Return Of The Grievous Angel :: A GP Tribute


The other day while scanning the used bin at Amoeba Music I ran across a copy of the Gram Parsons tribute compilation Return Of The Grievous Angel. I had not played this collection (all the way through) in a couple of years and immediately dug out my copy out when I got home. I was quickly reminded that, for a tribute album, the contents are incredibly solid. The artist lineup is both appropriate and impressive, boasting Steve Earle, Wilco, Emmylou Harris, David Crosby, Gillian Welch, Whiskeytown, Beck, etc. Because of the date of its release (1999) the collection is aided by the fact that there was still a buzz surrounding artists returning to their roots (, no depression, et al.); it also helped that bands such as Wilco/Ryan Adams had not yet begun to seriously augment their sound away from guitar/bass/keys/drums as they would in the coming decade. Elvis Costello fans will want to be sure to check out the noted country-rock fan and purveyor work out an aching rendition of Parsons “Sleepless Nights”.

Last weekend the subject of Parsons came up at a party, and although the myth of the artist, and the details surrounding his death, have grown to near Jim Morrison proportions (in music-nerd land, that is), everyone could agree that between his work with the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers, and one his own, the guy wrote 10-15 excellent songs. The caliber of both the (varied) artists culled here and the track selection do much to prove that point.

Note: This is just one of many GP tribute collections that have been released over the years; some good, some fair, and some not worth your time. One such tribute, whose contents are admittedly a mixed bag, is the 2005 collection Return to Sin City – A Tribute to Gram Parsons. The tracks themselves were recorded during the Los Angeles date (there was also one the following night in Santa Barbara) of the tribute concert which featured, among other players, Keith Richards, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, Dwight Yoakam and John Doe.

Elsewhere: Speaking of Whiskeytown/Ryan Adams, the artist and his band have just posted video of them performing their new LP Cardinology acoustically, which I think might actually I prefer to the studio version. Check it.

MP3: Wilco :: One Hundred Years From Now
MP3: Whiskeytown :: A Song For You
MP3: Elvis Costello :: Sleepless Nights


19 thoughts on “Return Of The Grievous Angel :: A GP Tribute

  1. Definitely one of my favorite tribute albums ever. There’s really not a bad track on the whole thing. In addition to those you mention above, the Pretenders have no problem setting the tone with “She” and the Mavericks nail it. Thanks for the reminder to check it out again–it’s been a while!

  2. I do like this one, too as opposed to Commemorativo, the Rhino released tribute from 1992, which really didn’t impress me back then, but you know I just dug it out to get the info off of it looks like I’m going to have to listen to THIS one again. you know, I wasn’t as into the scene then as I am now. I was playing it, but ignorant of many of the other ‘new’ regional & national acts back in the early 1990s. I picked this one up out of habit, getting anything GP related including the so-so- Cosmic American Music CD.

    By the way, did you ever hear the promo interview CD that accompanied The Return of the Grevious Angel CD? If the answer is no, I would be glad to provide you with a copy, certainly in return for all the good turns your blog has given me. I haven’t listened to it in a while. I got it while working at my last retail music job at a Borcers when the CD came out. It’s very good as companion CDs go with enough info to educate the first-timer and enough sparkle to please the long time fan.

  3. “…the guy wrote 10-15 excellent songs.”

    Out of curiosity, what songs would you be referring to? As a mild fan of GP, I’d be curious to check out what you’re getting at, to make sure I’ve covered my bases. Cheers.

  4. Great choice of subject here — and a good pick of songs from what I agree is an unusually consistent set, for a tribute. The Dando/Hatfield piece is worth the purchase alone; I’m also especially enamored of the supergroup Rolling Creekdippers (Buddy and Julie Miller, Victoria Williams, Mark Olson, Jim Lauderdale) version of In My Hour of Darkness off that same disk.

  5. 10- 15 (or more) songs that were a huge influence on some pretty good songwriters.
    I like the Lucinda Williams/David Crosby cover and
    How Much I Lied on Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue is a must listen.

  6. I think Gram’s originals + his covers (throughout his career) make up the Gram Parsons collection, regardless of who penned or originally recorded the song. So, by that unconventional logic, my thoughts of “Gram” songs are more than the sum of the ones he wrote. Anyway, I digress….Great post on this tribute. I too need to listen to my copy again. Two numbers, Sin City and 1,000 Wedding are not only amazing tributes, but damn near rival the originals. Would love to hear the promo CD.

  7. if all GP did was

    –write and sing Hot Burrito #2
    –keep keith richards full of H during the “exile on main st” recording

    we’d all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. and he did much much more.

  8. There was an episode of Sessions on W. 54th (great PBS show, hosted at that time by David Byrne if I’m not mistaken) that came out right when this tribute album hit featuring many of the CD’s featured performers doing these songs live in studio. In particular, I remember a stellar version of Hickory Wind sung by Gillian Welch and Ryan Adams.

    What a great album, man. Still sounds fantastic, too. “1000 Wedding” was the big surprise on this for me. I’d previously completely ignored Evan Dando’s work, but his singing on that track was just sublime.

  9. +1 on “$1,000 Wedding”. Also, the Chris Hillman/Steve Earle run-through on “High Fashion Queen” is a standout. This was actually my favorite album (in any genre, originals or covers) of ’99.

    Killer cover art too.

  10. $1,000 Dollar Wedding is astonishingly beautiful.

    The Cowboy Junkies “Sin City” is perfection.

    “Juanita” is as perfect a duet as I’ve ever heard (needless to say, it includes Emmylou Harris’ voice)

    Wilco’s “100 Years” you’ve posted above is quite wonderful.

    Elvis Costello’s “Sleepless Nights” is rich, and wonderful.

    And Ryan Adams’ vocals on Whiskeytown’s “A Song For You” confirmed his place in history.

    So yes, this album’s worth owning. I listen to it almost as often as I listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

    The only thing missing from my perspective is Neko Case.

  11. Here is my “drunk on whiskey in Los Angeles at 2 AM” rundown of the top ten best GP songs ever, a collection of melodies to highlight his name in the history of Cosmic American Music, more than any myths, these are the SONGS…

    -in no particular order-

    1. Hot Burrito # 1
    2. Hot Burrito #2
    3. Sin City
    4. Hickory Wind
    5. I Can’t Dance
    6. $1000 Wedding
    7. Return of the Grievous Angel
    8. Wheels
    9. She
    10. A Song For You

  12. Blurg. Cowboy Junkies “Oooh Las Vegas of course. Beck does Sin City (which, incidentally, gave me a whole new persepective on Beck.)

  13. Great tribute album – makes sense since Gram’s influence was always bigger than his actual musical contributions (as great as they were).

    Gillian Welch’s cover of “Hickory Wind” is an achingly beautiful take on my favorite Gram tune.

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