The Long Ryders: Final Wild Songs

Majestic four-disc anthology of studio recordings and rarities.

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Few bands have sounded more quintessentially American than the Long Ryders; or, to be more accurate, Californian. The post-punk climes of the early 80s weren’t designed to accommodate country boys, yet here they were, an LA quartet in buckskin and braces who wore their West Coast influences just as proudly: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Beau Brummels, the Flying Burritos.

This sparkling box-set traces their journey from 1983 EP 10-5-60 through to their third and final album, 1987’s Two-Fisted Tales, during which time they rose from the dubiously named Paisley Underground scene to become path-beaters for alt. country. The dual guitars of Sid Griffin and Stephen McCarthy lead the gallop, the band marauding through unstoppable tunes such as And She Rides and Final Wild Son.

Yet there was also something deeper and richer about the Long Ryders, pooling soul, psychedelia and folk into a broader quest to redress the balance of Reagan’s gung-ho vision of modern America. State Of My Union, For The Rest Of My Days and Harriet Tubman’s Gonna Carry Me Home are all political cries for justice and liberty. You Just Can’t Ride The Boxcars Anymore and Here Comes That Train Again, meanwhile, bemoan the passing of a more resolute, pioneering age.

Alas, despite magnificent singles like Looking For Lewis And Clark and Gunslinger Man, the Long Ryders never enjoyed the real commercial crossover they deserved. In addition to the inclusion of rare tracks here, diehards will welcome disc four, which comprises a previously unreleased show from Holland in April ’85.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.