Future Days Recordings
Ask most people about Link Wray and they’ll reference his surf-guitar/heavy-metal prototype instrumental, Rumble; it rode back in on a wave of appreciation post-Pulp Fiction but had been relegated alongside other late 50s/early 60s guitar-twanging gunslingers like Duane Eddy and Dick Dale.
In 1971 the man born Frederick Lincoln Wray released his debut solo album, a self-titled, ramshackle country-soul gem – here it is reissued, finally getting an official vinyl release.
Maybe it makes more sense in this day and age, feeling like the sort of throwback someone like Conan Mockasin or Devendra Banhart or Ariel Pink would either make or discover.
It wasn’t a great success in its day but it feels like some lost space between Skip Spence’s Oar and the music of Donnie and Joe Emerson. Add a little Stones and a pinch of (or from) The Band and you have the setup.
In fact Ice People feels like a Mick Jagger/Ry Cooder outtake from around almost exactly the same time.
And Fire and Brimstone later found form as a Neville Brothers cover. More recently Karl Blau tackled Fallin’ Rain and turned it into the album centrepiece on his majestic set of country-soul cover, Introducing Karl Blau.
So there’s stuff here, the record has good bones. And charm. Wray was more interested in singing than letting rip with the fuzzy lead lines, though there’s some great guitar playing here too. And it’s a family affair – making the solo moniker and album title seem almost sorta cruel – with brother Vernon behind the desk in his basement home-studio and other brother Doug rattling away on the drums in a proficient if homespun way – imagine Kenny Buttrey forced to explore and create grooves by only playing on the road-cases.
God Out West has one of the great era-defining guitar solos – or it should have been. Juke Box Mama plays out as if some Grateful Dead/The Band amalgam, again, not so strange to imagine given the time when this music was created.
Finally the album lives and breathes on vinyl – one for crate-diggers and southern roots-rockabilly fans, one of those must-have curios. A little slice of magic from quite another time. And yet it feels like now is the time for this to truly shine.
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