John David Souther (Expanded CD Reissue)

J.D. Souther

Omnivore, 2016

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


J.D. Souther’s career began when he moved to California, took up the guitar at the age of 22, and formed a band with Glenn Frey. They may not have had any commercial successes, but by the early 1970s, they were both signed to the new Asylum label – Frey as a member of the Eagles and Souther as a solo artist.

Souther’s self-titled 1972 debut album was typical to what he would release for the rest of his career (1984’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Home By Dawn is the one exception to the formula).

He was and is an artist who helped define the early country/rock era. The Eagles was part of the early movement but placed more emphasis on the rock element; meanwhile, Souther took a more gentle approach. His writing style, which would lead him into The Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2013, was already beginning to emerge, and this disc finds his incisive and storytelling lyrics set to smooth, up-tempo rhythms and aching ballads.

Souther is always at his best when he travels in an upbeat direction. “Run Like A Thief,” “Jesus In ¾ Time,” “Kite Woman,” and “Some People Call It Music” are placed in a row on the album and their catchy melodies and toe-tapping beat helped establish the country/rock fusion style of music. They also set the stage for his brief foray into rockabilly a decade later.

It is his ballads that have been covered by dozens of artists, most prominently by former girlfriend Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles. The second half of the original release was a counterpoint to the first, as “It’s The Same” and “Out To Sea” were the first to establish him as a first rate balladeer. The album closer “Lullaby” is just his voice and guitar in a sparse and satisfying performance.

Six of the seven bonus tracks on this release are demo versions of completed songs, which are interesting only for those interested in his creative process. The seventh, “Kite Woman,” is an alternate version of the version contained on the album.

Souther’s debut album may not have been commercially successful, but it proved that a new quality songwriter was on the scene. In some ways, it is an artifact from its era, but ultimately it is a very satisfying one all the same.

Rating: B

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