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Area Code 615

Area Code 615/Trip In The Country – 2000 (Koch)

Reviewed by Dan Williams

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CDs by Area Code 615

The cream of country's old-guard session mafia collude on these re-issues of long out-of-print early '70's Polydor records. The telephone exchange stands for Nashville, and the pickers collected here knew that town backwards and forwards.

This was a well-travelled group of players - the Music Row equivalent of the fabled West Coast "Wrecking Crew" or of Motown's house band The Funk Brothers. Guitarist Wayne Moss, drummer Kenny Buttrey and harp player Charlie McCoy were among the hands that Al Kooper assembled for Bob Dylan's landmark "Blonde On Blonde." Bassist Norbert Putman and pianist David Briggs played on a mess of Elvis sessions, and banjo player Bobby Thompson earned his spurs with Jim and Jessie. Veterans of backing artists as far afield as Arthur Alexander and Linda Ronstadt, George Jones and Neil Young, the 10 sidemen assembled here were a crack unit - the unsung heroes of records you've heard a thousand times.

On their own, they proffer a tasteful blend of country pop instrumentals. The refitting of The Beatles' "Hey Jude" is typical: Thompson's banjo and Weldon Myrick's pedal steel laying a framework for the keening counterpoint of Buddy Spicher's fiddle. Elsewhere, they mix it up admirably - melding some original compositions with the likes of the trad "Lil' Maggie" and Dylan's "Just Like A Woman." Some of this material has dated badly ("Classical Gas," anyone?), and it's likely that some of the twanged-out pop songs sounded a whole lot more novel upon its release. They are all impeccably played, if not always terribly exciting. An interesting curio, then - strongly recommended to Bill Black Combo devotees or fans of the "Pickin' On" series.