The LONG RYDERS – ” Final Wild Songs “

Posted: January 24, 2016 in MUSIC
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The Long Ryders with their swaggering fusion of country rock mixed with a punk attitude were formed by several American musicians influenced by Gram Parsons and the Byrds, The band was a welcome relief from the manufactured pap clogging up the charts around this time, led by frontman Sid Griffin on guitar, autoharp, and bugle, Stephen McCarthy, guitar, steel guitar, mandolin, and banjo, Des Brewer, as bassist, (later replaced by Tom Stevens) and Greg Sowders, playing drums and percussion. With a sound reminiscent of Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield and The Flying Burrito Brothers, but with a harder edge, they hit the UK for some incendiary live shows before recording two more critically lauded albums and finally splitting up in 1987.

Their first album Native Sons was only held off the top of the UK Indie Charts by the Smiths’ Meat Is Murder .

Most of the key Americana bands of the last couple of decades cite the Long Ryders as an influence, but their rich history has never had a proper compilation until Cherry Red Records stepped in to create the 4cd box set “Final Wild Songs” – a lavish CD retrospective of the band. The set features all the original albums as well as demos, singles and rare live recordings. Re-mastered by Andy Pearce the recordings and in Sid’s opinion have never sounded so good. .

“In September 2013 the Cherry Red people came to me and said they were amazed that there had never been a Long Ryders anthology,” says Sid. “There has only been a one CD Best Of on my little Prima Records label.

“It’s all down to Steve Hammond who sat me down and said it is absurd there isn’t a Long Ryders collection, so he said let’s do a box set. I thought A, he’s dreaming and then B, I thought hallelujah.”

After the split Griffin settled in North London as bass player Tom Stephens, drummer Greg Sowders and, guitarist Stephen McCathy all went home to different part of the US, but they have all been involved in the production providing comprehensive track by track sleeve notes for their hard core fans. As well as their first mini album 10-5-60  and all three albums, fans will also be delighted to hear there are plenty of unreleased and hard to find tunes across Final Wild Songs. There are 20 studio songs that are very, very rare.” And the track listing features rare Long Ryders songs like ‘Time Keeps Travelling’, ‘As God Is My Witness’ and ‘Southside Of The Story’.

“There’s about 11 songs that are completely unreleased and there’s nine songs that were only released in the US . There are 20 studio songs that are very, very rare.”

Long Ryders Press Photos

Anyone who saw The Long Ryders first time round will recall they were one of the great live acts combining quality songwriting with a huge, uncompromising sound horned by endless touring.

“The fourth disc is a live CD that no-one has heard, which was actually a radio broadcast in one of the Benelux countries, and we played very well that night,” recalls Griffin. “I’d just forgotten about it and then some guy at the radio station sent us a copy two years ago, and I was blown away.

“So I thought let’s end the box set With this live show, and I’m really pleased as there have been a couple of live CDS on Prima, but this doesn’t repeat the track listings as it is from March 85. So the setlist doesn’t even have “Looking for Lewis and Clark” in it, it’s the Native Sons set that put us number one in the US Indie Charts.”

“The live shows were always better than the records. To me REM, our contemporaries, their records were always better than the live shows. I saw them live in their heyday several times, and it was a representative show, but it was not particularly a barnburner.

“Our live shows were barnburners which we didn’t capture on record other than individual tracks like I Had A Dream or Looking for Lewis and Clark where we sound really great. Mainly, as Roger McGuinn once said, our albums were really a souvenir of a concert as our live shows were just better.”

Perhaps the best news for their fans is the release of the box set is going to bring The Long Ryders back together to play some live shows and for Griffin it is a chance to complete some unfinished business.

“I’m really excited that it looks like we are going to be playing UK, Europe and the States behind this box set which is exciting as I have children now and they will be able to see The Long Ryders play which means a great deal to me.”

Final Wild Songs is released by Cherry Red on January 22nd 2016.


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