Blue Grass Favorites The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers


Big Beat
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It was never intended to be a cornerstone album in the history of West Coast Country Rock. The record company that financed it merely wanted a quick bluegrass item for their budget catalogue, and the group of young musicians who recorded it just wanted something that would help them get more gigs in and around Southern California. Among those musicians, the 17-year-old mandolin player had to lie about his age to sign his portion of the contract, and the rest of his bandmates were only just old enough to sign theirs legally. The whole album probably didn't take much longer to record than it does to play - not even 20 minutes - and, judging by the significant lack of extant outtakes and extra unused performances in the Ace vaults, what was recorded was what was recorded, and nothing more.

Who would know that the 1962 Crown Records album BLUE GRASS FAVORITES by the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers would go on to influence a generations of young Californian musicians with a bent for Country music - or that the aforementioned underage mandolin player would go on to be a founder, or integral member, of four of the most important country and country rock groups of all time. Certainly not Modern Records, who financed the album and re-released it on a succession of bargain-price labels, in various guises, throughout the 60s. And probably not underaged mandolin picker Chris Hillman - then at the very dawn of his career as a professional musician, and still some way from joining Don Parmley and the Gosdin brothers in the Golden State Boys, before going on to become a key member of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and Desert Rose Band over the next 30 years. (SSB fiddler Kenny Wertz would also do a future tour of duty as a Burrito, as well as becoming a founder member of both the Stone Poneys and Country Gazette).

Though they didn't necessarily know it at the time, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers were an inspiration to all who came up in their immediate wake. To be a young Southern California picker and to not own a copy was tantamount to admitting you were proud to be In With The Out Crowd. ( One of their biggest fans was another future founder Burrito, and country rock icon - the late Gram Parsons is famously quoted as saying that he would have "given (his) right knee just to be in the group")! When they made this, their sole album, in Modern's Culver City studios in the very early 60s, the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers were simply a bunch of young guys playing their version of traditional music they had learned from the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Osborne Brothers, putting their own youthful twist on it for audiences closer to their own ages and attitudes.

Still an incredibly active musician - and having recently revived the SSB for a reunion tour - Chris Hillman himself is happy that it is being reissued for 21st century audiences. Although it doesn't take long to play, it's so exhilarating that you would be hard pressed not to want to play it again as soon as it's finished...

By Tony Rounce


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Bluegrass of the highest quality.

Blues & Rhythm

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