Off the charts: Lavender Country, Bob Corritore, Fred Eaglesmith

2014-04-18T00:15:00Z 2014-04-18T06:19:11Z Off the charts: Lavender Country, Bob Corritore, Fred Eaglesmith The Billings Gazette
April 18, 2014 12:15 am

Lavender Country

Self-titled

Paradise of Bachelors

Sure, there was a cowboy in the Village People, but that doesn’t mean country music will be embracing gay folks any time soon. It’s still all about boozing, fighting, fishing and buxom belles on tractors.

Just ask Chely Wright. Once named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Female Vocalist, she came out of the closet in 2007 and hasn’t been heard from since.

So, imagine what it was like in 1973 for Patrick Haggerty and his band to release an unapologetically gay-themed album called “Lavender Country.”

Predictably, the album vanished instantly, and a feminist radio station in Seattle lost its broadcasting license for playing a single cut from the record.

And now, even though country music fans don’t seem any more ready than they were 40 years ago, the album is being re-issued.

The songs are typical of country in the 1970s, with lots of honky-tonk piano, he-she harmonies and weepy fiddle ballads. Only the lyrics are different.

“Waking up to say hip hip hooray/ I’m glad I’m gay,” Haggerty sings in his reedy twang on the album’s jaunty opener.

Not exactly Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” is it?

Many of the songs are silly, which seems intended to soften the stridency of Haggerty’s plea for sexual liberation. And all the songs sound humorously dated.

But, as a historical document, it’s hard to imagine a braver statement, then and sadly now.

Bob Corritore

“Taboo”

Delta Groove Music

Bob Corritore has been a fire-breathing blues harp player for more than 30 years, fronting projects with everyone from Little Willie Anderson, to Louisiana Red and Big Pete Pearson.

And, his “Harmonica Blues” album from 2011 won a Blues Music Award.

Here he finally blazes through an album his fans have been begging for, an instrumental project supported by an all-star cast of sidemen that includes Jimmie Vaughan, Junior Watson, Fred Kaplan, Papa John DeFrancesco and many others.

It’s a barn-burning set of originals, from the first cut, the bass sax-anchored “Potato Stomp, through the slow, smoky Texas-style “Many a Devil’s Night” to the Chicago Chess shufflers “Ruckus Rhythm” and “Harp Blast.”

Then comes the ‘50s-style “Harmonica Watusi,” the twangy title cut, and the Samba-flavored “Fabuloco.”

Instrumental albums can run out of steam pretty quickly, but that’s not Corritore’s problem here. There’s isn’t a dull moment. Corritore is the best harp player since Charlie Musselwhite and this is easily the best blues instrumental album of the past three or four years.

Fred Eaglesmith

“Tambourine”

eOne Records

On his 20th album, Canadian Fred Eaglesmith gets back to his roots.

He’s been playing legion halls all over Canada this year, the tiniest venues in the tiniest towns, places where no rock band has ever played.

And it’s not like he has to.

His countrified rockers have been covered by everyone from Alan Jackson to Toby Keith and The Cowboy Junkies, and his songs are showing up on TV shows like “True Blood.” Even Bruce Springsteen has called him the Springsteen of Canada.

After 2012’s lo-fi, acoustic “6 Volts,” Eaglesmith plugs back in and travels back in time to the 1960s when rock, R&B, soul, blues and country could be heard on the same radio station.

Surfy guitars shimmer through the youth anthem “Can’t Dance” and there’s a little Procol Harum in “Tell the Engineer” and “Sally Green.”

Sweet little ballads like “That’s What You Do” and “Drunk Girl,” with their Hammond keyboards and female choruses, and funky rockers like “Train Wreck,” are straight out of Memphis.

“I ain’t never gonna be a star / but I sure do know how to please a crowd,” Eaglesmith croaks in one song.

He ain’t kidding.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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