When Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left the Byrds to start the Flying Burrito Brothers, they caused a seismic shift in the worlds of country music and rock. Until the Burritos, California country was Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and the Bakersfield sound. The Burritos' first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, invented country rock, a genre that mutated into today's Americana. These tunes, cut live in San Francisco in April 1969, capture the band around the time they were making their debut, and every track smokes. What is immediately evident is how "country" the band is. Several Parsons originals appear on this live album, including "Sin City," and "Hot Burrito #2," but the rest of the songs here are well-known country standards given a honky-tonk authenticity by Parsons' heartbroken tenor, a voice that always sounds one breath away from a nervous breakdown. Sneaky Pete Kleinow's pedal steel is the band's secret weapon, giving the music a bluesy, psychedelic spin that still creates a lysergic reverberation almost 40 years later. A home recording of Parsons singing "Thousand Dollar Wedding" is included, too, and its primal power makes us realize once again what a singular talent the man was.
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