Sunday, October 08, 2006

Better Than A Medicine For Healing

From the MusicWeb encyclopedia of popular music:

AREA CODE 615 were a country-rock group formed in Nashville '69, named after local telephone code: Charlie McCoy (b 28 March '41), harmonica, vocals; Mac Gayden, guitar, vocals; Weldon Myrick, steel; Kenny Buttrey, drums; Bobby Thompson, banjo, guitar; Wayne Moss, guitar; Buddy Spicher, fiddle; Norbert Putnam, bass; Ken Lauber, keyboards. Ace session men capitalized on media focus on Nashville after Bob Dylan's LP Nashville Skyline, on which long-time Dylan sidemen McCoy and Buttrey played. First LP Area Code 615 predictably faultless in execution; Lauber replaced by David Briggs on next LP Trip In The Country '70, incl. 'Stone Fox Chase': harmonica instrumental became theme for BBC-TV's Old Grey Whistle Test through '70s. Most members returned to more lucrative session playing; Gayden went solo; Moss formed Barefoot Jerry (several LPs '70s on which many of the others have played, incl. Gayden on debut Southern Delight '71). Putnam and Briggs are producers in Nashville.


The first Area Code 615 album is a legendary record recorded by a legendary group of musicians. Area Code 615 was, as the name implies, the location of Cinderella Studios in Nashville (Madison, to be exact). The session players who recorded there are some of the greatest unsung heroes in popular music: Weldon Myrick (pedal steel), Bobby Thompson (banjo), Buddy Spicher (fiddle), Mac Gayden and Wayne Moss (lead guitar), Charlie McCoy (harp), Ken Buttrey (drums), David Briggs (piano), and Norman Putnam (bass). These players performed miracles on hundreds of records, including those by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, the Beau Brummels, Ian & Sylvia, and countless others. This, their "group" debut, is a timeless excursion into all forms of music. The record contains a lot (for then) of contemporary covers, such as an awe-inspiring version of "Hey Jude" that, in some ways, builds in intensity as much as the Beatles' version. It's soul, rock, and country at its finest, and ironically sounds as though it was a possible blueprint for Joe Cocker/Leon Russell's Mad Dogs & Englishmen project. Aside from the general power and groove, all of the solos are spectacular, especially Charlie McCoy and Mac Gayden's performances on "Nashville 9 - NY 1." Gayden is particularly impressive, often sounding like a visiting Eric Clapton in 1969. It's that good. Buttrey and Putnam, though, are the real stars here, laying down the most solid, knee-deep funk and soul that you will ever hear. Absolutely awesome. Friends, this is one stone gas.

On its second album, the Nashville professional musician supergroup Area Code 615 took the opportunity to stretch out and try some really far-out things. While still nominally country, this has more in common with the freewheeling psychedelic rock and sunshine pop of 1970 than what was coming out of Nashville. Given the fuzz tones, light funk vamps, trippy interludes, and random outbursts of heavy guitars, it's little wonder that Area Code 615 was appealing to hippies, not rednecks, but even among those hippies the group was a cult item; a two-night stint at the Fillmore West did not spur the band's debut into greater record sales, and A Trip in the Country didn't even chart. Perhaps that's because they didn't cover any obvious material here. Where the first record had three Beatles tunes and numbers by Dylan and Otis Redding, this relies on new songs and a couple of bluegrass and folk songs that sound unrecognizable; Bill Monroe's "Scotland" has its boundaries blown wide open, and the result is a serious head trip. But perhaps the best-known item here is "Stone Fox Chase," whose stuttering refrain -- performed by harmonica player extraordinaire Charlie McCoy -- became the theme song for the BBC's fantastic music program The Old Grey Whistle Test. That tune also illustrates the nature of this band: It's a musician's band, the work of exceptional players whose skills are best appreciated by other players. That doesn't mean there isn't some extraordinary playing here, since there is (although the debut is a better place to just hear the band play, since this relies more on the structure than the solo), but only fellow musicians will find this more than a semi-interesting period piece.

