Tales Of The New West

Beat Farmers

Rhino Records, 1985


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's been far too long since the late, lamented Beat Farmers have been featured on these pages. Maybe it's because every time I listen to them, I can't help but feel depressed that a talented, sick individual like Country Dick Montana no longer drags his knuckles along the surface of this planet. Maybe it's because I, along with many other fans, realize that the music industry just never knew what to do with this rag-tag crew of musicians. Maybe, just maybe... it's because I've gotten too busy here in the Pierce Memorial Archives.

Whatever. That all changes here. Tales Of The New West, the 1985 debut from the Beat Farmers, captured a growing influence in independent, alternative music. The mixture of country, rock, a splash of folk and some absolutely twisted humor was not unique to the Beat Farmers - well, okay, the twisted humor was - but they, along with bands like Los Lobos, were definitely pioneers in this sound. Listen to the early works of the BoDeans, and tell me they weren't influenced by these guys.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Los Lobos connection is possibly explained by the production hand of Steve Berlin and Mark Linnett, but the, aah, "normal" music on Tales Of The New West also pays homage to the early work of Los Lobos. Songs like "Bigger Stones," "There She Goes Again" and "Never Goin' Back" could easily have come from the guitar of Cesar Rojas, and not the crew of Montana, Jerry Raney, Rolle Dexter and Buddy Blue. The cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Reason To Believe" is interesting, taking away some of the frustration of the original and giving it a shot in the arm rhythmically.

The country side of the Beat Farmers possibly was never stronger than it was on Tales Of The New West, with songs like "Lost Weekend," "Where Do They Go" and "Lonesome Hound" tipping a hat to the likes of Hank Williams while keeping a foot firmly planted in the electric music territory. It's an interesting combination, and maybe it just wasn't given enough time to really develop in the Beat Farmers camp. Then again, I freely admit my experience with the band ended with Loud And Plowed And... Live, but that will be changing. Why, right now I'm dusting off my CDs of Glad 'N Greasy and Poor And Famous...

The two contributions that feature Montana as lead throat are possibly two of the band's most beloved and best songs. "California Kid" is not quite as worked up as the live version - but since the live track is the one that I was most familiar with, I admit to having a little bit of bias there. But the original version of this song and "Happy Boy" are just as able to put a sick smile on my face. (True story: I made a tape which featured "Happy Boy" for a teacher I worked with, someone who loved animals. The tape was returned to me in pieces the next day. Mission accomplished.) It is interesting to note that Montana's voice, while its recognizable bass tone, isn't as scarred with the effects of cigarettes, whiskey and late night barroom experiences - in other words, the vocals that Montana became best known for.

Tales Of The New West did indeed plow some new ground in the music world, and people were probably left scratching their heads after this one appeared on their doorsteps. Over 15 years later, though, it seems to be a natural progression, and reveals itself to be an almost perfect match for the Beat Farmers, with only the country side giving them a little room to grow. This isn't the easiest one in their catalog to find, but it's well worth the effort.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Rhino Records, and is used for informational purposes only.