I've commented on The Dillards before in relation to their wonderful "Wheatstraw Suite" (1968) album. Look to that comment for discussion on country rock, bluegrass cross-over and the seminal position of The Dillards in the evolution of country rock and progressive bluegrass.
Having looked at that comment what I failed to do was provide a history of the band. There are many good ones on-line and I'm not about to indulge in creative writing to rehash the same, so ….
Allmusic: "One of the leading lights of progressive bluegrass in the '60s, the Dillards played a major part in modernizing and popularizing the sound of bluegrass, and were also an underappreciated influence on country-rock. The group was founded by brothers Doug (banjo) and Rodney Dillard (guitar), who grew up in Salem, Missouri, playing music together. During the late '50s, they appeared often on local radio and performed with several different area bands, including the Hawthorn Brothers, the Lewis Brothers, and the Dixie Ramblers; they also recorded a couple of singles for the St. Louis-based K-Ark label as the Dillard Brothers in 1958. In 1960, they decided to form their own group, recruiting DJ pal Mitch Jayne on bass, as well as mandolin player Dean Webb. Christening themselves the Dillards, the quartet decided to move to Los Angeles in 1962, and were quickly signed to Elektra after being discovered at a gig with the Greenbriar Boys. Not long after, the group landed a recurring role on The Andy Griffith Show, appearing in several episodes over the next few years as a musically inclined hillbilly family called the Darlings … Meanwhile, the Dillards released their debut album, Back Porch Bluegrass, in 1963, and also teamed up with Glen Campbell and Tut Taylor for the side project the Folkswingers, who went on to release two albums. The Dillards' second album, 1964's concert set Live! Almost!, captured their controversial move into amplified electric instruments, which was considered heresy by many bluegrass purists; they also began to tour with rock groups, most notably the Byrds…
In 1968 Doug left the band and was replaced with banjoist Herb Pedersen, and then drummer Paul York became an official member of the group. The band still tours today in some form though Doug Dillard died in Nashville on May 16, 2012 at the age of 75.
This album from 1970 (their fifth) is really a companion piece to "Wheatstraw Suite". It is generally considered (by the critics) to be a smidgin inferior to that album. It may, or may not be, but it certainly does adopt the musical language of the earlier album. It does take the music even more into a pop direction (their is a lot of orchestration and up front drums, electric guitar and electric bass), which arguably laid a lot of the work for The Eagles etc major country rock breakthrough in the 1970s.
A lot of people don't like this slickness and pop sheen but this is genuinely beautiful country pop music. The harmonies are spot on and precise, and reminiscent of The Statler Brothers who were big at the time, whilst some of the soloing sounds as smooth as the Glen Campbell of the time.
Looking at it now it is easy, perhaps to dismiss this music as soft country rock pap but at the time this was nothing short of revolutionary. The band's feet were still in bluegrass and country but concessions had been made to rock, pop and Hollywood (where they had cut their teeth as a show band and whose influence on this sound is undervalued). And, ultimately, what is most surprising is the eclecticness of the band as they tackle country, bluegrass, folk, pop and rock.
The music is sublime and even a little subversive.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Rainmaker – (Bill Martin/Harry Nilsson) – A cover of the Nilsson track from his third album, "Harry" (1969). They have countrified it up and it is irresistibly catchy
- In Our Time – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – Californian sunshine pop doe through a a bluegrass sensibility
- Old Man at the Mill – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne/Herb Pedersen) – a more traditional country folk number just to show you they haven't forgotten how to do this type of number
- Touch her if you Can – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – a beautiful song
- Woman Turn Around – (O'Dell) –
- Yesterday – (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – ha, a stripped down short version of the famous oft covered Beatles song, done a capella! Excellent.
- Brother John – (Herb Pedersen/Howard) – it starts off like a cross between "Eleanor Rigby" and Dave Brubeck before finding it's own wonderful groove.
- Copperfields – (Herb Pedersen) – a pretty, slightly melancholy up-tempo ballad.
- West Montana Hanna – (Herb Pedersen/Mitch Jayne) – Herb Pedersen sings lead on this one (Rodney Clark sings lead on the others). Glorious country …
- Close the Door Lightly – (Eric Anderson) – a song written by the Greenwich Village folkie, with a familiar country theme …someone leaving.
- Pictures – (Rodney Dillard/Smith) – more familiar country themes …things lost, leaving only memories.
- Ebo Walker – (Rodney Dillard/Mitch Jayne) – actually a re-recording of a song that the band had originally released on a rare Capitol single in 1966. Named for a friend of the group and future member of "The New Grass Revival", who despite the lyrics, was not, in fact, dead.
- Sundown – (Herb Pedersen) – a beautiful gentle instrumental
Wonderful … I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
In Our Time
Old Man at the Mill
West Montana Hanna
- Musicians: Rodney Dillard: guitar, dobro, vocals / Herb Pedersen: banjo, guitar, vocals Dean Webb: mandolin, vocals / Mitch Jayne: bass, vocals / Paul York: drums, percussion / Guest artist: Byron Berline: fiddle.
- John Boylan produces and he had produced the recent Rick Nelson introspective Hollywood county-ish albums "Another Side of Rick Nelson" (1967) and "Perspective "(1968) which perhaps adds to equally smooth sound here.
- Orchestration is by the great Jimmy Haskell.