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Forget the Dog!

Rescue the Band!

Perry Jordan & Heartsfield, Rescuing the dog!
L to R: John Brightwell, Scott Bonshire, Perry Jordan, Steve Eddington
(sitting) Tim Johnson, Dave Nelson

Just when you thought it was safe to go out at night, the ghost of Heartsfield rears its ugly head, though it is hardly ugly and only a little bit Heartsfield. Heartsfield fans had been crying for a reformation or at least a reunion for years, having been frustrated by a diet of the four excellent CDs the country-rockers left the world with when they called it quits. And they did get together for a few reunion gigs in varying combinations, but it seemed that the old days were gone and everyone had pretty much moved on.

Everyone but Perry Jordan, that is. The gigs gave Jordan that push to put together Heartsfield once more--- or a reasonable facsimile. I know what you're thinking--- that facsimiles are original/lite--- and most of the time you would be right. But Jordan is no ordinary musician. During his ten-plus years in the original lineup, he gave Heartsfield a folder of great songs and another fine voice in the choir (Their a capella-ized With These Tools from the Collector's Item LP is a great example of their vocal depth) and a stage presence beyond the norm for bands of their ilk. Do it again? Why the hell not?

When the decision was finally made, Jordan set to putting a new band together. Notices were sent out and musicians auditioned. Little did Jordan realize how hard it would be to find like-minded souls.

I had to audition 60 people to get five,” he told Geoffrey Ritter of the Daily Egyptian. “It took me a long time to get players who could actually sing while they played.” He did finally line up five: Scott Bonshire, drums (Tom Keith & Sidney, Caught Red-Handed and Woodlind); Steve Eddington, bass (The Coming Generation and The New Colony Six); John Brightwell, guitar/banjo; Dave Nelson, guitar/dobro; and Tim Johnson, guitar/mandolin/harmonica (Famous Vacationers). (Johnson and Brightwell have since been replaced by guitarist-extraordinaire Elmer Quiles, who with Nelson presently gives the band a great one-two slide guitar punch) The question was, would they do the trick?

Judging by 2001's Rescue the Dog, they did the trick and then some. Jordan was very conscious of the Heartsfield mystique (“It was important to keep the old Heartsfield vibe going on this one,” he said, “since it would be the first (Heartsfield) CD in 20 years or so.”), so he came up with eight new songs very much in the old Heartsfield vein and decided to revisit two from the first LP. Surprisingly, the new versions of Music Eyes and Just That Wind captured the spirit and sound of the originals without copying them note-for-note. They very well could have been outtakes, in fact, as some critics have noted. The real high points of the album, though, are the new tracks.

Temptation kicks off the CD, just as it does many of their live gigs, and it is pure winner. Jordan lays his signature voice over a solid upbeat rhythm until the chorus, where the band lays out stacked harmonies reminiscent of the Eagles and Poco at their best. Reminiscent even of Heartsfield (the original) at their best. Sometimes, life hardly skips a beat. A quieter Can't You See follows and builds on the deep harmonies the original band was known for. Change My Tune is cross between Heartsfield and Michael Stanley during the Jonah Koslen phase (You Break It... You Bought It) until the chorus which is solid Heartsfield. Again, Jordan has the touch with the harmonies. Luckily, the band lives up to the task. Then there's Forever Has an End. Take the pop edge and vocal style of Lynyrd Skynyrd and overlay the superb harmonies of a Paul Cotton-driven Poco and you have an idea. Laid back with a light shuffling rhythm, it screams We're Heartsfield and we're here!

Can't Have It All is slightly shitkicker, a cousin to The Only Time I'm Sober Is When You're Gone, and the way they use the mandolin as lead is classic. The rest, though, are solid rockers. Indeed, Roll With the Punches has that Let the Music Play jam at the end, something old Heartsfield fans could never get enough of. Live it would plant you against the wall.

There was a lot of discussion in various music forums when this was released, some positive and some negative. After a handful of listens, I find as much positive on this as I did on the original four albums. Indeed, when Music Eyes ends it all, I feel the same highs that I did when listening to those four.

And by the way, all four original Heartsfield albums are available on CD along with this and a few others. You can scope them out at Do it. Hell, you'd be rescuing the dog AND the band and the world would be a better place for it. Trust me.

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More indies and rock history here.