Review of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “The Gilded Palace of Sin”

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience. “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

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As we head into February, please do not forget those less fortunate than you. To make sure homeless human beings receive the food, love, and friendship they need, please donate to the Nashville Rescue Mission by calling (615) 255-2475 or by visiting Nashvillerescuemission.org.  Thank you.

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Review of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ “The Gilded Palace of Sin

By Dave Carew

Here in underground Nashville, we often gravitate toward literature and music that’s a bit off the radar screen. Or, at least, not in vogue. We read novels by Hermann Hesse, Charles Bukowski, and David M. Carew <smirk>, and listen to bands like The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Blessed by a fleeting greatness, the Burritos produced one album that is both universally praised and hardly ever listened to—by anyone. It’s called “The Gilded Palace of Sin” and it’s a f&%king masterpiece. Here’s why:

Unlike any album that preceded it, “The Gilded Palace of Sin” brings late 60s-rock-hippie sensibilities to country music. True to the pioneering musical vision of band founder Gram Parsons, “The Gilded Palace of Sin” offers what I call “hippie country music” or what Gram Parsons—much more famously—referred to as “soul country…Cosmic American Music.”

But it’s not just the sound and the genre that matter here. The songs—particularly the originals from Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman—are absolute gems, pretty much DEFINING moments in hippie country music. Listen to (or YouTube) “Sin City” and you hear country music (not “country/rock” or “progressive country,” thank you) that offers lines seemingly influenced by LSD and the Bible at the same moment:

“On the thirty-first floor, a gold-plaited door,
Won’t keep out the Lord’s burning rain.”

And in the draft-dodging country-ditty “My Uncle,” that particular Uncle (Sam) is lampooned in a chorus that goes:

“So I’m heading for the nearest foreign border,
Vancouver might be just my kind of town,
‘Cause we don’t need the kind of law and order,
That tends to keep a good man underground.”

Later, in the same song, The Burritos sing:

”Now I don’t know how much I owe my Uncle,
But I suspect it’s more than I can pay.”  . . .

In so doing, the Flying Burrito Brothers send out a line that is both political protest and funny as hell at the same time.

I could rant about “The Gilded Palace of Sin” all day long, but I’ll end here, with one additional thought: If you’re interested in what country music can be in the hands of gifted young men who refuse to sell out to Music Row or to anyone else, check out The Flying Burrito Brothers and “The Gilded Palace of Sin.” But be warned: You may not want to listen to much else for the next year or so.

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.

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