Despite It All (1970) **1/2
Better, if still not quite all there. After the commercial and critical debacle of their over-hyped debut (bombing their U.S. concert debut before an audience of hungover rock journalists recovering their wits from a near plane crash), the Brinsleys retook stock and swiftly rushed out this superior followup by the end of the same year. At a mere eight songs, they're still rushing out hastily recorded albums skimpy on time and material. But the main news is that they've made a very conscious change in musical direction: the country rock undertones only toyed with on the hippie debut have now taken over the entire band. This is made immediately apparent on the opening track, which yes is indeed entitled "Country Girl," complete with fiddles and all, and stomps like Neil & Crazy Horse in hoedown mood. Not that there aren't other influences. The next pair of tracks parrot Van Morrison, specifically Moondance era Morrison (well, at least their ripoffs were contemporary, for better or worse). The slow one, which is helpfully named "The Slow One," seems to borrow one of Van's melodies (title track of that Morrison LP, but don't quote me on that), and the livelier one, "Funk Angel," recycles bits of "Caravan". I think it's fair to say that the band had not really found their individual voice yet. "Love Song," isn't particularly country at all, being a ripoff of Sir Paul's "Silly Love Songs," six years before McCartney released that Wings tune (Nick Lowe isn't merely some sort of genius rip-off artist, he's a psychic rip-off artist!). In the name of democracy, Bob Andrews gets to chip in his "Piece of Home," and predictably the lone non-Lowe composition sogs down for six desultory minutes. The album concludes with the dusty Western epic, "Old Jarrow," that is impossible to take seriously: Nick Lowe as a cowboy manfully riding against the menacing brush'n'sage wind, is not exactly convincing. But it could be a parody of epic cowboy music: after all, what kind of Western sage drawls out, "Why don't you financially back her?" as the main chorus refrain? Knowing what we would later know of Mr. Lowe, that's more than likely the case.
P.S. The first two Brinsley Schwarz albums were reissued together on one CD, in case anyone's interested. Which, after reading my reviews, I doubt any will be.