• Chris P James

A New Era For The BBs

The history of the Burrito Brothers is often divided into different eras. There seems to be about one for each decade.

I can see why the “era” we’re in now in early 2020 is seen as beginning in early 2011 with the release of “Sound As Ever”. That was the 1st new Burritos’ album after the decade long run of “Burrito DeLuxe”. It’s also the first album I’m on as a full-fledged band member.

But “The Burritos” of 2011 did carry over from the previous “Deluxe” version with Egan and Lonow. I too had subbed with BD a handful of visible times.

“Sound As Ever” was a statement album. We strongly felt that the various Burritos over the long years had left the original vision of “The Gilded Palace of Sin” far behind. There’d been a lot of attempts at updating and hit chasing. Our mission was to do what we could to bring the sound of The Burrito Brothers back to the original idea: a cosmic hybrid of country and rock made for hipsters. It was important to use the right instruments, amps and sounds. Pedal steel guitar is essential. B-Bender is involved. Everly Brothers the template for two-part harmonies. Far out lyric ideas were desired. Interesting sonic touches like panning or psychedelic moves are welcome.

We got a handful of nice reviews that recognized that in us. A succession of agents gave a go at booking us. We played some festivals. We played around Nashville pretty often. When we worked, audiences and venue people liked us. But each agent would eventually say the Burritos were not easy to sell. Of course that was our fault more than theirs. We had a band of established pros in Nashville. These guys weren’t willing to go out for low paying bar gigs. Add to that, there never was a mega-hit by The Burrito Brothers so most offers were lower than what the guys put as our price. But the agents did find us some real cool stuff here and there (like the Colorado Rio Grande summer concert series or The Don Gibson Theater to name a couple).

Between 2010 to 2015 or so… eventually whoever our agent was would suggest we find someone else who could do more for us. We did that four times and got jobs from all of ‘em. The Burrito Brothers were always a professional group of great musicians. We delivered.

Years passed and I got frustrated with not making another album. My brother Fred, who’d brokered our album with Manfred Schutz’s SPV Records in Europe, was in the producer’s position of authority. He kept saying we must first find a record deal and then do the album on their dime. But years passed without that happening.

When John Sturdivant joined the band, he encouraged my desire to make an album first and then shop it. To me that was the horse before the cart. He has a major studio and offered to do it there. That signaled the power shift away from Fred.

So, because we finally finished our next album, “Still Going Strong” in 2018, seven years after “Sound As Ever”, I feel like the era we’re currently in starts there. That leaves “Sound As Ever” alone as a transitional album. We recorded random sessions during those lean years. Fred and Walter fell out of what we were chasing. They’re very talented guys, individual artists who’ve made many good solo albums. But they’re not on our last two BBs albums. It’s me and Bob and Tony and Pete now. Could change a bit any time, and for the better. That’s The Burrito Brothers.

We keep tweaking the music all along.

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