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Freda and the Firedogs

Freda and the Firedogs – 2002 (Plug Music)

Reviewed by Andy Turner

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"Hemming and hawing" led to this 1972 Jerry Wexler-produced album never seeing the light of day until now. Freda and the Firedogs were Marcia Ball, John X. Reed, Bobby Earl Smith, Steve McDaniels and David Cook, and these Austin-based "young hippies" helped tear down the barriers between country music and rock-n-roll in Texas.

A little explaining is needed: Wexler, who had already signed Texans Doug Sahm and Willie Nelson to Atlantic Records, recorded this album with the Firedogs and sent the demo to the record label. Atlantic okayed the release of the demo "as is" and a contract was mailed to the band. The group, however, wanted changes made and took too long to finally give in and sign the dotted line. By then, Atlantic said it was too late, and the album was never released. The master tape burned in a warehouse fire, but Smith got Wexler's personal copy of the reel-to-reel tape a few years back, and the album is finally available 30 years after it was recorded.

The album is a mix of Smith-penned originals and renditions of country classics like "Jambalaya," "Today I Started Loving You" and "Fist City." Ball's big voice sounds just as brilliant singing the groovy album-opening "Make Me a Pallet" or bluesy "EZ Rider" as it does Tammy Wynette's "Your Good Girls Gonna Go Bad" and "Stand By Your Man." Smith, who also played bass, sings "Cold Wind" and the "Dry Creek Inn," afirst-rate murder ballad that hits hard with Smith's mournful vocals and Cook's haunting steel guitar playing. Sure, it's a shame that it took 30 years for the album to be released. Fortunately, you can let these cosmic cowboys take you back in time (Freda and the Firedogs, 512-784-7373).