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Jerry Jeff WalkerMr Bojangles – The Atco/Elektra Years (Mr Bojangles/Five Years Gone/Bein Free/Jerry Jeff/Too Old To Change) (5CD set) ... CD
Atco/Morello (UK), Late 60s/1970s. New Copy 5 CDs ... $34.99
Five full albums from Jerry Jeff Walker – presented here in a box set with original album art too! First up is Mr Bojangles – a fantastic early moment from Jerry Jeff Walker – a set that contains the huge "Mr Bojangles", but also features lots of the other sorts of amazing songs that really set Walker apart from the rest! The work is poised perfectly between folk and country – both worlds that would soon revere the smartness of Jerry Jeff's songwriting skills – and a young David Bromberg is an important part of the sound, on both lead acoustic and electric guitar! The production is great – as stripped-down as a folk record, but with some of the sensitivity and jazzier currents of a singer/songwriter album – and in addition to "Mr Bojangles", other tunes include "Gypsy Songman", "I Keep Changin", "Maybe Mexico", "I Makes Money", "Little Bird", "The Ballad Of The Hulk", nd "Round & Round". Next is Five Years Gone – a set with a cover that almost looks like some 80s indie rock record – which is maybe a good indication of just how far Jerry Jeff Walker has stretched out his sound since his debut! The style here is free of the folksier elements of the past – fuller arrangements that have piano and organ doing as much as guitar – mixed with bits of dobro and vibes that shade things with more subtle country colors – even though Jerry Jeff here is a lot less of a country singer than he'd soon become! Instead, there's a very open, honest presentation – on material that is very post-folk, and in a singer/songwriter mode that should have made Walker huge at this point. Titles include "Tracks Run Through The City", "Dead Men Got No Dreams", "Janet Says", "About Her Eyes", "Seasons Change", "Help Me Now", and "Happiness Is A Good Place To Visit But It Was So Sad In Fayetteville". Bein Free is an overlooked classic from Jerry Jeff Walker – and a set that's very different than his crossover pop of a few years before! Walker here really explodes as both the singer and songwriter that would make him an underground legend in the generation of Kris Kristofferson, Kinky Friedman, and Townes Van Zandt – someone who can touch mainstream country with his styles and sound, but who was also in a very separate space – one that was hip enough to get plenty of nods from the cognoscenti in the worlds of rock, folk, and singer/songwriters. The Dixie Flyers back up Jerry Jeff here, and give the record a nicely unified sound – thanks in part to work on piano and dobro from Jim Dickinson – on titles that include "Vince Triple O Martin", "But For The Time", "A Secret", "Nobody's", "Some Go Home", "Where Is The DAR When You Really Need Them", and "I'm Gonna Tell You". On the cover of Jerry Jeff, Walker looks more like a country singer than on previous records – and he maybe sounds more like one too, but with a richness and sensitivity that maybe echoes some of the Elektra albums of the period by Mickey Newbury – although a bit more upbeat too! As with Newbury, Walker's an artist whose songs earned great money for others – but who's always maybe one of the best interpreters of his tunes – working here with offbeat shifts in styles that are far from common country, and which maybe also echo the range of modes that Kris Kristofferson would evoke on his earliest records too. Titles include "Lone Wolf", "Bad News", "I'm Not Strange", "Comfort & Crazy", "Banks Of The Old Bandera", and "Her Good Lovin Grace". Too Old To Change is a record that's maybe a bit too early in the career of Jerry Jeff Walker to earn the "too old" in the name – it was just a bit over a decade since his debut – but it's also clear that Walker has lived a lot of life in the space of time, which you can definitely her in his choice of material and vocal performance. There's less originals than before, but Jerry Jeff does a great job of moving between up-close and personal songs and a few more rockish moments – opening up the sort of space that made his records like this a key bridge between the worlds of Kris Kristofferson and Steve Earle to come. Titles include "Mountains Of Mexico", "Old Nashville Cowboy", "Hands On The Wheel", "I Ain't Living Long Like This", "Too Old To Change", and "Northeast Texas Women". (Folk/Country, Rock) CD

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