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The Band

Cryin' Heart Blues

This is a cheat. Recorded for The Band's 1973 covers project, 'Moondog Matinee,' it went unreleased until archivist Cheryl Pawelski appended it to the 2001 reissue. It was the only country song on the slate, and one especially beloved of Rick Danko, who recorded it again in 1978. Talking about the album years later, Levon Helm cast a worthy project in an unflattering light. "That was all we could do at the time," he said. "We couldn't get along - we all knew that fairness was a bunch of shit. We all knew we were getting screwed, so we couldn't sit down and create no more music. 'Up On Cripple Creek' and all that stuff was over - all that collaboration was over, and that type of song [covers] was all we could do." There was a rock 'n' roll revival in full swing by '73, spurred by the success of American Graffiti that year. The following year, ABC-TV started the ghastly, long-running Happy Days. 'Moondog Matinee' played into all that, but sidestepped it with tough renderings of the originals. Radio would have preferred slathering them in gooey nostalgia. At first, the idea was to do songs from the group's set list when they were barnstorming around Canada as the Hawks. Moondog, of course, was the nickname of legendary dee-jay Alan Freed, whose show beamed into Ontario from across the lake in Cleveland.


On the wraparound cover, Danko was pictured reading 'C&W Hits' so it was apposite that he tackled Johnnie & Jack's hillbilly standard Cryin' Heart Blues. The writer has always been notated as 'J. Brown,' but no one seems to know who he or she is. "We learned that song when we were working at WEAS [in Georgia]," Johnnie Wright told Eddie Stubbs. "The program director was named Warren Roberts. He had this song he wanted us to listen to. It was on sheet music, so I said, 'Well, you'll have to play it for us because we don't read music.' Warren…came out in the studio and got at the piano and played it for us." They recorded it in Atlanta, and it hit #5 on the country charts during the fall of 1951. Since then, like several other Johnnie & Jack tunes, Cryin' Heart Blues has become a bluegrass standard.

Various Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels - The Blissed-Out Birth Of Country Rock, Vol. 6: 1973 (2-CD)
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