Sweetheart of the Rodeo album cover
Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds


Though it was recorded in Nashville, the Byrds’ 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo has a strong Bakersfield edge. Tucked in amid the Bob Dylan songs (“You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Nothing Was Delivered,” which open and close the record) and gospel songs — the traditional “I am a Pilgrim” and the Louvin Brothers’ “The Christian Life” — there’s a stinging version of Merle Haggard’s “Life in Prison”, and many of the songs are fueled by sharp guitar leads and pedal steel. “The Christian Life” has a thumping beat and fierce twang, though Roger McGuinn’s goofy “hillbilly” vocal and the raggedy harmonies push it a little too close to Grateful Dead territory. But the version of Luke McDaniel’s honky-tonk weeper “You’re Still On My Mind,” Gram Parson’s “One Hundred Years From Now,” and the aforementioned Haggard tune put it firmly in the Lefty Frizzell-to-Buck Owens lineage.

Phil Freeman

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