Chris P James
Ah But I Was So Much Older Then, I’m Younger Than That Now.
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
It's amazing to think that it’s been 34 years since the first time I performed with The Burrito Brothers. That was at 12th & Porter in 1986. The next year I played again with them at The Cannery. Both events were the annual Nashville Tribute to Gram Parsons & Clarence White organised by Argyle Bell. The 1987 one resulted in an album release. I’m on it.
Also in 1987, I took part in the recording of the International Submarine Band’s reunion album. That was a cool project that centered around the vocals and material brought in by Ian Dunlop and Jon Corneal. John Nuese, a good friend, was on hand but couldn’t be coerced into performing. Fred James, Jody Maphis and Ben Keith were also involved.
It was back around that time that I first began working with the great Bobby Bare. I love the guy. I’m proud to include his name in my resume.
It's interesting. The contention that there aren’t “original” members involved with The Burrito Brothers is an old, tired claim. The group already in the eighties had no “original” members. By that I am referring (as I think the ones who make the claim do) to the guys on 1969’s “The Gilded Palace of Sin”. But those guys in fact took the name from Ian Dunlop, Barry Tashian & Billy Briggs. So there’s actually never been a Burrito Brothers album made by the original members. And, furthermore, if you go by the GPOS, there’s only been one. By the second LP the group had changed members. By 1972 the group was carrying on without a single one of the first LP guys. Gram Parsons was fine with that. He endorsed them.
Over the next thirty years or so the only “original” member was pedal steel guitar player Sneaky Pete Kleinow, who came in and back out numerous times.
The group carries on because there have always been people interested in someone doing that. At every juncture a concerted effort was made to include the musicians most right for the job at that point in time.
We have a new album now in 2020 that lives up to the legacy. We bring to the table musicianship and strong songs that are well sung, and more. There is a good level of artistry involved. I fear today’s average listener might not have the attention span required to catch the poetry of something like “Wheels of Fire” or the hidden meanings in “Acrostic”. But to anyone who does give it a true listen, we thank you and feel you will be rewarded in hearing an album that is far above the norm.
Check out “Acrostic”. Chances are you don’t know the definition of that word. I didn’t. But when I see a word I don’t know I look it up. That triggered writing the song. I’m certain this song is an example of artistry in music that is rarely found these days.
Please let me end this blog entry by giving a shout out to the incredibly gifted musicians with whom I play in The Burrito Brothers.
Tony Paoletta is an absolute master of the pedal steel guitar. Inventive, brilliant, adept, aware. These are just a few of the descriptions that apply to him.
Bob Hatter is also masterful. For many years I’ve considered him my favorite, the best guitarist I ever worked with. And he has quite a knack (Tony too) for writing songs.
Peter Young is as musical a drummer as one could ever wish to have sitting in that chair. His natural understanding and finely honed abilities are top shelf.
I read once that Ahmet Ertegun always looked for a virtuoso in any group seeking a deal. He felt that if a group had one, he’d sign them to Atlantic Records. Examples were: Eric Clapton with Cream, Duane Allman with the Allman Brothers Band, and Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin.
When I read that I realized we have three. Tony, Bob and Pete really are at the top of the game. That’s why they’re in constant demand as session players. And they bring more than session sensibilities to The Burrito Brothers. In this group they express themselves at the highest level.
Yes, I’m proud to be in the BBs. And I’m certain we’ve made a superb album that holds together as a complete artistic statement.
Chris P James