 hours on Mixcloud). Halfway through the first disc, the music slipped into an easy, loping groove, sunburned and hungover, and a regretful voice offered Otis Blackwell's lonesome lyric: "You know I can be found/ Sitting home all alone …" [Billy Swan's version of "Don't Be Cruel" is] a beautiful record, though, and utterly different from Elvis's 1956 recording. And it opens a fantastic collection of country funk songs, collected and remastered by Zach Cowie of Light in the Attic Records. More sounds below the break.

"Don't be Cruel" opens the second compilation of that imaginary genre, Country Funk. The first compilation, which spanned 1969-1975, came out in 2012, as commemorated in The A.V. Club's review, Remembering when country music wasn’t so white or so conservative.

Country Funk 1969-1975
1. Dale Hawkins - L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas (L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas, 1969)
2. John Randolph Marr - Hello L.A., Bye-Bye Birmingham (John Randolph Marr, 1970)
3. Johnny Adams - Georgia Morning Dew (Heart & Soul, 1970)
4. Mac Davis - Lucas Was A Redneck (Stop and Smell the Roses, 1974)
5. Bob Darin - Light Blue (Commitment, 1969)
6. Jim Ford - I Wanta Make Her Love Me (Harlan County, 1969)
7. Gray Fox - Hawg Frog (Hawg Frog / River Song, 1969)
8. Link Wray - Fire and Brimstone (Link Wray, 1971)
9. Bobby Charles - Street People (Bobby Charles, 1972)
10. Cherokee - Funky Business (Cherokee, 1971)
11. Tony Joe White - Stud Spider (Tony Joe, 1970)
12. Dennis The Fox - Piledriver (Mother Trucker, 1975)
13. Larry Jon Wilson - Ohoopee River Bottomland (New Beginnings, 1975; video taken from the Heartworn Highways documentary)
14. Bobbie Gentry - He Made A Woman Out Of Me (Fancy, 1970)
15. (Cold?) Gritz* - Bayou Country (Bayou Country single, *the only release from the short-lived group Cold Gritz and the Black-Eyed Peas)
16. Johnny Jenkins - I Walk On Gilded Splinters (Ton-Ton Macoute!, 1970)

Light in the Attic recently released the second volume in this ongoing series, which even includes some CanCon, as pointed out by Exclaim.ca

Country Funk II 1967-1974
1. Billy Swan - Don't Be Cruel (I Can Help, 1974)
2. Bob Darin - Me and Mr. Hohner (Commitment, 1969)
3. Hoyt Axton - California Women (Joy to the World, 1971)
4. Townes Van Zandt - Hunger Child Blues (from his first Nashville recording sessions in 1966, released on In The Beginning, 2003)
5. Thomas Jefferson Kaye - Collection Box (Thomas Jefferson Kaye, 1973)
6. Willie Nelson - Shotgun Willie (Shotgun Willie, 1973; the story of Shotgun Willie)
7. Jackie DeShannon - The Weight (Laurel Canyon, 1969)
8. Gene Clark & Doug Dillard - Don't Let Me Down (Through the Morning, Through the Night, 1969)
9. Bill Wilson - Pay Day Give Away (Ever Changing Minstrel, 1973)
10. Dolly Parton - Getting Happy (Love is Like a Butterfly, 1974)
11. Larry Williams & Johnny Watson with The Kaleidoscope - Nobody (Nobody / Find Yourself Someone To Love, 1967)
12. Jim Ford - Rising Sign (unissued Capitol album, circa 1973)
13. JJ Cale - Cajun Moon (Okie, 1974)
14. Donnie Fritts - Sumpin Funky Going On (Prone to Lean, 1974)
15. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition - Tulsa Turnaround (Transition, 1971)
16. Great Speckled Bird - Long Long Time To Get Old (Great Speckled Bird, 1970)
17. Willis Alan Ramsey - Northeast Texas Women (Willis Alan Ramsey, 1972)

Of course, there is plenty more country folk out there, or as Light in the Attic folks said, "there’s plenty of gas in the country funk trunk yet."
posted by filthy light thief (26 comments total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
*checks out tracklist for that Fred Deakin 3CD mix*

1-28 –Saint Etienne He's On The Phone
Written-By – Wiggs*, Cracknell*

1-29 –Jesus And Mary Chain, The Sometimes Always
Written-By – William Reid

OK! I need to hear this yesterday.
posted by shortfuse at 9:44 PM on July 20, 2014

Thanks so much for this! Great tracks to explore.
posted by kevinsp8 at 9:56 PM on July 20, 2014

I've been meaning to check this comp out. Thanks for the reminder!
posted by sleepy pete at 10:09 PM on July 20, 2014

Needs a catchier moniker. Funtry? Cunk?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:33 PM on July 20, 2014

Funktry Westwerk
posted by univac at 11:11 PM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for posting this! This is amazing music!

Heard some of these songs-- or the same genre, at least-- on my local NPR station the other week. Was one of those "I should look into this in the future" moments I get on my commute.
posted by RainyJay at 11:27 PM on July 20, 2014

And for a postscript, one of my favourites: Alex Harvey - Tulsa Turnaround.

