The Marshall Tucker Band

Now here’s a band that ran with the sound Dickey Betts hinted at with the Allman Brothers. True Southern rockers in all its glory, Spartanburg, South Carolina compadres in music The Marshall Tucker Band exemplified the gamut of sound that could be created within the Southern Rock genre. Led by the Caldwell brothers (Toy their brilliant thumpickin’ lead guitarist and Tommy on bass) this expanding lineup would feature such atypical Southern Rock musicians such as flute, sax, and piano players to round off their already mighty country leaning band.

True disciples of an improvising spirit, they would inject Southern Rock with jazz, gospel, R&B, country, and bluegrass influences unlike ever before. Even while proudly displaying a cosmopolitan sound, they never lost track of their Southern roots amidst all this genre integration. Almost as if trying to prove a point, that good ol’ boys (who were actually quite liberal at heart) can outplay, out-think, and just plain outgrow whatever label you’d slap on ’em, at whim, these two tracks I’ve chosen, “This Ol’ Cowboy” the driver and “In My Own Way” the song for the ride home, showcase just a taste of their kind of South Carolinian splendor.

“This Ol’ Cowboy”, from their amazing 1974 release Where We All Belong, kicks off an ingenious double-LP, one disc full of studio cuts like this track, and another disc full of blazin’ live versions of choice cuts from previous albums. Over what sounds like a fiddle jam between some jazz piano and flute bop shuffle, lead vocalist Doug Gray intones in his best country drawl the steps he is going to take to leave some girl who done him wrong. What’s great about this track is Toy’s stylistic ventures from Americana licks through funk and soul rhythms, seemingly just cycling through any type of melody that can follow that main open ended strut. When he finally takes his solo around the 3:40 minute mark he just open his book of knowledge, displaying everything he learned from the other styles of music and instruments that he just accompanied. If, you ever, needed someone to hear the great expanse of music that we can truly call uniquely “American”, here would be one shining example.
I’ll take The Tubes as the Secret Square
“In My Own Way”, another studio track from the same album, exemplified the difference between them and most other bands. Rather than do a hackneyed version of a rock or country ballad, they show their mastery of true western balladry on this track. The train track rhythm that starts off the track serves as a base from where they start displaying other cards in their deck. You get to hear their absolutely on point vocal harmonization (something deadly in their sonic arsenal) all the while Toy and their fiddle player just lay down some uniquely captivating western swing guitar melodies sashaying alongside the other folk instrumentation everyone else imparts here and there. Stuff like this should hit at the heart of any listener no matter their background, and its exactly what I envision the best American, let alone country music, should sound like. For tomorrow, I’ll highlight another great Southern band, stay tuned…
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Listen to In My Own Way at Grooveshark.

Bonus track time, the hard acceleratin’, Charlie Daniels assisted, “24 Hours at a Time”:

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And, if you’re a slide guitar addict like myself, the slide guitar crack of “Walking the Streets Alone”: