The King of Rock & Roll Was the Forefather Of Alt. Country Too!
Those fine folks at Omnivore recordings sure have the ability to unearth some forgotten gems; often hidden away in Record Company vaults covered in dust and spiders.
As a for instance, who knew the self-proclaimed King of Rock and Roll recorded so many albums in the 1970’s and that one; this one ……. was what we have come to know as Alternative Country?
Apart from appearing on a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ compilation in 2005, SOUTHERN CHILD has been hidden from public view ever since it was recorded in 1972 as a follow up to King of Rock & Roll; but rEPRISE label executives didn’t know what to make of it; and I’m damn sure his legions of fans wouldn’t have either!
If you had accepted a lift from Marty McFly in his DeLorean that year and landed in 2020 (God forbid!!) you’d have discovered that what Little Richard was doing then; is actually now commonplace; in fact if I was to do a ‘blind tasting’ I swear 9 out of 10 music cats would think this was from Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed or St. Paul and the Broken Bones or their like; but ….. Hell’s Teeth music lovers; this is … and only can be Little Richard.
When he bellows “I was born in the Country and raised in the County!” at the start of California (I’m Comin’) there’s that instant thrill that you’re in the presence of someone really special.
This song in particular just oozes the smells of the swamps and roadhouses that line them; Little Richard just bleeds sleaze and sass in every line and stanza.
Track #2 will stagger his old school fans; as it’s a lot slower and based around an acoustic guitar; although the rather amorphous title, If You Pick Her Too Hard (She’ll Go Out of Tune) and the way he sings it, could easily be a double entendre.
I’ve listened to this as a ‘brand new album’ and you should too; otherwise you end up in a rabbit hole comparing and contrasting with things that don’t actually exist.
This was obviously a very brave change of direction from the Master; and one that backfired …….. but when I first heard the title track Southern Child and I Git a Little Lonely I genuinely and absent mindedly thought “I would love to see this guy live belting these out at SummerTyne Festival.”
But the whole album sounds so fresh; and often exciting too …. with the soul searching Ain’t No Telling and an early contender for Favourite Track status; Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Win This Year’s Race) which metaphorically touched places most other songs can’t for a man my age.
In fairness I could live without ever hearing Puppy Dog Song again (and that’s true of the 3 In The Name outtakes too; but that’s more than recompensed with by the addition of the Country Rock fantastique instrumental Sneak the Freak tagged on at the end.
For my actual Favourite track her I’ve been torn between In The Name (take #3) which sees Penneman pouring his heart out alongside some sublime slide guitar and a wailing harmonica; and becomes as harrowing and Soul searching as Country Music gets. Yet at the other end of the Love Song spectrum; Burning Up With Love is a right ybelter; and I’m going for the latter as it sounds as fresh and truly exciting as anything the young ‘uns in this category will release in the next 2 or 3 years; which is amazing when you consider that it’s nigh on half a century old and initially; wasn’t deemed good enough for release.
Once you get past the album cover; which is ‘of its time’ and very, very Little Richard; you are in for a right royal treat from the one time King of Rock and Roll who; apparantly was the forefather of Alt. Country too.
Released (yellow vinyl) November 27th 2020
Released (CD & Stream) December 5th 2020