“Grievous Angel” by Gram Parsons - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1974Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

The final chapter of Gram’s Parsons self-proclaimed “Cosmic American Music” was delivered in January 1974 in very sad circumstances. On the face of it, Gram seemed to be getting back on track in ’73; his first solo album was released at the start of the year, he embarked on a springtime tour and then entered the studio in the summertime to lay down the tracks for his second solo set. Those who were closest to him behind the scenes knew differently however – he was continuing to battle with a drugs and booze habit, and this was often impacting negatively on his work, live and in the studio. Once again, Emmylou Harris was chosen as his singing partner and she appears on all but one of the tracks here. They’re good together. The album had been intended as a collaborative affair with the two to be pictured and billed together on the front-cover, but this plan was changed just before the album’s release, Gram’s wife being unhappy with the idea. Also assisting were members of team Elvis, including Glen Hardin (piano), James Burton (lead guitar), Emory Gordy Jr (bass) and Ronnie Tutt (drums). Trusty Al Perkins on pedal steel completes the core line-up.

Tragically, Gram never got to see the release of the LP; by September the 26-year-old was dead, lost to a heroin and alcohol overdose. “Return Of The Grievous Angel” gets the set off to a fine honkytonk start – it’s the full-on Nashville experience complete with subtle fiddle, the works. The lyrics were written by an up and coming poet by the name of Thomas Brown who had boldly approached Gram when he played Olivers in Boston during his ’73 tour. Thomas handed him the lyrics, and asked him to please consider setting it to music. The song tells of a wanderer who returns from sowing his seeds and hopes to reconcile with his true love: “Twenty thousand roads I went down, down, down, And they all lead me straight back home to you.” As they so often do, Gram and Emmylou bring the drama to life splendidly. The singing duo do likewise with their version of Boudleaux Bryant’s “Love Hurts”, which has a great deal of emotional pull. That said, the best of the lot is the only song not to feature Emmylou – “Brass Buttons” – which is as gorgeous as it is devastating. Seven years in the making, it’s a song about his mother, Avis, herself an alcoholic who had died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1965. “And the sun comes up without her, it just doesn’t know she’s gone” sings a heartbroken son. Who will now sing for Gram?

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [04:19] 6.4.png Gram Parsons - Return Of The Grievous Angel (Gram Parsons, Thomas Brown) Country
A2 [03:50] 5.0.png Gram Parsons - Hearts On Fire (Walter Egan, Tom Guidera) Country
A3 [02:20] 4.3.png Gram Parsons - I Can’t Dance (Tom T. Hall) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A4 [03:27] 7.5.png Gram Parsons - Brass Buttons (Gram Parsons) Country
A5 [05:00] 4.6.png Gram Parsons - $1000 Wedding (Gram Parsons) Country
B1 [04:15] 5.7.png Gram Parsons - Medley Live From Northern Quebec: (A) Cash On The Barrelhead (B) Hickory Wind (Charlie Louvin, Ira Louvin - Gram Parsons, Bob Buchanan) Country
B2 [03:40] 6.5.png Gram Parsons - Love Hurts (Boudleaux Bryant) Country
B3 [03:29] 4.5.png Gram Parsons - Ooh Las Vegas (Gram Parsons, Rick Grech) Country
B4 [03:42] 4.6.png Gram Parsons - In My Hour Of Darkness (Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris) Country

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