I was walking through the streets of Oslo, Norway one night and chanced to run into Steve Young. It was the early 1980's and I was singing seven nights a week in the oldest Honkytonk in Oslo. Steve Young I had known from his groundbreaking records; I'd also met him in Greenwich Village. He was, and remains, a pioneer who invented cross pollinations of country-folk-rock-blues-gospel music in the late '60's. Gram Parsons gets most of the credit for early country rock thing, because he died young and used to hang out with The Rolling Stones.
But Steve Young was there, and he drew from the same deep Southern Well that Gram had drawn holy water from. That night in Oslo Steve handed me a cassette of "new things" he'd been working on. "I don’t know," he drawled. "I've been writing these things on the synthesizer and I don’t know how people are going to take it." I went back to the nunnery we were staying in and listened. Hair raising. Chilling art. Steve sang about his divorce, his conquered drinking problem, and death. It was messianic. But it also had that "hearts of space" musical backdrop that a lot of folk-nazi's were not ready for. The Folk Club protégée's of Pete Seegar and the Lomax family were always waiting with the raised hatchets to cut synthesizer cords. And so it went - Steve tried to perform these classics on synth and was soundly told it didn’t work. Fast forward to yesterday in El Paso, when I received "Long Time Rider," in the mail from Steve Young. A signed and numbered re-released copy. Recorded in the 80's.
"In that bottle I have been a long time rider…" It shook me back to that midnight meeting on the streets of Oslo. The only thing missing on this cd is a song I heard that Oslo night called "Look Homeward Angel," about Steve meeting Thomas Wolfe at the pearly gates of the Promised Land. Fellow southern souls.
Let us now praise the folk music pioneers, madmen, and those with the artistic "cojones" to see deep into the future. This sound ranks with Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison: ethereal, deep hearted folk. Heavenly. Amen.
Available from www.villagerecords.com