Almost two years ago, we reported on Light in the Attic’s Country Funk, an anthology celebrating the hybrid genre of the title. Back then, LITA described country funk as an “inherently defiant genre” encompassing “the elation of gospel with the sexual thrust of the blues, country hoedown harmony with inner city grit. It is alternately playful and melancholic, slow jammin’ and booty shakin’. It is both studio slick and barroom raw.” Well, if the 16 nuggets on that 2012 release weren’t enough for you, the label has returned to the well with another 17 slabs of soulful country-and-western tunes with Country Funk II. Whereas the first volume spanned the period 1969-1975, this second installment takes in tracks from 1967 to 1974.
One familiar name has returned for Volume II. It’s Bob, formerly known as Bobby, Darin, with another track from his Bob Dylan-inspired Commitment album of 1969. “Me and Mr. Hohner” is about as far-removed from “Mack the Knife” as one can get, but Darin filled the role of hippie-folkie troubadour with the same conviction he had brought to the role of tuxedo-clad showman. The luminous Jackie DeShannon also crossed over from the world of pop. The “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and “What the World Needs Now” artist was an early lady of the canyon with her 1969 LP Laurel Canyon, from which Country Funk II has derived her gritty cover of The Band’s immortal “The Weight.”
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton famously teamed up in 1983 for the chart-topping single “Islands in the Stream,” but both artists were by then well-versed in blurring genre lines – so it’s no surprise to see them here. Rogers is heard with his band The First Edition, best-known for their psychedelic “Just Dropped In,” on the 1971 single “Tulsa Turnaround.” Parton’s contribution is “Getting Happy” from her still-not-on-CD 1974 album Love is Like a Butterfly. Willie Nelson had the same deft ability to traverse the worlds of pop and country as Parton and Rogers, and he shows up here with “Shotgun Willie,” the title track of his 1973 Atlantic Records outlaw-country breakthrough album.
The Byrds’ Gene Clark helped that seminal folk-rock band incorporate elements of country, bluegrass and psychedelia into their own music, and in 1968, he teamed up with banjo great Doug Dillard to form Dillard and Clark. The duo produced two albums for A&M including 1969’s Through the Morning, Through the Night, from which their reinvention of Lennon and McCartney’s “Don’t Let Me Down” is reprised here. Another duo, Larry Williams and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, created an unusual fusion in 1967 when they teamed with psych-rockers The Kaleidoscope for the Okeh single “Nobody.” The song was covered by Three Dog Night for that band’s debut album; the original recording is presented on Country Funk II. Three Dog Night scored a No. 1 hit with “Joy to the World” from the pen of Hoyt Axton; the Oklahoma-born songwriter’s “California Women” from his Joy to the World album appears here.
We have more details – plus the full track listing with discography and order links – after the jump!
Other well-known songwriters on Country Funk II include the late J.J. Cale – subject of an upcoming tribute from Eric Clapton – with “Cajun Moon,” and Townes Van Zandt with “Hunger Child Blues.” Thomas Jefferson Kaye is probably best known as a producer, including for Gene Clark on Clark’s remarkable No Other and Two Sides to Every Story (itself the subject of a recent reissue from High Moon Records). Kaye’s 1973 “Collection Box” has been taken from his self-titled album for ABC/Dunhill. An entire team of legends supported Muscle Shoals keyboardist Donnie Fritts for his 1974 LP Prone to Lean, among them Kris Kristofferson (Fritts’ employer for more than 40 years now), Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, John Prine and Tony Joe White. From Prone to Lean comes “Sumpin Funky Going On,” co-written with White – a veteran of the first Country Funk.
This collection of the funkiest country you’ve ever heard – or the most countrified funk you’ve ever heard – has been produced by Zach Cowle, Matt Sullivan and Patrick McCarthy, and remastered by John Baldwin. The disc is housed in a sturdier-than-usual oversized digipak, containing a two-page comic strip by writer Jessica Hundley and artist Jess Rotter in lieu of typical liner notes. The booklet contains credits and discographical annotation for each track along with photographs of the track’s source LPs and 45s.
Country Funk II is available now from Light in the Attic on CD and vinyl, and can be ordered at the links below!
- Billy Swan – Don’t Be Cruel
- Bob Darin – Me and Mr. Hohner
- Hoyt Axton – California Women
- Townes Van Zandt – Hunger Child Blues
- Thomas Jefferson Kaye – Collection Box
- Willie Nelson – Shotgun Willie
- Jackie DeShannon – The Weight
- Dillard and Clark – Don’t Let Me Down
- Bill Wilson – Pay Day Give Away
- Dolly Parton – Getting Happy
- Larry Williams and Johnny Watson with The Kaleidoscope – Nobody
- Jim Ford – Rising Sign
- J.J. Cale – Cajun Moon
- Donnie Fritts –Sumpin Funky Going On
- Kenny Rogers and the First Edition – Tulsa Turnaround
- Great Speckled Bird – Long Long Time to Get Old
- Willis Alan Ramsey – Northeast Texas Women
Track 1 from I Can Help, Monument KZ 33279, 1974
Track 2 from Commitment, Direction 1937, 1969
Track 3 from Joy to the World, Capitol SMAS-788, 1971
Track 4 from Compadre, TVZ 6-16892-52402-1, 2003
Track 5 from Thomas Jefferson Kaye, ABC/Dunhill DSX-50149, 1973
Track 6 from Shotgun Willie, Atlantic SD 7262, 1973
Track 7 from Laurel Canyon, Imperial LP 12415, 1969
Track 8 from Through the Morning, Through the Night, A&M SP 4203, 1969
Track 9 from Ever Changing Minstrel, Columbia KC 32535, 1973
Track 10 from Love is Like a Butterfly, RCA APL1-0712, 1974
Track 11 from Okeh single 4-7300, 1967
Track 12 from Paramount single PAA 0258, 1973
Track 13 from Okie, Shelter SR-2107, 1974
Track 14 from Prone to Lean, Atlantic SD 18117, 1974
Track 15 from Reprise single RO.3618, 1971
Track 16 from Great Speckled Bird, Ampex A 10103, 1970
Track 17 from Willis Alan Ramsey, Shelter SW 8914, 1972