Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seven Bridges Road

From the dr. sardonicus website: (shit, the dude knows as much about this music as i do)

He has a great blog and you can go there by going here: dr. sardonicus. His handle is also one of my favorite albums of all time

The oft-covered "Seven Bridges Road" was written and originally recorded in 1969 by Steve Young, not to be confused with the former NFL quarterbacking great. This Steve Young was a well-traveled young man. His family moved around throughout the South as he grew up. He moved away to New York City where for awhile he was part of the Greenwich Village scene that included Bob Dylan, and in the mid-60's moved to Los Angeles where he was in a band with Stephen Stills.In between those coastal jaunts, Young lived for a time in Montgomery, Alabama, where he received the inspiration for "Seven Bridges Road". From Young's recollections, the "Seven Bridges Road" was a popular Montgomery hangout, although he couldn't remember the road's actual name:I lived in Montgomery , Alabama in the early 60's and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town and after you had crossed 7 Bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish Moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney Fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name "7 Bridges Road" . I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a 100 years. That people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time, however , this is not the official name of the road. It is a "folk name".Hank Williams Jr. has said that the "Seven Bridges Road" is the road that leads to Oakwood Annex Cemetery, where his father is buried. This doesn't seem likely, though, as Oakwood Annex is located in a residential neighborhood in north Montgomery. Another suggestion is that the reference is to Woodley Road, a road leading from Montgomery's southern outskirts into the countryside. Upon this road are seven bridges.Steve Young recorded "Seven Bridges Road" for his debut LP, Rock, Salt, and Nails, which today is considered to be a classic of the "outlaw country" genre. The song was almost instantly recognized as a classic, and it soon was covered by Joan Baez, Rita Coolidge, and Tracy Nelson. Here is a recent interview with Steve Young. Here is the song via Youtube, no video but great audio. The best of the early versions, though, was the one Fairport Convention alum Ian Matthews recorded in 1973 on his Valley Hi album, produced by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith. Matthews and Nesmith came up with an arrangement that featured an a capella introduction, as well as a gorgeous steel guitar solo.In 1980, the Eagles sped up Matthews' version and in so doing came up with a major hit single; this is the "Seven Bridges Road" everybody knows today. The covers slowed as the Eagles' version came to be acknowledged as definitive, though artists as diverse as Firehouse, Ricochet and Dolly Parton have all released versions of "Seven Bridges Road" in recent years. To my ears, though, Ian Matthews still takes first prize. Valley Hi is a disc well worth seeking out for fans of country-rock and folk-rock.Steve Young is still writing and recording today. As is often the case, Young never became a star. He spent much of the 70's battling drug and alcohol problems, yet he overcame those difficulties and remains a vital artist. Young recorded this live version of "Seven Bridges Road" in 1991. In Young's hands, the song is a wistful, melancholy remembrance of times past, and a haunting counterpoint to the version that album rock radio has burnt into our heads over the years.

Thanks, doc. I, too think the Ian Matthews version is excellent. There is something about those five part harmonies that the Eagles pull off so well, though.
Great post.

Here's a news story about Ian Matthews and Southern Comfort done many years ago.


Anonymous said...

While I do agree that the Eagles version is noteworthy, as for myself, I think that the excessive airplay recieved is undue.
I prefer the Ian Matthews, or the Steve Young versions for their authenticity.

dr sardonicus said...

Thanks for the mention!

Having heard several of the different versions of "Seven Bridges Road", I don't think there's a bad one. I have to confess, though, that I haven't heard Firehouse's or Ricochet's versions...

mcd said...

Cool post. I live in Montgomery and went out to Seven Bridges Road once when I was a kid. I think we were fifteen. The story was that when you drove out on the road at night, you could count seven bridges, but when you drove back in, you could only count six. Of course, it could have been the beer.

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