Light In The Attic’s Country Funk Volume 1 cemented the place of this long overlooked musical cul-de-sac. Featuring cult favourites Jim Ford, Bobbie Gentry and Tony Joe White as well as unknowns such as Cherokee, Gritz and Dennis The Fox, it was a critical success and has been a permanent resident on my turntable for the past couple of years. Newly released Volume II has some choice selections too; Bob Darin's Me and Mr Hohner and Thomas Jefferson's Collection Box being especially revelatory. I can’t help feeling LITA played it safe of their latest collection though. This is no critique of quality (Saint Townes, Gene Clark, peace be upon him,) it’s just that anyone with a passing interest in this music would no doubt already be hip these (see also: JJ Cale, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, not to mention Willie and Dolly…)
This collection is my attempt to dig a little deeper and look beyond the usual suspects. I cast my net wider, taking in everything from Claudia Lennear’s Planet Caravan-esque Sister Angela to Blac Dog's Nobody Like You, a full tilt, southern boogie party starter, via Tobias Wood Henderson's Colour Blind Man, which would slip seamlessly into either of the official Country Funk comps. Forgive the patchy audio quality; most tracks are scratchy vinyl rips and all are totally unlicensed.
This is important. I continue to see Black Americans not being credited for our culture, for the music genres we created. Jazz, Country, House music, Funk, Rock N Roll, RnB, Soul, Hip Hop etc- was created by Black folks. However the faces of those genres have completely changed to the point where Black faces aren’t even attached to our own culture.
What in the hell is country funk you ask? The answer is a complicated one, in part due to the fact that Country Funk is an inherently defiant genre, escaping all efforts at easy categorization. The style encompasses the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit. It is alternately playful and melancholic, slow jammin’, and booty shakin’. It is both studio slick and barroom raw. And while these all may seem unlikely combinations at first glance, upon close listen, it all makes sweet sense. Light In The Attic presents Country Funk 1969-1975, a melting pot concoction of the music of Dale Hawkins, John Randolph Marr, Cherokee, Johnny Adams, Mac Davis, Bob Darin, Jim Ford, Gray Fox, Link Wray, Bobby Charles, Tony Joe White, Dennis The Fox, Larry Jon Wilson, Bobbie Gentry, Gritz, and Johnny Jenkins.
Featuring extensive liner notes by Jessica Hundley (MOJO, The New York Times, Vogue), original album/label artwork, and new illustrations by Jess Rotter (JessRotter.com, Rotter & Friends), this down home package is not only a treat for the ears, but a feast for the eyes. Think of this as a fantasyland where the Josie-era Meters back young Elvis singing Kris Kristofferson-penned slices of rustic American life and you’ll begin to understand the country funk vibe. It’s from the swamp to the city and all points in between.
From the stereo guitar riff to Lee’s dumpy mumbles, “Sweet Thang” is a true country funk masterpiece. Forget the haters, Lee and Ann’s 1969 collab “The Cowboy and the Lady” is hyphy. “Weeeellll, has anybody here seen Sweet Thing?!” Elvis once filled her hotel room with flowers.
“Country Funk suggests second acts for these American singers, be they black or white. So gritty gospel singer Johnny Adams can get low with pedal steel on “Georgia Morning Dew”; ’50s crooner Bobby Darin can drop out and back in with the slinky protest stomp of “Light Blue”; former Naw’leans R&B bullfrogger Bobby Charles can grow his beard and hair long and jam with the Band on ‘Street People.’” Country Funk 1969-1975