Country California

Country music. Seriously.

Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again – John Fogerty

fogertyWhen I heard that John Fogerty was working on a sequel to 1973’s Blue Ridge Rangers album, I was delighted – particularly when I saw the track listing. I couldn’t help but play what I thought the album would sound like in my head, and I was both surprised and satisfied when I eventually heard the album and found it contradicted my imaginary playback. It just goes to show that John Fogerty is seldom predictable. The decision to thematically revisit his early ’70s classic album (of already classic songs) is a strange one in itself, as he was artistically back on form with 2007’s fantastic Revival, which not only hinted at his early days as a rock icon but simultaneously positioned him as a contemporary force to be reckoned with.

One of the most immediate differences between this and the original Blue Ridge album is that whereas all the instruments on the first one were played by Fogerty himself (like McCartney on his first solo outings), the sequel is most definitely a band album, as all honky tonk records should be (case in point: Mark Chesnutt’s Savin’ the Honky Tonk). Amazingly, as Fogerty wanted to distance himself from the CCR legacy at the time of the first record, this is the first of the two to be put out under his own name.

Slipping his latest disc into the player, many highlights jump out and assault the listener between the eyes (or as that between the ears?), the first of which would probably be “Never Ending Song of Love.” The opener, “Paradise,” didn’t really cut it for me, but then again I didn’t particularly enjoy the John Prine original either.

Fogerty’s decision to cover Rick(y) Nelson’s “Garden Party” is especially interesting. Nelson wrote the song in 1972 about a Madison Square Garden audience’s apparent displeasure when he performed his newer, country-styled music instead of his ’50s rock ‘n’ roll hits. The theme likely resonates with Fogerty as he continually tries to strike the right balance between Creedence hits and solo numbers in his live shows.

It is my view that nobody, with the possible exception of Dwight Yoakam, should attempt to cover Buck Owens. Buck’s songs are so identifiable right from the start that you expect to hear his voice, and anybody else’s pales in comparison. I had this problem with Tanya Tucker and Jim Lauderdale’s recent “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” and my apprehension resurfaced – and, unfortunately, didn’t subside – when I heard Fogerty’s take on Buck’s 1964 hit “I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me).” You can tackle No-Show, or even the Hag, but leave Buck to Dwight.

“I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” has to be one of the greatest country songs of them all. Ray Price did a superb job of it back in 1957, but contrary to my opinion on Buck Owens covers, this song always seems to sound fantastic regardless of who’s singing it. Heather Myles did it well a few years ago, and Fogerty does it justice here. The fiddle intro is as unbeatable as always, and just try not to sing along to that chorus!

Fogerty’s sole writing credit on this disc is for “Change in the Weather,” which sounds to my ears like a John Rich song (but don’t tell him I said so!) Although the title line is repetitive to the extreme, it does pack a punch. Still, this song probably won’t survive the repeat listens the rest of the album deserves.

As with “I’ll Be There,” “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” is the kind of jaunty, melodious tunes that anyone could make sound good – even plastered buskers – and this version is no exception. Kelly Willis did a fine rendition, but Fogerty gives her a run for her money. The next track is “Fallin’ Fallin’ Fallin’,” and it too is given an incredible reading, confirming this album as a terrific showcase for traditional country music – a fact all the more amazing when one considers that John Fogerty isn’t even known as a country singer. The album closes with The Boss joining Fogerty on The Everlys Brothers’ 1960 classic “When Will I Be Loved.” Both do a great job and sound like they’re having a blast, bringing the album to a fine honky tonkin’ finish.

It may sound cliché, but I hope it’s not another 30+ years until the next one.

Download the album from Amazon MP3

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1 Comment

  1. I like this album a lot. I think Patty Loveless/Dwight Yoakam’s cover of “Never Ending Song of Love” is better though. I also think that his voice gets too loungy/syrupy in places too; I prefer his more rock CCR voice. Otherwise, it’s a nice sequel to the original.

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