Gram Parsons And The Fallen Angels, Live, 1973

Mike White

Given that sales of his entire discography (which spanned four incarnations and six albums) likely totaled less than six digits during his 26 years, Gram Parsons’ music continues resonating across the generations that have succeeded him. The last two years have been something of a banner time for the country-rock genre that Parsons has been credited for creating. Whereas it has always been much more a critical than commercial haven, strong albums and respectable sales from Wilco and Son Volt indicate that Parsons’ vision of Cosmic American Music (a divine union of country, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll) may at last have found a home. In this recording of a live radio broadcast following the release of his debut solo album, Parsons, co-vocalist Emmylou Harris and the crack Fallen Angels band lay down a sound that is more redolent of country than anything else, but whose aggressive rhythmic anchor and emotional bravado can stir a diehard rock fan as effectively as the Stones, who — it must be said — were noting Parsons’ every move. Live performance was reputedly always Parsons’ favourite forum; none of his studio recordings swing so freely as on “We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes” and “Six Days On The Road,” and he and Emmylou’s ballad duets (“The New Soft Shoe,” “Love Hurts”) achieve an indescribable beauty. The long-overdue North American release of this recording (available in Europe, home to Parsons’ most devoted cult, for years) adds deserved weight to his noted but rarely exposed legend.