By Dave Carew
”Sound as ever” was a valediction Gram Parsons used when closing letters to family and friends. It’s an obscure reference—you basically have to be a Gram freak (like me) to get it, and to, hence, get the connection between Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and this outstanding debut album by the Nashville-based band The Burritos.
Twenty years from now, when music historians pose the question: “Who, in Nashville during the early 21st century, most kept the musical legacy of Gram Parsons alive?” I will—if still kicking around—answer unequivocally: Chris James and Walter Egan, both of whom now are members of The Burritos. Among the many things each man has done to keep GP’s flame burning has been to play and/or host numerous Gram Parsons Tribute shows. Chris also has written at length about GP in his much-loved music magazine Shake! And Walter frequently has graced his recent shows with the song “Hearts on Fire”—which also appears on this record—which Walter gave to Gram in the early 1970s and which later appeared on Gram’s second solo album, Grievous Angel.
What really counts, though, is how much The Burritos, on this record, delve into the mystic richness of the legacy and use it to create new musical gold. Song after song on Sound as Ever is an absolute gem of the “Cosmic American Music” genre. The unforgettable songs just keep on coming—with “Beggar’s Banquet,” “Angeline,” “The Hundred Year Flood,” and “Song and Dance Man” being particular examples of writing that is—by turns—emotive, country-soulful, and just damn way-cool.
I can offer no higher compliment than this: If Gram Parsons and the original Flying Burrito Brothers could have warded off the demons and produced a great follow-up to their classic The Gilded Palace of Sin, it may very well have sounded like this fantastic new album.
David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/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 book editor, publicist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.