“if you don’t know about Goose Creek Symphony, this is a fine time to feed your head.”
There’s a moment during the version of “Talk About Goose Creek” on Live In Canada ’72 & ’74 when Goose Creek Symphony’s lead vocalist/acoustic guitarist Charlie Gearheart sings: “Drumsticks flyin’, the guitars ringin’/ Boys, we sure like pickin’ and singin’/ We don’t need a whole lotta help/ We can freak out by ourselves” – and then he calls out “Freak out, boys!” And they do, rolling and a’tumbling for a couple of moments like a bunch of overall-clad Mothers Of Invention. The ironic part is, the whole damn fat hour’s-worth of vintage Goose Creek Symphony to be found on Live In Canada ’72 & ’74 is one big freak-out. And if you don’t know about Goose Creek Symphony, this is a fine time to feed your head.
Sometimes it’s the subtle stuff: the cool hand percussion (provided by do-anything-that-needs-doing drummer Dennis Kenmore) underneath the feet-dangling-off-the-tailgate bounce of “The Corn Won’t Grow So Rock ‘N’ Roll” – or the way bassist Pat Moore will insert anything from a little disco gallooop up the neck to a be-bop-flavored flurry into the weirdest of places – or the neat fiddle>overdriven guitar>fiddle>saxophone>that nasty guitar again tag-teaming on “Mercedes Benz”.
And sometimes it’s just plain mind-bending: “Talk About Goose Creek” effortlessly swaps hemispheres and genres in the blink of an eye (remember, boys and girls: this was a couple decades prior to String Cheese’s hot Appalachian/Celtic/Middle Eastern/Afro/Latin gumbos) with rhythm and instrumental change-ups that manage to shapeshift the vibe and groove without ever feeling abrupt. When did the almost-but-not-quite feedbacking guitars vaporize into an acoustic guitar/fiddle jazz glide – and when the hell did that sensuous flute appear? How did we get from sitting on a hay bale to the back of this hookah-smoking pachyderm? Wait – now it’s a goddamned wah-pedaled geetar rubbing fenders with the fiddle – no, horns – no, fiddle … oh, forget it.
“Hot Dog Daddy” morphs from sounding like some crazy time-warp deal where Duane Allman and Dickey Betts sit in with Railroad Earth (that would be Fred Wise on fiddle for that one; he mans the bow for the album’s latter tracks, while Ellis Schwied does the deed for the ’72 tracks); the gearbox for “Guitars Pickin’ And Fiddles Playin’” powerglides from “Y” for yee-haw to “P” for psych-rock flurry to “L” for locomotive barrel-assing down the side of a mountain; and a fierce horn section kicks the already-driving “Teresa” over the top (be prepared for the shift to a Santana-inspired minor-mode jam in the tune’s final minute). Even when Goose Creek plays it pretty straight – a cool cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” or “Satisfied Mind” (a big ol’ hit for Porter Wagoner) or Waylon Jennings’ “Pick Up The Tempo” – there’ll be an edge to the electric guitars (Bob Henke or Paul Spradlin) that throws a flash of tie-dye onto a song’s blue-denim roots. The best thing is, no matter how weird the going gets, life in Goose Creek is never nothin’ but grins.
Just listen to Gearheart count in “Rush On Love”: “One … two … six…” – that pretty much sums it all up. Don’t overthink things – just let the music play.
Brian Robbins lets his pachyderms roam free over at www.brian-robbins.com