A few months back, I blogged about the passing of Michael Nesmith and how important he was to the creation and movement of country-rock music (https://luegra.design.blog/2021/12/12/michael-nesmith-rip/). While everyone in the Americana audience seems to worship Gram Parsons, I have always tipped my hat to Nesmith. The guy had the cool attitude – confident, a bit arrogant, but always with a great sense of humor.
So about two weeks ago, while internet surfing, I caught an article about a recent release of Nesmith’s unreleased solo and First/Second National Band material. The album is Different Drum: The Lost RCA/Victor Recordings. It is put out by Real Gone Music, and I knew that I had to have it. I ordered the CD, and after an error on the record company’s end, I finally got the album yesterday. I have been listening to it continually for the past day!
There are his versions of “Different Drum” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues,” along with covers like “Six Days on the Road” (with an arrangement that makes it hard to recognize the song). There is also a big section of instrumentals that, at times, sounds experimental, but has the always-present pedal steel of Red Rhodes. The early 1970s were a lost time for this type of music. Rock music was going very hard edge, even bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were tripping heavily. Parsons had the right idea, but his material always sounded like demos and not finished product. This was pre-Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt was just starting to get noticed on her own. Emmylou Harris was suddenly on her own, and was trying to break into the mainstream country fold with ideas that Gram blessed on her.
Nesmith was producing amazing songs and sounds. During a Monkees’s recording session in Nashville, while working with A-list musicians there, the “sound” hit him, and he never looked back. Country-rock was born, although it has some heartbeats in the Byrds’ early albums. Perhaps it was his comical fame from The Monkees, but Nesmith’s work was never fully appreciated by the masses, and still is not by Americana audiences outside of the intelligentsia. While Gram had inspired The Rolling Stones to produce classics such as “Wild Horses,” and the alt-country crowds of the late 1990s thought of him as a godsend, Nesmith was continually looked at as “the Monkee with the knit cap.”
I implore anyone to secure a copy of this CD. In my opinion, it is much more rational and concrete of a definition of “country-rock” than anything Parsons put out. While Parsons was working to get rock audiences to appreciate George Jones, Nesmith was pushing the barriers of what country-rock songwriting was about. One listen to this recording of “Roll with the Flow” Will convince you how important Nesmith’s work is to the Americana music format.
Chew on it and comment.