“Country Funk” — a genre named specifically for this choice compilation — seems on first glance as the musical equivalent of a black and white cookie. Or suggests that until the late 1960s, African-American thump had yet to intermix with Southern Baptist twang. Not true of course (see Stax, Booker T. and the MGs, Allman Brothers, etc.) but this compilation maps out a parallel universe, one where Levon Helms’ Big Pink beat is on equal footing with Clyde Stubblefield’s good foot. Or where the wood-chipping break on Tony Joe White’s “Stud Spider” can also get chopped up by Kanye West and Common in the next century.
Country Funk suggests second acts for these American singers, be they black or white. So gritty gospel singer Johnny Adams can get low with pedal steel on “Georgia Morning Dew”; ’50s crooner Bobby Darin can drop out and back in with the slinky protest stomp of “Light Blue”; former Naw’leans R&B bullfrogger Bobby Charles can grow his beard and hair long and jam with the Band on “Street People.” Best of all is when garage rocker Link Wray holes up in a chicken shack on his Kentucky property to howl about “Fire & Brimstone.” They weren’t fiscally successful reinventions perhaps, but in hindsight these country boys — regardless of color — sure were funky.