Chris Darrow – Artist Proof

Chris Darrow
Artist Proof
Claremont, CA
(Drag City)

“Country-rock lost-classic from Ben Harper’s mentor”

If J.J. Cale is a musician’s musician, Chris Darrow is the musician/record collector’s musician. Fluent in the many stringed instruments he found at his grandparents’ music shop, Darrow built a reputation as a member of Jimmy Page’s favorite group Kaleidoscope, and as a session musician (James Taylor, Leonard Cohen). In these roles, Darrow fused disparate vernacular musics (Arabic and old-time? Why not?) for close to five years before Artist Proof, his solo debut, was released in 1972.

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A 2009 reissue of his long lost second and third solo albums, Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise, respectively, brought overdue accolades to Darrow.  Now Drag City, independent label extraordinaire, is reissuing his longer-lost debut. Darrow’s solo material of the time was influenced philosophically by groups like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, who were taking the vernacular music of their homelands and making it rock.  For Artist Proof, Darrow drops the world music and psychedelia of Kaleidoscope and focuses on American music, namely country, Sun Records rock ‘n’ roll, blues and old-time.

Much of the record sounds like Gram Parsons backed by the New Lost City Ramblers, with pedal steel, acoustic guitars, mandolins and fiddles taking the spotlight. Unlike other polished country-rock from So-Cal (i.e. The Eagles), Darrow leans closer to a Folkways recording than a Bill Szymczyk record, keeping things loose and not too slick. Opener “Beware of Time” is as good a representation of what rock can add to country and bluegrass. When his scratchy Chubby Wise-style fiddle kicks in on the chorus, you start to wonder about why some albums aren’t commercially successful, why some are and how important publicists can be.

Produced by Denny Bruce
Recorded at Crystal Sound Studios
Engineered by John Fischbach

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