[Review] Brinsley Schwarz: Despite It All (1970)

They wasted little time in releasing a second album, which features the classic “Country Girl.”

Kronomyth 2.0: May the schwarz be with you.

The second album from Brinsley Schwarz follows the hoofprints of the first, although I feel less uncomfortable calling this country-rock since it sticks to that format more often than not. Comparisons to Van Morrison (The Slow One, Ebury Down) and Traffic (Old Jarrow) again hold, as do new comparisons to Elton John (Piece of Home) and The Byrds (Starship). The clear winner here is the opening Country Girl, which will tickle the toes of Nick Lowe’s fans. Although the album didn’t warrant a second single, Love Song could’ve served in a pinch.

The connection between the music of the 60s and the country-rock of the 70s was always a sketchy one for me. For Bob Dylan and Grateful Dead, the transition seemed natural enough. But the English bands like Cochise (whose B.J. Cole appears here on one track) and Brinsley Schwarz seemed to be appropriating American country music more than appreciating it. Or maybe I’m just not accustomed to English country music, which would naturally sound different since, you know, different country and everything.

Beyond the wonderful “Country Girl,” which you’re likely to play over and over again once you hear it, Despite It All is notable for some unusual guest musicians including Willy Weider (Family) and Dave Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator). Their presence is enough to justify the inclusion of this album on a site called Progrography, with the caveat that they’re also the only justification you’ll find. Here again, even fans of Lowe are likely to find this music long in the tooth and short on the kind of left-of-center pop smarts most associated with his name.

While it’s a good enough record, it’s clear that Brinsley Schwarz would benefit from a second strong songwriter. That hole was filled when Ian Gomm joined the band for their next album, Silver Pistol. Suddenly, the songs got shorter and the band got closer to the pub rock sound it always seemed destined for. Despite It All could be viewed as the last of the long Westerns from a band whose best adventures lie ahead.

Original elpee version

A1. Country Girl (3:02)
A2. The Slow One (5:29)
A3. Funk Angel (4:17)
A4. Piece of Home (Robert Andrews) (6:10)
B1. Love Song (3:59)
B2. Starship (2:38)
B3. Ebury Down (5:10)
B4. Old Jarrow (7:05)

All songs written by Nick D. Lowe unless noted.

The Players

Bob Andrews (keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals), Nick Lowe (bass, guitar, banjo, vocals), Bill Rankin (drums, percussion, good vibes), Brinsley Schwarz (guitar, vocals) with Brian Cole (pedal steel on B2), Dave Jackson (saxophone on A2/A3), Willy Weider (fiddle on A1). Produced by “Brinsley Schwarz” and Dave Robinson; engineered by Bob Hall.

The Pictures

Design by Geoff Powell.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on November 20, 1970 in the UK (Liberty, LBG 83427), the US (Capitol, ST-744) and Italy (United Artists, UAS 29189).

  1. Re-packaged with Brinsley Schwarz on 2-for-1 2LP in 1978 in the US (Capitol, SWBC-11869) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued with Brinsley Schwarz on 2-for-1 compact disc in 1994 in the UK (BGO, BGOCD239).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc on January 15, 2014 in Japan (Parlophone, WPCR-15476).

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