As far back as the early nineties, Sherry Rich was calling her backing band the Grievous Angels, such is her love for Gram Parsons and the new alt-country that he, the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers forged. Tonight she plays Sweetheart of the Rodeo with her backing band. Support comes from Kim Volkman, performing Steve Earle's Train A Comin'.
This album marked a big change for the Byrds. What do you think precipitated it and how important an album do you consider it to be?
From what I know Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn had a yearning to bring the traditional country and old time American music to the attention of their fans, which was a bold move at the time as they had a large following as a psych pop band and were very popular, so they put that at risk because they wanted to go in another direction and shake it up. Bringing in Gram Parsons was part of the plan. At the time it was a commercial flop but is now considered a highly influential record that opened the way for the other country rock pioneers in the US.
Who’s your favourite Byrd and why?
Gene Clark because I love his songwriting and the way he played tambourine and sang, and Clarence White for his amazing guitar style which is such an integral part of my favourite Byrds tracks.
Have you met any or seen any play?
I've seen Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete play at a Gene Clark tribute night in Nashville and thrilled to meet Bernie Leadon a couple of times at recording studios. Even though he wasn't a Byrds member he was in the Burrito Bros and the Eagles and was a big part of that Californian country rock scene which I am a big fan of.
Justin Townes Earle recently described new country (via an on-stage mumble) as “dubstep”. What are your thoughts on it?
I don't listen to much 'new country' these days, though when I heard Taylor Swift's song 'Trouble' I thought it sounded more like electronic rock and not a whiff of country but I guess she's been moving away from country for a while. I'm going back to Nashville this year to write with some folks so I'll see and hear more of what's happening there again. I remember going into the BMG offices and the publishers and song pluggers would say things like, "OK Jimmy Buffet is so hot right now so we want songs with that Latino country feel... go write one!"
I lived there for ten years and in Nashville there is a tendency for the big record companies to take a country artist with the hat and boots image and then record a song that is just following a sound trend [yes even 'dubstep'] and putting a fiddle or pedal steel on there and selling it to country fans. That's probably what JTE was getting at.
Do you have a favourite Byrds or Gram-related myth or story?
When I first arrived in Nashville in 1997 a friend [Keith Glass] gave me a list of his contacts there and one of them was Phil Kaufman... also known as the 'Road Mangler' and legendary as the man who made off with Gram Parson's dead body before setting fire to him in the desert to [supposedly] honour his wishes.
Well I'm not shy so I called up Phil Kaufman who at that time was road manager for Emmylou Harris. He was so nice on the phone and offered to come and pick me up and take me to lunch. When he pulled up in his truck I climbed in and was looking around for the seatbelt. He said, "Oh you're one of them are ya? Nobody wears seatbelts here gal – it's the South!" Then I saw on the seat between us a big old pistol just laying there which freaked me out. I was thinking to myself in a split second should I jump out? Phil must have read my face and said, "Don't mind that, everyones got one here... it's the wild west!" I threw caution to the wind and decided to stay in the truck – after all this was Phil Kaufman – and we went on to have a lovely beans and rice lunch at a local diner. He is a real charmer.