We may not be in the Gilded Palace of Sin but it is country rock with a ‘70s vibe.
This is potentially a difficult album to review objectively because of the simple fact that ‘Together’ is released over fifty years since Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left the Flying Burrito Brothers. Since then there have been various incarnations of the band, sometimes including original members, sometimes not. This latest group of non-original members can trace their lineage back to ‘Burrito Deluxe’ from the 2000s which was an interesting band because it not only included original member Sneaky Pete Kleinow, but also Garth Hudson of The Band, Carlton Moody of The Moody Brothers, and Jeff Davis of the Amazing Rhythm Aces, and guest slots from Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, and Richard Bell from Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band. Adding to the unease is the fact that Chris Hillman has tried to ensure the band’s name was retired by acquiring trademark rights to The Flying Burrito Brothers in 2012. The current Burrito Brothers comprise experienced musicians Chris P James, Tony Paoletta, Peter Young, and new guitarist Steve Allen who replaces the recently deceased Bob Hatter, and they quote Gram Parsons from 1972 to explain continuing the band’s legacy, “The idea will keep going, It’s not like it’s dead. Whether I do it or anybody else does, it’s got to keep going.”. Listeners will have their own view on the use of The Burrito Brothers band name, but what is important is what ‘Together’ sounds like.
Any long-term Burrito’s fan harbouring hopes for another ‘The Gilded Palace Of Sin’ or even another ‘The Flying Burrito Bros’ will be disappointed, but that is only to be expected given the influence those two records have had over more than fifty years of roots rock and americana. The original Flying Burrito Brothers were not known for their musical tightness, and for the time, they added new soundscapes to their music, particularly through Sneaky Pete’s creative steel guitar sounds, and today’s Burrito Brothers are tighter musically, reflecting their careers as seasoned studio musicians, and they keep the tradition of adding more off-beat sounds to their musical mix. The Burrito Brothers set their stall out immediately with lead track ‘Ms Misery’ which is a mid-tempo tune that features the steel guitar of Tony Paoletta on the story of a woman heartbreaker. Many musicians have had issues getting through customs, and it appears the Burrito Brothers are no different on ‘Custom Man’ which turns the rock quota up considerably. The title track ‘Together’ is a love song that takes inspiration from the ‘60s and ‘70s music with its drone-like sound effects. We are in traditional country bar room territory with ‘Blood On His Hands’. Rick Roberts replaced Gram Parsons in the original Flying Burrito Brothers and went on to form Firefall, who were nearly managed by Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, and ‘Streets Of Santa Rosa’ invokes the music of the late ‘70s.
While the name Burrito Brothers will certainly attract attention and may alienate some potential listeners because of the convoluted history of the band, ‘Together’ should be approached by listeners on its own merits. The music is well played, and the songs aren’t afraid to show their influences from the time of the original Flying Burrito Brothers. If listeners are looking for an in other than the classic Flying Burrito Brothers lineup then Firefall from the late ‘70s maybe gives a better clue on what to expect. If you are intrigued by the name or have a hankering for the country rock and country pop of the late ‘70s then give the Burrito Brothers’ ‘Together’ a listen.