The Long Ryders were and are the founders of Alt-country, a musical genre which did not exist before they burned so brightly in the eighties, and are a key link in the Americana chain, uniting Gram Parsons’ Flying Burrito Bros with Wilco and the Jayhawks. And fortunately for us all the Long Ryders saddle up again on February 19, 2019 when their first album in three decades is released, Psychedelic Country Soul, with a tour to follow.
When synth-pop dominated the charts from San Diego to Singapore the Long Ryders were in various Los Angeles bands, waiting for their chance to smash plastic keyboard pop with electric guitar goodness, and heartfelt harmonies. Featuring Sid Griffin from Kentucky, Stephen McCarthy from Virginia (later a Jayhawks’ member), Tom Stevens from Indiana, and L.A. native Greg Sowders they came together determined to put the punk energy of X and the Clash alongside the harmonies and musical chops of the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield.
And in this they were successful. Their indie LP Native Sons was the Number One alternative/College radio album in the USA, and the held the Number Two spot on the UK’s indie charts (Meat Is Murder by The Smiths being in the way). Their next album was State Of Our Union, featuring the classic single, Looking For Lewis & Clark. By now MTV was in love with them but the end was in sight. Exhausted after four years of solid road work 1987 saw the Long Ryders release their swan song, Two Fisted Tales, to great acclaim but the band was history by Christmas.
In the meantime their story was told and retold till it became legendary. Their sound became a radio format and their look of fringes, cowboy boots, braces and waistcoats defined Americana for a musical generation. The aforementioned Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, and Squirrel Bait were just a few of the acts who heard the Ryders and rode out themselves.
In 2016 the Long Ryders had finished their first lengthy tour in over a decade when Sid Griffin took a phone call from ex-Long Ryders roadie Larry Chatman, now working for Dr. Dre. Larry made a generous offer of studio time in Dr. Dre’s Los Angeles’ studio and in eight days of madcap recording a new album, Psychedelic Country Soul, was recorded. Produced by their old producer Ed Stasium (the Ramones, Belinda Carlisle, the Smithereens) it is, in Sid Griffin’s own words, “our best album by miles…I mean without question”.
2019 will see the Long Ryders hit the road in support of Psychedelic Country Soul and the world will once again know the power of an electric 12-string guitar when matched by a punk energy. There is nothing like the Long Ryders live, not back then, and not now. Go see them for the ride of your life. Saddle up and hang on tight.