Americans watch their football games in four quarters. The Rest of The World tends to do things in halves. Just because “Heirloom Varieties” is neatly sliced into a couple of equal portions of contrasting music doesn’t make it any less of a trip to the psychedelic and pop backwoods of the US of A.
The first half (the review copy is a 14-track CD but you can score it as an 11-song LP) plays out in Paisley Underground territory, circa California 1986, with a huge nod to the jangly folk-psych of two decades earlier. That’s to say Rain Parade (that band’s Matt Pucci is a member), Green On Red and The Dream Syndicate. Steve Wynn fans will lap it up. The second half switches the mood to something darker and more psychedelic.
This is a review of an album by a band regarded as leaders of The Paisley Underground movement of the 1980s, written by someone who never bought into that scene.
Genres are a device to apply easily understood descriptors so other people know what you’re talking about. They’re hard to avoid if you want to communicate meaningfully but all the same, they’re annoying because they infer boundaries. Deal with it.
“How Did I Find Myself Here?” is a rock and roll record. It gets you to a place and takes a path less obvious than most bands (reluctantly) wearing a label.
Making orange juice from oranges...Sid Griffin and The Long Ryders. Tom Gold photo.
“There wasn’t anything called Americana when we started, but we helped create it, so I’m happy to be associated with it,” Long Ryders singer and guitarist Sid Griffin laughs, when I ask him if he has any empathy with the loosely-defined genre. “I like the Americana thing. I’m not one of those guys who says their band aren’t this or that.”
But while The Long Ryders were at the vanguard of the movement – as well, from a different musico-cultural perspective, the so-called Paisley Underground scene of the early 1980s, Griffin reckons Americana existed long before The Long Ryders formed in LA in 1980.
“People say that Sun Records was Americana, because of the marriage of rhythm and blues with country and western. But the other one that people miss is The Lovin’ Spoonful. They’re definitely Americana. Americana has always been here. No-one said Americana or alt.country until the end of The Long Ryders’ days.”