The Flying Burrito Brothers - Songs of the Golden West
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Songs of the Golden West (Grateful Dead, 1999)

The Flying Burrito Brothers

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

This is a pretty good record, but is it really a Burrito record? There's no Chris Hillman, no Sneaky Pete, no Gram Parsons - he's still dead, as we are crudely reminded in the album's closing track.

Producer John Beland, who has worked with such artists as Rick Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, fronts the Burritos here as he did on 1997's "California Jukebox" on lead guitar and vocals. Bassist Larry Patton also provides some good vocals, and drummer Gary Kubal and steel player Wayne Bridge are solid.

The guest list is also impressive. Merle Haggard duets with Patton on a remake of "Mama's Hungry Eyes," and Delbert McClinton joins Patton on "Honky Tonk Blues." Alison Krauss and Beland duet on the Rick Nelson ballad "Anyone Else But You," featuring Sam Bush on fiddle. Ricky Skaggs and the Oak Ridge Boys are also on hand. A couple of Beland originals stand out. The opening title track is reminiscentof the early days of the Burritos, and "Down at the Palomino" recalls the days of the legendary club that played host to the pioneers of country/rock.

Patton contributes "Genuine Healer," a traditonal country tune of heartbreak,booze and the realization that time only time can truly heal. It is with "Ode to Gram" that Patton displays his uneasiness with the Parsons legacy. When confronted by a fan with "Where's Gram Parsons?," Patton responds, "they didn't bury me at the Joshua Tree" and "he thought he was immortal, but he weren't the chosen one." These lyrics show more than mere annoyance with a stupid question and suggest Patton is somewhat resentful of Parsons.

The use of the name Flying Burrito Brothers invites comparisons to Parsonsand Hillman. Despite the negativity of "Ode to Gram" and some liner notes, Beland and company have produced some music worthy of the Burrito name.

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