Area Code 615 & A Trip In The Country - Area Code 615

Southern Comfort
I've Been Loving You
Hey Jude
Nashville 9 - NY 1
Lady Madonna
Medley: Crazy Arms/Get Back
Why Ask Why
Lil' Maggie
Classical Gas
Just Like a Woman

Always the Same
Stone Fox Chase
Russian Red
Gray Suit Men
Katy Hill
Welephant Walk
Devil Weed and Me

Skyboat & Hymn To The Seeker - Mac Gayden

Mac Gayden made some solo albums after leaving Area Code 615, these are the 2nd and 3rd. They're great, full of lovely guitar work and soulful songs.

01 - Morning Glory
02 - Gettysburg
03 - Southwind
04 - Everlasting Love
05 - Freedom Drum
06 - Don't Look Back
07 - It's All Right
08 - Sweet Serenity
09 - Appalacian Fever
10 - Waterboy
11 - Diamond Mandala

01 - Rejoyce The Dawn
02 - Steppin' Stone
03 - Someone Whispered
04 - Standing In The Background
05 - Life Is Just A Pantomime
06 - Here We Meet Again
07 - To Our Ancesters
08 - Colours Of The Rainbow
09 - The Minstrel Is Free At Last
10 - Hymn To The Seeker
11 - If I Could I'd Set You Free


Anonymous Karel said...

This is great stuff!
Thanks a lot!!!!

9:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been looking for these Area Code 615 albums for a while. Thanks!!!!

5:08 pm  
Anonymous hermanthegerman said...

haven´t heard them yet, but know all the band´s members by their impressive credits list. this can´t be bad... thanks man, glad i found your blog

9:36 am  
Blogger tapani said...

Great, haven´t heard Skyboat for a mighty long time, what happened to MacG?

Keep iy up!

10:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch! I've never heard that second Area Code 615 - love the first one.

3:13 pm  
Anonymous cal harmony said...

do you want me to upload my barefoot jerry albums for you?
as a thank you?
mail me at
and i will be happy to do it

10:20 am  
Blogger jeff said...

thanks for sharing

3:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never heard this band. Good to discover new material. thanks again for sharing and long live to your blog ;-)

10:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some historical info on Stone Fox Chase...
Kenneth Buttrey wrote and laid down all the drums and percussion first. He filled up all but one track and then asked Charlie McCoy to "play something" on his harp to go along with it. Charlie's harmonica part was embellishment to Kenny's creation. For some reason most people just don't seem to talk about the percussion as much as the harmonica part when it comes to this particular song. I just find that interesting when so many tracks of drums came first thereby dictating what Charlie came up with.

12:34 am  
Anonymous elvismadonna said...

Thanks for posting! I have the first Area Code 615 album, but it's been warped beyond reapir. This will be great to hear again...appreciate it.

2:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for posting the 615s!! They are very long lost out of my vinyl collection, like 25+ years lost. I am still a professional violinist (though more of the black-tie variety), but these records were very influential for my country (and also my blues) playing back in the day. I really look forward to hearing them again with 1/4 century of hindsight!

John Tenney

4:21 pm  
Anonymous Ed said...

Ahh!,I lost these albuma a long time ago and have not found them.
A wonderful share.!
Now if only you could RE/UP again.
Thank you.

6:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello friend. Fantastic the Area Code 615 stuff, however the links for the two Mac Gayden albums are
deleted. Can you help me ? Nobody
in the web have these RARE items.
from Pinto. Spain.

4:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful blog

6:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm so lucky to have found skyboat-still got the others on vinyl but this can go n my iopd-along with the funny/strange sleeve, thank you

7:15 pm  
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8:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:43 am  
Anonymous ars/brazil said...

repost Mac Gayden Skyboat / Hymn To The Seeker, por favor,thanks.

1:49 am  

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