Posted: October 31, 2021 in MUSIC

After pioneering country rock with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons perfected the form on GP. Though the singer-songwriter’s 1973 Reprise Records solo debut includes some covers (George Jones’ “That’s All It Took” among them) the album leans heavily on such outstanding originals as “She” and “The New Soft Shoe.” Great as the material is, it’s the performances that really put this set over the top; Gram’s vocals never sounded better, and he’s surrounded by such stellar instrumentalists as guitarist James Burton, fiddler Byron Berline and co-producer Ric Grech on bass. In a class by herself is Emmylou Harris, whose harmonizing here helped launch her illustrious career. Parsons was born on this day in 1946, and we’ll salute the cosmic American musician with another spin of GP.

The late Gram Parsons. A walking contradiction. An angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other…sounds like someone I could have related to. Gram’s voice hangs on a thread on “She”, a sublime country ballad with lilting melody, subtle rhythmic shifts and gorgeous chord changes. Just hearing the way Gram sings the word “Hallelujah” is enough to make the most fervent unbeliever put their faith in the Lord above. Gram’s singing was always so assured and yet so naked and fragile.

Keith Richards said about Gram: “Man, I never been so angry about anyone checkin’ out early as that guy…he was totally on the right track.” Keith sounded sad when he said this, thinking of his friend who had slipped away in 1973. I guess Keith was made of stronger stuff than Gram, the visionary Southern boy who was blessed with good looks and charm as well as a burning love of soulful music, particularly of the country variety. He also had a lust for hedonistic excess, but he wouldn’t have been Gram if he hadn’t.

Listen to any number of songs; the good feeling of “Older Guys” or the heartbreakers “A Song For You” or “Brass Buttons”, and you’ll know why Gram Parsons is one of the greatest artists ever.

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