Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Tribute to the American Duck/Roots and Branches
Genres: Country, Pop, Rock
Shallow Roots and A Duck That Delivers
Kevin Cook | McDonough, Georgia USA | 06/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"These interesting but uneven albums bear out the hard truth that The Dillards, by the early 1970s, were becoming a revolving door for talent that never stuck around long enough to really gel. Herb Pedersen, whose estimable gifts energized the group on the landmark albums "Wheatstraw Suite" and "Copperfields," had departed for greener pastures and wordsmith Mitch Jayne, busy tending to his budding career as an author, was a "Dillard emeritus." This left only Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb from the original line-up to carry on with an ever-changing roster of sometime/part-time Dillards. Having blazed the country-rock trail that everybody would follow, Rodney's muse was now leading him down another path, and it was Electric. Their only album for Anthem Records, "Roots and Branches" signaled a bold declaration of independence from the old school of Elecktra Records and sported a handsome, sepia-toned textured cover (depicting the now five-man group as countrified hippies) with a gatefold design normally reserved for rock bands. As if to distance the record from the laid-back vibe that permeated "Wheatstraw" and "Copperfields," the album opens with an aggressive blast from newcomer Billy Ray Lathum's heavily electrified/fuzzed banjo on "Redbone Hound," one of two middling solo compositions by Rodney. The rest of the album is a headlong plunge into mainstream rock territory, with only token nods to the "roots and branches" of bluegrass via stingy dollops of banjo and mandolin. This is the favorite album of a lot of Dillards fans, but it's low on my list. Despite a few stand-out cuts, notably the lovely ballad "Forget Me Not" and the bouncy "Big Bayou," the record is almost downbeat. Although he sings them well, "angry young man" songs like "Last Morning" and "Get Out of the Road" just don't fit Rodney's mellow persona. The album's coda, a gorgeous a capella version of "Man of Constant Sorrow," recalls the thrilling tight-wire work of "Wheatstraw" and "Copperfields," but it's not enough to salvage the record from time's cut-out bin.(Strange but true: As the opening act for Elton John - really! - on Captain Fantastic's first American tour in 1972, The Dillards got priceless stadium exposure that helped "Roots and Branches" earn career-high chart placements for the band on "Billboard" and "Cashbox.")The silly title and cover of "Tribute to the American Duck," a one-shot for Poppy Records, amounted to a commercial death wish, but it was a vast improvement over "Roots." The "I'm words/he's music" partnership of Mitch Jayne and Rodney Dillard, the linchpin that always held the band together, is back in full force on a trio of great new songs ("Music Is Music," "Love Has Gone Away," "Daddy Was A Mover") that does their legacy proud. There's a souped-up remake, too, of the Dillard/Jayne chestnut "Dooley" with drums, electric bass and a nifty dobro solo. (Never happy with his submerged vocal on the original, Rodney made sure his voice was loud and up front on this version.) Best song honors is a toss-up among "Caney Creek," a bloody backwoods melodrama, and two acoustic masterpieces, the soaring "Carry Me Off" (co-written by Jayne and TWO Dillards, Rodney and sister Linda) and "Smile For Me," one of Rodney's best performances and easily his most tender one. "You've Got To Be Strong" bears mentioning, if only because it's the only Dillards song I know of whose trite chorus, so help me, sounds eerily like The Brady Bunch Kids on a talent show. Finally, there's the warped Jayne/Webb collaboration "What's Time To A Hog," in which Mitch wonders out loud, "What's a rubber to a duck?" among other loony metaphysical questions, to music that sounds like Spike Jones gone country. Mitch's lead singing debut, "Hog" proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that Rodney's job was never in jeopardy. (Smile.)"
What Happens When Some Hillbillies Move to LA
Randall E. Adams | Los Angeles, CA United States | 06/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Depending upon your perspective, the two albums on this disc are the best and most mature creations by Rodney Dillard & Co., or they are the worst and most misguided. My five star rating tells you where I am in the debate.I was familiar with "Roots and Branches" when it was a new album and liked it then. It has aged very well, showcasing a remarkable string of superb songs exceptionally well arranged. Produced and arranged (!) by noted LA rock producer Ritchie Podolor, this album was the Dillards' most serious foray into mainstream pop music to date. Except for over-recorded drums, there's nothing to criticize now. The Dillards' beautiful harmonies, the delicate picking and quite sophisticated songs make for a nonstop pleasure.Somehow I missed "Tribute to the American Duck." Produced by Rodney Dillard himself, this album puts the drums where they belong in the mix but otherwise continues the approach inaugurated on the Podolor album. A little over half the songs are welcome originals and all the choices are very good ones. I find "Carry Me Off" to be particularly breathtaking, but this totally forgotten album leads the listener from one jewel to another. And amazingly, I find this record reminiscent of the best work by the Hollies in the 1970s, more than anyone else. I love the Hollies; this is no bad thing.Obviously, for the bluegrass purists, these albums will be totally bewildering. But Rodney Dillard obviously wanted to grow beyond the bluegrass and hillbilly schtick and, by god, he sure did. I wish people had noticed."
Ah, the Dillards.
Garry Daniel | Knoxville, TN United States | 10/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Do you know, I've talked to people who actually believed the band who played The Darlin Boys on Andy Griffith were not a real band, but a bunch of actors faking it to someone's bluegrass soundtrack? How silly these people are. Of course the Darlins were the Dillards (excepting Denver Pyle), and of course they were a real honest to goodness (emphasis on goodness) bluegrass band. They went through several changes over the years, and still managed to produce some outstanding music. Some of the outstanding music they made is on this wonderful CD, Roots and Branches / Tribute to the American Duck. Songs such as Billy Jack, Last Morning, Get out on the road, Man of constant sorrow,
Dooley, Music is Music,are all wonderfully written, produced, and performed pieces of (God I hate this term) Country Rock.
Why the Dillards never became huge is beyond me. This is what I'm trying to say: The Dillards are wonderful, they made great albums, and they deserve to be recognized. They are decidedly more honest than the Eagles, as good as Poco, and a hell of a lot funnier than either. Buy this Cd. Buy this Cd. Buy this CD.
And while I'm on the subject, maybe someone will one day release a couple of other Dillard albums on Compact Disc, namely The Dillards VS. the LA Time Machine, and Decade Waltz. Oh, and did I mention you should buy this CD?"