My post about Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers a couple of weeks back sent me rummaging through my collection looking for his albums. While I was doing that, I came across the record that made me check his music out in the first place, The Rockingbirds’ eponymous 1992 debut.
Now country music from Camden might not sound too promising, and I guess it depends to a large extent on how you feel about country in general, but it’s a great record. It’s only a little bit ‘alt’, really, being much more straightforward, tuneful country-rock, owing a lot to Gram Parsons (and maybe Mike Nesmith) and coming drenched in lashings of pedal steel.
Track four on the album (which doesn’t seem to be available anymore) was Jonathan, Jonathan, a heartfelt and exuberant tribute to the great man (it even incorporated a Roadrunner-style ending), but there are plenty of other goodies on there. The opener, Gradually Learning, heads towards country-soul, there’s a good cover of John Hartford’s In Tall Buildings, and there’s at least two mid-tempo classics, Restless and Halfway To Comatose.
They did record a follow-up (which I haven’t got, unfortunately), but sadly faded away into obscurity. For a moment, though, they were briefly fashionable (even the NME liked them), and for once, it was for all the right reasons.