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Published: 2011/09/13
by Ron Hart

Beau Brummels
Bradley's Barn (Deluxe Edition)

Rhino Handmade

If you are embroiled in a conversation about music and the other party makes mention of Bradley’s Barn by the Beau Brummels, you know you are talking to someone who knows his or her shit.
Released in October of 1968 amidst the post-coital hoopla of Bob Dylan’s rustic post-bike crash masterpiece John Wesley Harding, the Barn is an album spoke of by the most studious of rock scholars with such a nebbish sense of knowledge and enthusiasm that you leave the chat with no other choice but to check out what the hype is all about. Recorded with acclaimed producer Lenny Waronker in the spacious Nashville studio that generated the first professional recordings of Buddy Holly and whose name the Beaus copped for the album’s title, Bradley’s Barn was conspired by the core duo of vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott following the departure of bassist Ron Meagher not too long after the release of the San Francisco band’s 1967 baroque-pop masterpiece Triangle. Filling in the empty spaces for Barn were some of Nashville’s finest session cats, including “Guitar Man” Jerry Reed (aka Cledus “Snowman” Snow from Smokey and the Bandit), longtime Elvis Presley sideman David Briggs on keyboards and drummer Kenny Buttrey, who has worked with everyone from the aforementioned Mr. Dylan, Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Mickey Newbury, George Harrison and JJ Cale among countless others. Together, this incredible ad hoc ensemble provided Valentino and Elliott with the perfect consistency of country twang to their distinctive blend of British Invasion rock and West Coast folk, accented by the magic of Waronker’s multi-layered style of production as heard on such key cuts as “Turn Around”, “Cherokee Girl” and the album’s gorgeous Randy Newman-penned closer “Bless You California.”

This beautiful upgrade of Bradley’s Barn from the folks at Rhino Handmade expands the set to two discs housed in a hardbound book and loaded with bonus material supplementing the album’s original eleven tracks. Amongst the dearth of rarities includes a plethora of tunes that originally appeared on the Beaus’ 2005 box set Magic Hollow, including non-album tracks like “Lift Me”, “Tan Oak Tree” and “Another” as well as alternate versions of Bradley’s highlights “Deep Water” and “Love Can Fall a Long Way Down” in addition to other deep gems from the era like the stereo mix of the demo for “Black Crow” and a stirring cover of the 1959 country ballad “Long Black Veil.” Also included in the fray is a mini-Best Of collection chronicling Valentino’s years as a solo artist featuring several singles making their long-awaited debut on CD as well as a trio of unreleased songs, namely a pair of Johnny Cash covers in “A Little At A Time” and “Home of the Blues.” This is all complemented by an insightfully awkward radio interview with Valentino and Elliott that was originally broadcast on San Francisco’s KMPX-FM right before the release of the album.

Along with the likes of The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the Everly Brothers’ brilliant and underrated Roots LP (which was produced by Waronker as well and also featured a pair of songs written by Elliott), the Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn played a most essential role in evolution of California country rock in the year 1968. And it is about time it gets the recognition it deserves beyond the elite cognoscenti of musicians, professors, journalists and record store clerks who have kept the magic and mystery of this outstanding record alive for all these years with this exquisite reissue.

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