Rated: 4 Dancing Cows
Long-rumored but rarely heard (save for fuzzy audiotapes circulating for years on the bootleg circuit), Clarence White’s legendary appearance on Guitar Workshop with Bob Baxter has finally been made available on video by the good folks at Sierra. Broadcast from KNXT-TV in Hollywood, California in April of 1973, Clarence is the featured guest, with plenty of close-up shots of his hands and the various right-handed flatpicking techniques he was well known for. Solely acoustic, one gets the rare opportunity of seeing a master repeat and slow down his licks in a sedate atmosphere without the distractions of drums, electric instruments, etc.
Clarence was a man of few words, which forced host Bob Baxter to pull answers out of him and fill up the time with some down right annoying banter. To be fair, it couldn’t have been easy to get the shy and modest Clarence to articulate details of his style. The show is definitely at it’s best when Baxter stays out of the way and allows White to do what he did best, which was weave intricate musical doilies around any song he was playing.
They’re joined near the end of the show, first by brother Roland White on mandolin for a soulful reprise of the Kentucky Colonels’ version of “I Am A Pilgrim” from their Appalachia Swing Lp; then later by other members of the soon-to-be Country Gazette, namely legendary fiddler Byron Berline, and Alan Munde on banjo, for a rousing bluegrass finale (“Soldier’s Joy,” and “Black Mountain Rag” over the closing credits).
The second half of the tape is a poor-quality video recording of Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels at Liberty Hall in Houston, Texas, shot on February 24, 1973 during the eastward swing of their tour. Shot with a number of cameras from several different angles, it gives the impression that it might’ve been intended for some kind of local broadcast at a later date. The black & white recording drops out at several points and the sound quality is atrocious, however this is the only live filmed performance by this band in existence (save for a few seconds in “Gimme Shelter,” and some silent home movies that show up occasionally on bootleg videos), and as such is an interesting document. The band is occasionally sloppy, and Gram, near the end of his life, looks disheveled and lethargic throughout most of the performance, due to his increased drug usage at that time, though his vocals remain mostly consistent, and he occasionally hits the soulful ache characteristic of his earlier years. It’s interesting to see just how close his and Emmylou Harris’ microphones were placed together, and how the band takes its cues from drummer/harmony vocalist N.D. Smart II.
Unfortunately performances of only four songs are presented – “Big Mouth Blues,” “The New Soft Shoe,” “Streets of Baltimore,” “Truck Drivin’ Man,” the last fades out near the middle of the song as the tape concludes. The band is joined onstage by one Mike Martin on tambourine, and what sounds like a keyboardist playing string parts (most audible during “The New Soft Shoe”). No other details of the show are included on the video package.
Well worth the price for the Clarence White footage alone, the video is apparently a limited-run pressing found only through mail order, & at press time it was uncertain whether Sierra intends to make it more widely available.
By Buddy Woodward