Jerry Jeff Walker was issued on Decca in 1972, and completed his rambling transition from New York folkie to Texas singer/songwriter. He'd left New York a decade earlier, but with all of his running around, he didn't make Austin home until 1971. Everywhere in this record's grooves -- which was recorded in different sessions in both cities -- is the latter's famed good-time, laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes feeling. The organic nature of the sound here is simply because Walker and two different groups (at least) of musicians played the songs live from the studio floor with no soundboard. These first versions of "Hill Country Rain" and "Charlie Dunn" are virtually peerless. Two Guy Clark tunes ("That Old Time Feeling" and "L.A. Freeway") rival the songwriter's versions and "Curly and Lil" and "When I Had You" guarantee the makings of one of the original Texas Music Scene's classics; the music made now that uses that moniker -- from Pat Green's to Cross Canadian Ragweed's -- is merely revisionist history and can be dismissed as such. Walker is at the peak of his powers on this album; it was the first in a string of his records that wouldn't run out, quality-wise, until the end of the decade. He is surrounded by what would become the Lost Gonzo Band (Bob Livingston, Gary P. Nunn, Craig Hillis, and Michael McGreary), with Mary Eagan and Dave Cook adding fiddle and pedal steel, respectively, and with a lively crew of friends (including Mickey Raphael playing harmonica on "That Old Time Feeling"). In New York, Walker went to "mix" his Texas record with Michael Brovsky, and landed when the Gonzos were playing The Bitter End, prompting more live sessions. In addition to the band, Michael Murphey, David Bromberg, Andy Newmark, Joanne Vent, and Ellen Kearney played on the recordings that cut that part of the album. "Her Good Lovin' Grace" (though not the final track) sums up the ambience of these two informal, even revelatory, sessions, as the (Texas) band slips and slides its way through a song in the process of being written as it's recorded. Amazing. Like It's a Good Night for Singin', Ridin' High, and Viva Terlingua, this is a masterpiece, full of terrific songs, fine playing, and a sound that defines the era, yet is timeless. DL
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