Brian Golbey - Dew On The Purple Sage Tonight
British Archive of Country Music BACM CD D 671
Veteran British country singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brian Golbey takes us back to his early musical passions for western music and singing cowboys on this 22-track retrospective collection. The simple unadorned accompaniment that he utilises is a reflection on his past growing up in a house where music, not television, was the sole source of entertainment and the Saturday morning picture shows were the highlight of the week. The first 14 tracks are taken from the original 1997 album that featured nine self-penned songs alongside five well-chosen tunes from the golden age of western music. His aim was to create songs that would sound as if they belonged to that golden era and there’s little doubt that his goal was achieved. Not having looked at the CD credits, I was certain that the opening Herding Cattle, was a little-known gem, possibly from a 1930s western, not a song penned and recorded some 60 years later. I am sure, that like me, there’s no way that listeners will be able to distinguish between the old and new songs. You see and hear this in Brian’s approach to his own original material as he creates recordings that sound like old 78s without all of the crackles and clicks and when he turns to the timeless gems from the repertoires of the Beverley Hill Billies, Ray Whitley, Marc Williams and others, the tradition winds on remaking the old and familiar into something new, fresh and full of nostalgia for listeners young and old.
Mixed with his narrative lyricism, Brian paints melodic visuals that feel like they’re in full technicolour. As this album is playing memories of Saturday mornings at the local fleapit or bug-hatch come flooding back. Having paid my six-pence us lads were anxious to see Tom Mix, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry chasing the bad guys across the silver screen. I never tire of hearing Git Along Little Dogies, which I probably first heard intoned by the deep vocals of Tex Ritter. Brian’s own voice is the perfect vehicle for this classic western song, managing to sound cowboy country without it being an affectation. He pays tribute to ol’ Tex with Goodbye Tex Ritter, a tender tome that highlights every single aspect of the singing cowboy’s vast talent and the huge influence he had on young boys back in the day. Another highlight for me is the wistful Arizona Days And Nights, with lilting fiddle and gentle harmonic vocals that play out like music from an old western soundtrack.
Whether it’s on a song like the lovestruck Over You, the gorgeous fiddle instrumental Country Club Waltz or nostalgic pleading of Come Back To The Red River Valley, Brian’s self-penned selections are a fond reminder that some people really can do the vintage western thing and others can’t, with Brian Golbey most definitely being one whose voice and style are ideal for this music. A country music historian, Brian grew up in Sussex and over the years he has recorded music in several genres’ but has always had a soft spot for traditional country and hillbilly music. The bonus eight tracks that complete this collection are taken from recordings he has made over the decades and naturally lean towards country music’s rich traditional heritage. Don McLean can hardly be termed traditional country music, but his affecting Bronco Bill’s Lament, about a fading western film star, is about as ‘country’ as you could get when it was written in 1972 and it fits Brian like a well-worn Stetson. He recalls 1920’s Opry star Sam McGee with Franklin Blues, a neat slice of guitar picking. He is joined by Nick Strutt and Pete Stanley for a run-through of the Delmore Brothers’ Happy On That Mississippi Shore. Mick Carroll joins him for Mama Don’t Allow, this time chiseling out a rawer, less refined sound with a good deal of live feeling. The self-penned Uncle Coosey is an ode to the late Bob Powel’s Canadian uncle. Given an old-time string band arrangement, this is full of memories of a simpler, more innocent time, messing about in boats and learning all the ropes in an older way of life learning the difference twixt right and wrong. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the music of Jimmie Rodgers and in my book, no one interprets the ol’ Blue Yodeler’s music better than Mr. Golbey. For his version of Hobo Bill’s Last Ride he is joined by Richie Bull and it is stunning.
A compelling soundtrack you never knew you needed, it’s easy to hear Brian Golbey’s passion and strength as a songwriter and a singer throughout this album. A collection that strikes a fine balance of original songs and more obscure country and western tunes, resurrected from deep hillbilly vaults. How can something so deeply rooted in the past still seem so adventurous—even audacious?