[Review] John David Souther (1972)

Souther’s debut album showcases another country-rock singer/songwriter on the rise.

Kronomyth 1.0: Souther man.

A cleanly produced, well executed country-rock record from the hardly known, newly signed J.D. Souther. He has a handsome voice, a good ear for sweetly salted harmonies and the sense not to overplay his hand. The ten short songs on John David Souther range from country to country-rock, move along swiftly, sometimes sadly, often prettily, and it doesn’t take much to see Souther as the Eagles’ country cousin. That last observation should hardly come as a surprise; Souther and Glenn Frey had recorded as the folk duo Longbranch Pennywhistle one year earlier, and the pair would continue to collaborate throughout their careers. Here, Frey plays guitar on a few tracks, while Souther receives principal support from Ned Doheny, Bryan Garofalo and future Steve Miller sideman Gary Mallaber (that trio would also appear on Doheny’s debut the following year).

Gib Guilbeau (soon destined for The Flying Burrito Brothers) kicks in a fiddle solo on “The Fast One,” and Jefferson Airplane/Starship drummer John Barbata appears on the album’s longest track, “Out To Sea.” Although it didn’t chart or produce any hits—the single “How Long” was later covered live by the Eagles—John David Souther’s debut is a likeable record from end to end. There’s a higher country quotient at work than you’d find with Eagles or Jackson Browne (a similar singer and one-time neighbor of Souther and Frey); what constitutes rock on the one would be considered country on the other.

Souther’s lyrics lack the sharp double entendres of some country songwriters, but he compensates with earnestness. He keeps things at a high, professional level throughout. The moments of human weakness—a low howl for Angeline on “It’s The Same,” an intentionally dissonant harmony on “White Wing”—are few but keenly felt. Black Rose, which followed his high-profile performance in the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, spreads its wings wider, but this debut sails smoother.

Original LP Version

A1. The Fast One (3:10)
A2. Run Like A Thief (3:15)
A3. Jesus In 3/4 Time (3:38)
A4. Kite Woman (3:06)
A5. Some People Call It Music (3:16)
B1. White Wing (4:21)
B2. It’s The Same (3:32)
B3. How Long (3:22)
B4. Out To Sea (5:03)
B5. Lullaby (1:35)

All songs written by John David Souther.

The Players

John David Souther (vocals, guitar, piano, bass), Ned Doheny (guitar), Bryan Garofalo (bass), Gary Mallaber (drums, piano, vibes) with John Barbata (drums on B4), Mike Bowden (bass on A4), Glenn Frey (guitar), Gib Guilbeau (fiddle on A1), David Jackson (piano and bass on A3), Mickey McGee (drums on A4), Wayne Perkins (bottleneck guitar on B4), Joel Tepp (harp on B1). Produced by John David Souther and Fred Catero; engineered by Fred Catero, Larry Cox, Peter Granet.

The Pictures

Art direction/design by Anthony Hudson. Design assistance by Alexa Smith. Photography by Frank Laffitte.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in August 1972 in the US (Asylum, SD 5055), the UK and Australia (Asylym, SYL-9003) and Japan (Warner Pioneer, P-10245Y).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the UK (Asylum, K 53026).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Elektra, 5055).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in 2008 in the UK (Rhino Encore, 79906).

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