Liner notes from JOHN BELAND/BURRITO WORKS:
About four years ago I had secured free passes to see Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Flying Burrito Brothers at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.
I was more curious to see the legendary Flying Burrito Brothers, but for my part, I was ready to be extremely critical of, if not downright dislike a band whose glory days seemingly ended when Chris Hillman went off to Manassas and when Gram Parsons OD'd in the Joshua Tree.
The Flying Burrito Brothers did not perform that evening at the House of Blues. Case closed...or was it?
For in the meantime, curiosity got the best of this writer, and I decided to pick up a copy of an album called California Jukebox by these same Burritos...again, prepared to be cynical...until the proverbial bolt of lightning struck me.
From the opening chords of a song called "San Fernando Road," written and sung by John Beland, I was hooked. The entire album was not just easy on the ears of a diehard California country/rock fan, but extremely enjoyable. Beland and the band had truly captured the essence of what the genre was.
John Beland truly knows what "California Country/Rock" is all about. After all, he played a part in its formation at the age of 18, back in 1968, working with the legendary Larry Murray of Hearts and Flowers fame, at the venerated Troubadour.
It was at the Troubadour where the young house guitarist met two struggling singer/songwriters named Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther and toured with this pre-Eagles Longbranch & Pennywhistle duo. He also befriended the gorgeous Linda Ronstadt, who, in turn, persuaded Beland to form her first backing band, Swampwater.
Over the years, Beland straddled the lines between the blossoming California country/rock scene with the traditionalists of Nashville, yet staying true to his California roots - writing, singing, playing for and backing such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, The Bellamy Brothers, Garth (yes, THE Garth) Brooks and Rick Nelson, whom he worked with as musical director of the Stone Canyon Band for nearly four years, before joining the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1981.
Beland's arrival rejuvenated this once trend-setting band, and he was primarily responsible for the band's string of top country hits, including "She's A Friend Of A Friend" and "She Belongs To Everyone But Me."
More importantly though, John Beland restored dignity and honor to a band that had seen better days when the two legendary founders departed. He believed in the traditional California country sound as hatched by the Byrds and taken aloft by the original FBB and the Eagles. A sound that, with the exception of Chris Hillman's sadly defunct Desert Rose Band, had been left dormant for years...until Beland took the helm of the Burritos and brought them back where they belonged and kept them there for nearly 20 years.
Not only did Beland's songs reflect that nostalgia and purpose, his vocals and B-Bender reflected that tradition as well - and I'll be the first to vouch for the man's credibility and his sincerity to that tradition.
This compilation of Burrito songs, sung and mostly written by Beland, from the last three Flying Burrito Brothers albums (Eye Of The Hurricane, California Jukebox and Sons Of The Golden West), go across the full spectrum of the California country sound, "from Merle at the Palomino to the Byrds at the Troubadour."
Go back in time, "Down At The Palomino" or "Up On Sycamore," where the heroes and villains of California folk and country would congregate, or down that dusty, almost forbidding "San Fernando Road." Stay a while longer and remember the old cowboys of "(Calling Me Back To) The Wild Wild West." Play these songs on a cloudy night in the canyons before a fireplace and, through the swirling smoke, you just might make out the shadows of Autry, Rogers, Richard Farnsworth, Gram, Clarence White and Gene Clark riding in the distance.
Go back in time, "when the music really mattered, when it's all about a song, the California Jukebox plays on." I think you'll be glad that you did.
Author of Civil War: Garments, History, Legends and Lore
Check out the artist's website:
1. Area 51
2. World Without You
3. Down At The Palomino
4. Back To Bayou Teche
5. Rosetta Knows
7. Sons Of The Golden West
8. San Fernando Road
9. Pioneer Zephyr Train
10. (Calling Me Back To) The Wild Wild West
11. Pull This
12. Never Be Anyone Else But You
13. Up On Sycamore
14. Locked Away