In 2012, Light in the Attic coined the term “country funk” to describe the strange hybrid of twangy Anglo country music and honeyed African-American soul that arose in the late 1960s and ran through the ’70s. They weren’t the first label to explore this fertile territory. Other comps — ranging from Country Got Soul and Soul Jazz’s Delta Swamp Rock series to this look from the other side of the racial divide — all tried to properly corral such amalgams of black and white to varying degrees of success. But the “first volume of Country Funk, compiled by Dublab DJ/ collector Zach Cowie, was organized with an unparalleled sense of flow that set it apart.
While few of the tracks measure up to the first volume’s songs, Country Funk Volume II: 1967-1974 might be an even breezier listen, opening with the church organ and slow snare hits of Billy Swan’s elegant take on Elvis’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and gathering steam from there. The sonic palette is constant throughout: acoustic guitar licks with a tightly coiled twang, sometimes intermixed with gnarled wah-wah leads (see Hoyt Axton’s “California Women”); drums recorded in the style of the Wrecking Crew’s Hal Blaine (read: dry and booming); deep baritone voices that emulate funk’s “behind the beat” with their country drawl.
The set includes a few missteps — including a frail take of “The Weight” from Jackie DeShannon — but the funk frees up these white boys to get freaky. Hear ’50s crooner Bob Darin turn into a longhaired hippie selling hash to a cop on “Me and Mr. Hohner,” or Willie Nelson sing about Klan sheets being available on the “family plan” on “Shotgun Willie.” Or, on the finest diamond of the set, Kenny Rogers bemoans his tendency to get stoned and chase women on “Tulsa Turnaround.” Rogers then adds a tasty bit of wisdom that you won’t see posted outside of any of his Roasters restaurants: “If a man’s gonna eat fried chicken/ he’s gotta get greasy.”