The Burrito Brothers - The Notorious Burrito Brothers
by Kevin Wierzbicki
The legacy of the Flying Burrito Brothers, the beloved and highly-influential group that counted Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Gene Parsons, Skip Battin, Bernie Leadon, Rick Roberts and many other country rock stars as members at one time or another, continues with this Burrito Brothers set that references the band's roots. The group's current lineup features front man Chris James on guitar, keyboards, harmonica and vocals, Peter Young on drums, Bob Hatter on guitar and bass, and Tony Paoletta on pedal steel, the instrument so integral to the Burrito Brothers sound. The album begins appropriately enough with "Bring It," a cut that would make a great concert opener as its rollicking melody is set to go-ahead-and-cut-loose lyrical encouragement from James. "Sometimes You Just Can't Win" was penned for the most part for the 2000 Gram Parsons tribute record The Gram Parsons Notebook but not finished until now; with its genesis being from Gram's own notes the spirit of Parsons is palpable throughout. In a bit of a departure from the normal Burrito Brothers song structure, "Love is a River" is a nearly 10-minute suite; reminiscent of something Poco might have done at its outset, the cut features plaintive vocals and lots of honeyed pedal steel in the first third of the song. Then the cut takes an "Eight Miles High" turn into light psychedelia, complete with sitar-like instrumentation. After seemingly coming to a close, the cut returns to its original motif for its closing minutes. The album's only cover is a take on the Dann Penn-written classic "Dark End of the Street," a song also covered by the Flying Burrito Brothers, with Gram Parsons on vocals, on their The Gilded Palace of Sin album. The only guest player on The Notorious Burrito Brothers is Ronnie Guilbeau (a Brothers alum from the late '80s) who sings lead on "Do Right Man," an answer tune to "Do Right Woman." "Gravity" is a bluegrass-y number with fine picking and a barn dance groove that's perfect for kicking up some hay. Longtime fans will find this album quite satisfying, and newbies will, as they go back and listen to the band's catalog, hear the connections to all the great Burrito Brothers music that came before.