This weekend I provided the music for a wedding over in Silverdale, WA (just a few minutes from where guest Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie/The Postal Service grew up; he pointed out the 24-hour Shari’s where he and his friends drank coffee all night as teenagers). The site was an abandoned farm, and the bride and groom suggested that during dinner I emphasize selections that reflected the surroundings, i.e. artists that were rustic in character. So I leaned heavily on CSNY, Cave Singers, Band of Horses and so forth. The happy couple was dead-on; that country-rock vibe was an ideal complement to the lovely early autumn evening, good food, and lively fellowship.
But as it so often the case, I found myself suffering from a small bout of l’esprit d’escalier the next morning. I couldn’t believe I didn’t include anything from Grandma’s Roadhouse by Riley. “From what? By who?” Don’t worry. I hadn’t heard of them either until a few weeks ago, but I’m so in love with this record—and so positive Greg Vandy will soon make them staples of KEXP’s own “Roadhouse”—that I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you towards it. Without cribbing too much from the excellent liner notes by Michael Simmons, suffice to say that Riley was a Southern three-piece that took its moniker from band leader Riley Watkins. Working in cahoots with future country star Gary “King of the Honky-Tonks” Stewart, with a little assistance from the legendary Owen Bradley (Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee), they cut Grandma’s Roadhouse in 1970. They pressed up a whopping 500 copies, with hand-stamped covers, and the album was promptly relegated to the dustbins of obscurity—until the good folks at Delmore Recording Society decided to reissue it in slightly larger quantities this year.
If you dig any of the acts mentioned in the opening paragraph, to say nothing of Tony Joe White, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Seattle’s own Moondoggies, the close vocal harmonies and swampy Southern grooves of this record should bring a smile to your face. Check out the original “Field of Green” below for yourself and see:
For maximum enjoyment, I recommend listening to Grandma’s Roadhouse with some freshly baked pie and a cup of steaming black coffee (if you prefer something stronger, be my guest). And if you ever invite me to DJ your party or event in a woodsy, rural setting, I promise I’ll remember to pack my copy. Hell, how anyone forgot about an album this good in the first place is a mystery to me.
DJ El Toro hosts the variety mix show on Wednesday nights from 9 PM to 1 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His weekly rant, “Weird At My School,” (usually) appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog. Please follow DJ El Toro (aka Kurt B. Reighley) on Twitter!