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J.D. SOUTHER Border Town: The Very Best of J.D. Souther Salvo CD103 (2007)

JD Souther

If you can overcome the early 1970s fragile sensibilities of Southern Californian Country Rock, then you will find 'Border Town: The Very Best of J.D. Souther' to be a gem of a compilation album.

There's an unwitting sense of irony in this album born of the attempt to generate some long overdue attention and increased profile for one of the most underrated 1970's West Coast Country Rockers. The irony resides not so much in the fact that this compilation should come some 13 years after his last recorded track, but rather that after hearing this album I suspect the real reason for his low profile is precisely because he preferred it that way.

So although the sympathetic liner notes accurately delineate a successful but sometimes overlooked career, the truth appears to be that JD like JJ Cale before him was never really one for the spotlight.

His lyrics are a mix of introspection, including some love songs - most notably the closing plaintive lament 'All I Want' - some cutting observation narratives as on the title track and the occasional poignant ballad such as the beautiful 'Silver Blue'. There's even a full blown gospel outro on 'If You Have Crying Eyes', which builds up from a languid duet with Linda Rondstadt .into something quite special.

And of course no self respecting west Coast muso of the time would be short of a couple of Californian country rockers complete with dazzling harmonies, and an obligatory pedal steel guitar.

But given JD's beautifully structured songs and emotive vocal performances such as on the afore mentioned 'Silver Blue', complete with double bass, strings and French horn, you do wonder why he was eclipsed by Jackson Brown in particular and didn't enjoy the same success of his contemporaries such as The Eagles, CSNY, James Taylor and even his one time girl friend Linda Ronstadt.

His stylistic diversity is such that on 'You're Only Lonely' he delivers the best song Roy Orbison never sung. But perhaps the key to it all resides in the simple quotes from the man himself. Of his time in the formative Eagles, then Linda Ronstadt's backing band, he says, 'We were not essential to each other' and of his own career he simply reflects that, 'I wanted to write songs that outlive me'.

Happily enough JD is still with us and about to tour the UK. There's such a wealth of classy material here that he must surely have a queue of publishers at his door to ensure his wishes will come true. And if 'Border Town' does ultimately redress the balance slightly and the public do finally make the connection between the classic songwriter and the performer who wrote them, then this CD will have done us all of us a big favour.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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