Thanks for this list; I've heard bits and pieces of this kind of thing which has appealed to me but it's not the easiest kind to find.
posted by solarion at 12:08 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

David Essex on drums in that video. I suppose I shouldn't find that surprising, given the year it was released and the fact that I vaguely remember that he and Swan were mates.
posted by Decani at 2:33 AM on July 21, 2014

Playing the Fire and Brimstone track as I write this. I saw Link Wray perform live in the very early oughts, a few years before his death. At the age of seventy-plus (or older?) and with one lung, his much younger bandmates still couldn't keep up with him on guitar.

Thanks for posting - I'll be checking this compilation out thoroughly.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:09 AM on July 21, 2014

These are available for $9 on Amazon MP3. Volume 1, Volume 2.
posted by Nelson at 7:47 AM on July 21, 2014

Some more examples: There was literally a band called Country Funk first of all. They were great.

Bad Bascomb has the definitive country funk break and the best country funk song title.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:17 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Let's not forget Angie Baby by Helen Reddy or of course the definitive sultry country pop-funk songstress, Linda Freakin Ronstadt
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 AM on July 21, 2014

I mean damn.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 AM on July 21, 2014

Jerry Reed - Amos Moses
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:29 AM on July 21, 2014

Potomac Avenue: There was literally a band called Country Funk

Except they were neither country* nor funk (well, *there's just as much semi-psychedelic fuzz guitar, hard rock attitude, and sunny folk rock vibe to be found).

I came across them and though "Wow, how fortuitous!" then though "there is no truth in advertising through band names."
posted by filthy light thief at 8:37 AM on July 21, 2014

heh, yeah true, they have a couple of semi-country rock songs but are indeed no so funky.

RE: Black Bascomb I know there was a brief period where soul bands covered country songs in a pretty funky manner, 70-73 thereabouts, especially in the south. Can't think of any more examples though!

Anyway, early Little Feat is great. As is whatever Cold Gritz is.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh whoops Cold Gritz is in the FPP. But the flip side of that single is not: Kentucky Home(Spotify)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:54 AM on July 21, 2014

Apparently Cold Gritz are also responsible for the amazing It's Your Thing break.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Great post -- I love this stuff! Some similar ground was covered in a fabulous earlier collection, Country Got Soul (complied by woefully underappreciated singer-songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols). Out of print but worth tracking down. My favorite track on the earlier comp is Dan Penn's "If Love Was Money."

Tony Joe White is fantastic and really merits further listening, BTW. He's mostly known for the original version of "Polk Salad Annie." A few years back he put out an album of some of his older songs remixed by his son to sound more "modern." This sounds like a terrible idea, but it's actually awesome.
posted by neroli at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Great post.

My dad was a Bobby Darin fan, which is how I got introduced to his later folk/country/funk stuff. He's still got an original LP of Commitment, pretty much all of which is great. It's got this loose-limbed, slightly ramshackle thing going on which I really love. I think at the time people though he was basically a dilletante cashing in on folk rock - especially because Commitment and its predecessor, Born Robert Walden Casotto (his actual real name) were released under the name Bob Darin.

But Darin gave Roger McGuinn from The Byrds a job as a guitarist back in 1962 (he used to back Darin live on a 12 string, accompanied by a double bass) and signed McGuinn to his publishing company as an arranger at the same time, and he'd been covering folk songs by Tim Hardin and others since around the same time - maybe the first exposure a lot of his audience had to such stuff.

I'm not sure whether my favourite song from Commitment is the previously linked Light Blue, or The Harvest.

I'd also recommend, from 1968's Born Robert Walden Casotto, Long Line Rider, about the endemic torture, abuse and murder of inmates in an Arkansas prison, which was later in 1980 fictionalised in the Robert Redford film Brubaker. I can't imagine what the audience of Dean Martin's TV show - on which he performed it in back in 1968 - made of it, especially the big, clanging chords that first come in at 0:45, which are more Yardbirds brutal psych than they are Mack The Knife, which was probably the Darin they were expecting.

Bonus: here's is Dean (Galaxie 500/Luna) Wareham and Britta Phillips covering Distractions, from Commitment.
posted by Len at 1:09 PM on July 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Be careful not to poke this post in the chest when you put the ribbon on.

Nicely done!
posted by NedKoppel at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2014

Another great album that sort of fits in here (though it's a little more Southern rock): Not for Sale (1975) by former rockabilly prodigy Travis Wammack
posted by neroli at 1:43 PM on July 21, 2014

Country funk? You mean something like this?
posted by the sobsister at 7:35 PM on July 21, 2014

I maybe heard this term a couple years back and it immediately made me think of CCR, which is one of those bands that is hard to pick a genre for. And I cannot say enough about Bobby Charles. So tasteful.

The final track of this set by The Boogie Hustlers has a country funk vibe. It's a travelin' band song called "Nine Deep". They're doing great contemporary country funk, after a few old-school R&B records.

I dig the pedal steel as a funk instrument on some of the videos above, too. I know Robert Randolph is considered blues, but he might as well be considered country funk. That video is maybe not the best example, because it's a gospel tune, but I think there's some intersection there.
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2014

Larry Williams & Johnny Watson - "Nobody" was previously seen/heard on the 100 most influential singles of the 1960s.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:30 PM on July 22, 2014

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