Thursday, August 17, 2006
Back in the late ’60s, popular rock groups started to add elements of country music to their songs. The Byrds, previously known for folk rock hits like “Turn, Turn, Turn,” led the charge with the landmark 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Recorded in Nashville, the capital of country music, the release found the group covering George Jones and Merle Haggard and playing instruments like steel guitar, banjo and fiddle.
The next year, Bob Dylan was in on the act with the release of his album Nashville Skyline. Also recorded in Nashville, the collection of songs included guest spots by Johnny Cash and session player Charlie Daniels.
Influenced by these prominent acts, a new subgenre emerged, appropriately called country rock. This new melding of music was further explored in depth by new acts like Poco and Pure Prairie League.
Craig Fuller, the early singer/songwriter of Pure Prairie League, says this new direction in rock music came from bands that wanted to avoid emulating the poular music of the day. “I think it was a blossoming period in music,” he says. “You couldn’t out-Beatle The Beatles. You couldn’t out-Beach Boy The Beach Boys. It was one of a few ways to sound different.”
Despite being influenced by The Byrds and Poco, Fuller says his band went in a country rock direction mostly because it played to his strengths as a musician and songwriter.
“It was the easiest thing for me to do,” he says. “I wish then I could have played the blues or Jethro Tull.”
By the early ’70s, country rock was flourishing, due in no small part to the release of Poco’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces and Pure Prairie League’s Bustin’ Out, which featured the classic rock staple “Amie.”
In the ‘90s, the country rock sound was being emulated by a new batch of acts including Wilco, Ryan Adams and Steve Earle. Fuller believes these artists are not working off the same template that Poco and Pure Prairie League were. “I think they are trying to do something a little different,” he says. “We were not trying to be alternative. We were writing four-minute songs and trying to get them on the radio.”
Poco and Pure Prairie League play the Sunset Center, San
Carlos and Ninth in Carmel, Saturday at 8pm. $57.