Musician and crate-digger extraordinaire Jeb Loy Nichols tells the stories behind the stops on his musical railroad, from a deep friendship with Adrian Sherwood and the heroes of Muscle Shoals that led to a love of bluegrass, country, reggae and soul
Larry Jon Wilson - Let Me Sing My Song To You
Larry Jon Wilson? He can break your heart with a voice like a cannonball. So said Kris Kristofferson. But Larry Jon serves as a reminder that quality, soul and a unique vision have never been guarantees of success. Without this record, without Larry Jon, my own music would be very different.
My first sight of Larry Jon was in a film about the longhaired citizens of Nashville called Heartworn Highways. He sang 'Ohoopee River Bottom Land' and he wasn't pretty, he wasn't perfect, he didn't look like a singing cowboy. He looked hung over and dishevelled and in need of three or four days of good sleep. He seemed to be having a good time. His hair was all over in a slant. He sang like he meant it and he played guitar and the song was pretty great and the first thing I said was, where's this guy been hiding?
The first time I ever spoke to Larry Jon was a long, rambling midnight phone call. Donnie Fritts had given me his phone number and told me it was OK to call him. The first thing Larry Jon said to me was that he was disgusted with a country whose highest artistic endeavour was the Super Bowl half time show. He said he was ass deep amongst people who drove their car payments to their house payments in order to sit on their furniture payments and watch their TV payments. He said he wouldn't record for any label that employed more lawyers than artists. Or work in an industry where the lawyers made more money than the artists they represented. He said every time a record company came calling, vultures started circling the house. He talked for an hour and when it got later he said (to me, who'd called unannounced) there's always whiskey waiting, scotch too and a place to crash if you're ever out this way.
When Jerry DeCicca and I produced his last record [the stunning Larry Jon Wilson on Drag City from 2009 a year before he passed away] he did more talking than singing. He'd talk about hanging out with Willie Nelson and Dylan, about his childhood, about Townes Van Zandt, about everything and anything. He was a man of many parts; adrift, private, beautiful, occasionally forlorn, often exhausting. The always outsider.