Archive for Chuck Leavell

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Dickey Betts

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by 30daysout

Now this is one from my own record collection … today we blow the dust off Highway Call, the 1974 solo album by Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts.  But for his first solo album, he’s billed as “Richard Betts.”

In 1974 the Allman Brothers Band had hit a crossroads: both Duane Allman and bass player Berry Oakley had died, and the album Brothers and Sisters (mostly recorded after the death of Oakley) had been a hit.  But the album introduced a softer, country-rock direction thanks to Betts’ “Ramblin’ Man,” which was a radio hit.  Pianist Chuck Leavell was also heavily featured, and the result was a sound that strayed a bit from the Allmans’ trademark dual-guitar attack.  With the direction of the band in question, both Betts and Gregg Allman set out to cut solo albums.

Betts’ Highway Call was an extension of his country-rock approach, and the album’s opener “Long Time Gone” could be the sequel to “Ramblin’ Man.”  Instead of an extra guitar, though, this song has a steel guitar (played by John Huhgey) that opens up this road-ready album.  “Rain” adds the country backing vocals of the Rambos (Buck, Dottie and Reba) for yet another dip into Betts’ country-rock pool.

The title song, coming third in the lineup, is a slow one that steers us closer to pure country thanks to Leavell’s honky-tonk plinking.  “Let Nature Sing” begins the second half of the program (this is a short, six-song album) with down-home gospel harmonies and banjo pickin’.  To me, it’s a little reminiscent of the Byrds’ country sound on Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Fiddler Vassar Clements kicks off the  stomp “Hank Picked,” and a square dance breaks out for 14 minutes on this extended instrumental.  This song puts Betts’ guitar work into a stricter country context, and he shines on this cut – it’s certainly the album’s centerpiece.  “Kissimee Kid,” another fiddlin’ instrumental (this one actually written by Clements), ends the album on an upbeat note.

Highway Call was successful but it didn’t get the attention that Gregg Allman’s solo album Laid Back did about the same time.  Allman had a radio hit with his remake of the Bro’s “Midnight Rider” and maybe Betts got lost in the shuffle.  But the two albums couldn’t be more different – Allman’s was more of a singer/songwriter move, while Betts’ was meant to showcase some superior musicianship.

Of course, you know the rest – the Allmans would record intermittently in the ensuing decades and finally they parted ways with Dickey Betts in 2000.  He formed the Dickey Betts Band and played also with an outfit called Great Southern, which featured Betts’ son Duane (guess who he was named after).  In December 2009 Dickey Betts announced he was no longer going to tour, although he played some dates as recently as July with Great Southern.

MP3: “Long Time Gone”

MP3: “Let Nature Sing”

Dickey Betts official website

Rock Moment: A Rolling Stone goes Face to Face in Houston

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by 30daysout

McLagan and Wood, Continental Club Houston 2005

If you’ve gone to more than a few rock shows, or if you like to see musicians playing in small clubs, you probably have heard of these once-in-a-lifetime shows, where somebody really famous unexpectedly jumps onstage in an unlikely spot.  I always wondered if I’d ever experience one of these unique occasions – and five years ago it happened.

December 2005: The Rolling Stones are touring behind their latest album, A Bigger Bang, and tonight’s show is in Houston’s downtown Toyota Center.  At almost the same moment as the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” cranks up its show, another group of musicians are setting up a few miles away in the Continental Club.  A small but devoted crowd of people are gathered at the Continental to see Ian McLagan and the Bump Band, from just down the highway in Austin.  McLagan is, of course, the keyboard genius who powered the Small Faces and the Faces in the 1960s and 1970s.  And his Bump Band this night consists of drummer Don Harvey, bass player Mark Andes and guitarist “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb – crack musicians all.

Ian McLagan, left, with Mark Andes at the Continental Club in Houston

There’s a buzz going through the admittedly small crowd: will there be a mini-reunion of the two members of the Faces in town?  Guitarist Ron Wood has been with the Rolling Stones since 1975 but before that he was McLagan’s bandmate in the good-timey Faces.  The buzz gets louder as the Bump Band takes the stage and rip into “Little Girl,” from their first album.  Seeing a music legend like McLagan up close, you can’t help but marvel at your good fortune – these guys play free happy hours most Thursdays in Austin’s Lucky Lounge and occasionally make the 165-mile trek to Houston to make even more people feel lucky.

Continue reading