Title - Then & Now
Artist - The North Star Band
For those not in the know, let us take this wonderous musical journey together from the top.
1976-1982: Return with us now to those thrilling days of yester-year, when the horrors of late ’70s disco, and the ravages of early punk rock, had left hard-core music fans stranded. When long-haired freaky people still roamed the earth an endangered species!
At a time when country music’s traditional forms had grown stale, and rock had lost its roll, country rockers stepped into the void. Some were outlaws, some were hippies, but all were keepers of the flame of authenticity, and when they came together, the heavens opened up!
Look, up in the sky, it’s not Elton, it’s not Travolta ... It’s The North Star Band!
2022: Fast forward; bringing blazing guitars, searing pedal steel, a pounding beat of thunder, and three-part soulful southern harmonies to drive hearts into a 200bpm ecstasy of fun, these guys have kept the fire burning.
Led by rhythm guitarist Al Johnson, a wayward vagabond of Georgetown Law, and two-time Grammy Award winner (nine nominations), bassist Jim Robeson, along with east coast guitar phenom Gantt Mann Kushner, the wizardry of Jay Jessup’s sweet pedal steel (plus mandolin, electric guitar, and banjo), Lou Hager’s soulful honky tonk piano, and David Watt Besley’s thumping bass riffs, their music is driven home by the insane poundings of Paul Goldstein’s flawless beat.
Simply put, The North Star Band returns our hearts and souls to the epicenter of a place that was once known as Kick-Ass Country!
THEN: Four decades ago, NSB fans piled into dance halls and honky-tonks across the country to hear them play their original music. In venues long faded to dust - Desperados, The Lone Star Café, The Carolina Opry House, County Line, Exit Inn, 117 South Main, to name a few, they played more than 300 nights a year.
Lou with his soulful ballads of love and loss, Jimmy with his velvety voice, Dave with his rich vocals and incredible story-songs, Al with his offbeat look at rednecks, hippies and Wild Turkey, and Paul with his soul-searching laments, the boys offered fans a band of many colors.
Records were vinyl and spun at 45 and 33 rpm. Back in the days of analog, the NSB recorded their 3rd album in the summer of 1982, but it was never released. A recession, hard times, and life’s imperatives intervened. “THEN” is here, remastered and ready to be heard for the first time.
1. Lonesome Losers
2. ’Til I Laid My Eyes On You
3. Still Believing
4. On Down The Road
5. You’re Not The One To Blame
6. Where Does That Get You To
7. I Shouldn’t Act This Way
9. Crow Don’t Crow
10. Smoke Horizon
The flashback portion of this excellent new recording opens on the free-wheeling Lonesome Losers and the upbeat and joyous ’Til I Laid My Eyes On You and then backs those up seamlessly with the melodically heartfelt Still Believing, the mid-tempo Country rock of On Down The Road and then brings us the languishingly heartfelt ode within You’re Not The One To Blame.
Next up is the rhythmic storytelling within Where Does That Get You To and the achingly honest I Shouldn’t Act This Way, which are in turn backed by one of my own personal favorites, the fervent honky tonk of Emergency, the recording rounding out on the fast-paced energy of Crow Don’t Crow, coming to a close on the jollification within Smoke Horizon.
NOW: Fast-forward 40 years. A reunion show to a packed house at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, gave birth to “NOW,” a collection of newly recorded material. Surprising even themselves, the band came together in the studio to record 10 new songs that not only capture the sound & soul they delivered back in the day, but offer a fresh bold look at the country rock genre they left behind.
The playing is sharp and crisp, and the vocals retain that ‘round the campfire’ feel. Their music is timeless, and the quality of the songwriting and performance seems effortless. These guys are the real deal.
1. Brown Shoe Willy
2. Climb That Wall
3. Whistle Blow
4. What Goes Up
5. Got To Forget About You
7. I’ll Always Wonder
8. Goose Creek
9. Thinking of You
10. Yes I Do
The flashforward portion of this new recording opens on the foot-tapping storytelling of Brown Shoe Willy and the Country rock of Climb That Wall and then blends in the lonesome Whistle Blow, the euphonious What Goes Up and then brings us the wholehearted Got To Forget About You.
Along next is another of my own personal favorites, the Roy Orbison-esque Marianne which is itself followed neatly by the euphorically-charged I’ll Always Wonder, the twanging Country fervency within Goose Creek, and then the whole album rounds out with the laid low, mid-tempo balladry of Thinking of You, coming to an almost righteous close on the all-out rocker Yes I Do.
A tip of the hat is due to other players who passed through this band, legends in and of themselves: Danny Gatton, Steuart Smith, Bruce Bouton, Mike Melchione, Dave Elliot, Bobby Spates, Jim (Ratso) Silman, Chad Bruce, Johnny Castle, and more.
Yes, the earth has turned since those days, and yes, times have changed, but with the release of ‘THEN & NOW,’ you’ll hear a rebirth of the roadhouse groove. These recordings, old and new, capture the excitement of years spent on the road, telling stories about life and love with a troubadour’s voice and an authentic sound.
‘THEN & NOW,’ the feeling is the same, and perhaps that alone can help restore our faith in the way things ought to be. I know, I was there. And we’re still here. - Jimmy Patterson, President, Baker Street, LTD.
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