An Important Trip To The Country

Today another important album turns 50 – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo was a commercial failure with a mixed critical reception, but is now regarded as the first country-rock album and a major milestone in the ever-expanding palate of pop and rock in 1968.

The Sweetheart Of The Rodeo Byrds were a very different group to the band that popularized folk rock and took Mr. Tambourine Man to number one. Only Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman remained from the original band, while the iconic Gram Parsons was an important addition to the band.

The two Dylan songs were a link to the past, but these were two unheard Dylan songs from the Basement Tapes sessions, done in traditional country style alongside two Parsons originals plus seven older and newer country standards. While Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere and Parsons Hickory Wind are probably the standouts, especially in terms of the original music, it is the overall countrified sound across all the songs that makes the album an important listen throughout.

On release, the album managed to alienate both rock fans, who didn’t like the traditional country and possibly even the traditional values espoused by The Christian Life and some other songs, as well as country fans who didn’t like the idea of the long-haired hippies doing their music. 50 years later, the union of rock and country has inspired many an artist, and showed us that building bridges across differences is a lot better than building walls.

 

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