This has been returning to my disc player for the last two months and demands a wider audience so here’s a review. The time is the late 60s/early 70s; though big-haired, bad-tripping hippies had stopped fucking in the streets, music was still copulating with any style it could, hence rock opera and space funk…and country soul. Jeb Loy Nichol’s genius compilation scoops up a bunch of records that represent ‘country soul’, located at the crossroads where gospel, soul, country and blues meet.
Though the singers are white, questions of colour are irrelevant. Dan Penn had co-written classics for the likes of James Carr and Aretha Franklin but on If Love Was Money he showed all the soul he put into those songs came from within him. It has dramatic arrangements, a fantastic melodic chorus and heartbreaking lyrics that Elvis, if he’d stuck with country and not cabaret, could have sung. Other songs drip soul like sweat on an Alabaman afternoon. The ominous Sheldon Church Yard by Larry Jon Wilson sings of “root doctors” in a gravelly baritone, accompanied by wah wah guitar. Charlie Rich’s Hey Good Looking is nominally the old country standard but drips with organ and funky beats, being gospelly but also raucous and rude. I Hate Hate by Razzy is an idealistic love song to the world, copping most of the rhythm from Archie Bell & the Drells’ Tighten Up. Get Involved is an anthem for black political organisation from the white George Soule, which doesn’t matter as it’s powerful, inspiring and horny (in the brassy sense of the word). The only woman on the album is Sandra Rhodes whose Where’s Your Love Been? is soulful and sassy and builds to a slinky chorus.
This is a wormhole to a secret garden of swampy, soulful heart-on-sleeve music. Jeb Loy Nichols’ booklet helps to fill in the picture and part explain why a group of white southern singers found salvation in black song styles, but the truth is really in the grooves. It take you to the point where genres become so blurred they’re irrelevant. It’s a shame society couldn’t get anywhere near as colourblind or culturally open to ideas as these records seem to have been.