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Published: 2004/02/26
by Brian Ferdman

Stompin’ Room Only – The Marshall Tucker Band

Shout Factory/Ramblin Records DK 31656

If the 1970s Southern rock movement was bookended by the psychedelic slide
guitar blues of The Allman Brothers Band and the powerhouse three-guitar
rock army of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the music of The Marshall Tucker Band fell
somewhere in the middle. Alternating between lonesome ballads and frenetic,
up-tempo rockers, the original lineup of The Marshall Tucker Band
successfully incorporated elements of jazz, country, gospel, and rhythm and
blues into their unique sound. Excellent songwriting and musical proficiency
led to some commercial success, and with the band touring in top form,
Stompin’ Room Only was recorded on a series of gigs spanning from
July of 1974 through December of 1976. For whatever reason, Capricorn
Records opted to never release this fine live album, and now, nearly 30
years later, it has finally surfaced to the delight of Southern rock fans

If nothing else, Stompin’ Room Only is living proof that the late Toy
Caldwell was one of the most profound and underrated American musicians of
the 1970s. Not only did Caldwell write most of The Marshall Tucker Band's
impressive catalog, but he also took a turn on lead vocals on the raucous
top-40 hit "Can't You See." However, it is Caldwell's dominant lead guitar
that was the driving force behind this group. Diversity was the name of his
game, as demonstrated by the changes in his sound between the rapid-fire
thumb-picking attack in "Ramblin'," the clustered jazz riffs of "This OL'
Cowboy," or his mellifluous pedal steel on "Fire On The Mountain."

Moreover, the band was at its best when they cut loose and allowed Caldwell
to lead them into new territory. On songs, such as "Searching For A
Rainbow" and "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky," the band drops to a pianissimo level
while Caldwell begins a slow build. Gently bending buttery notes, Caldwell
creates heartwarming phrases that gradually morph into speedy and jubilant
lines, and his fellow musicians follow suit until he has suddenly led the
group through multiple climaxes. After listening to the dynamic live
interplay of Caldwell and his fellow musicians, it is almost impossible to
avoid thinking of a certain guitarist and his legendary ensemble from San

The supporting cast of The Marshall Tucker Band was much more than Toy
Caldwell's backup band. Rather, they were the fuses that pushed him to such
high levels. Jerry Eubanks' flute on "Can't You See" remains one of the
most indelible sounds in rock history, but his saxophone adds bluesy
atmosphere and texture to most of the album. The rhythm section of Buddy
Rich-influenced drummer Paul Riddle, freewheeling bassist Tommy Caldwell,
and guitarist George McCorkle delivered a layer of jazz to the mix, as well
as the ability to nimbly shift and coax the ensemble in different
directions. Not to be overlooked is singer Doug Gray, who had a tremendous
set of pipes capable of either soaring to stratospheric heights on
"Ramblin'" or evoking the lonesome feelings of "This OL' Cowboy."

In a timely twist of marketing, the liner notes and press release refer to
Stompin’ Room Only as "the virtual Holy Grail of jam band music, an
audience with the grand daddies of the entire scene," a statement that
certainly sets new records for the height of hyperbole. As good as this
live album may be, it is anything but a Holy Grail of the jamband world
because it really only includes two legitimately form-shredding jams: a
fantastic and sprawling version of "The Thrill Is Gone" with Dickey Betts,
Chuck Leavell, and other guests, as well as a lengthy, lightening-fast cut
of "24 Hours At A Time" with the unmistakable Charlie Daniels on fiddle.
Outrageous claims aside, this release successfully documents the
improvisational nature of an immensely talented band that excelled in the
live arena. It is remarkable that most of this music was recorded only two
years after the band's inception, but if Stompin’ Room Only is any
indication, 1974 through 1976 must have surely been peak years for The
Marshall Tucker Band.

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