Sometime in the early to mid 80’s, Columbus’s McGuffey Lane became a national touring band, leaving behind, for the most part, their days playing bars, clubs, and college campuses. By the time that had happened their concert sets were mostly filled with their own self penned songs, songs found on their four national releases for Atlantic Records and currently available on CD from Collector’s Choice. What got left behind at that time were all of the wonderful covers they did of rock, country, and bluegrass standards, many of which would go on and influence their own compositions, and that were very popular with their earliest audiences. And even some of their own early compositions that were crowd favorites got lost over the years.
The bands recent release “Legend of the Red Eye” harkens back to those saloon-playing days, with seven covers of classic country and rock gems and three original tunes from those days that have yet to make it on a McGuffey Lane release. The album’s title is homage to Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon, ground zero of central Ohio’s live music scene at the time, and the place that McGuffey Lane was considered for a time the house band.
The covers on the CD are mostly on the countryside, and touch every decade from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The disk opens with what has been the band’s most popular cover over the years, their rendition of the New Riders of the Purple Sage classic “Panama Red.” They then go back to the days when members of the band performed solo or in pairs in the various Holiday Inns and Ground Rounds of central Ohio with an almost perfect version of the John Hartford penned Glen Campbell classic “Gentle on My Mind.” The most recent of the country standards is next with Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road,” the mid 1980’s classic about a Vietnam era veteran who is the son of a moonshiner who decides to harvest marijuana instead of running moonshine.
The three oldest covers come next, going back to the days when the band members listened to the Beatles and Rolling Stones with their friends all week, but then on Saturday night sat down with their parents and grandparents and tuned in to the Grand Old Opry. Bassist Steve Reis channels George Jones with a fine rendition of the classic “She Thinks I Still Care.” Then they cover the great Texas songwriter Guy Clark with “Baton Rouge.” Then go all the way back to the early 50’s with a version of “There Stands the Glass” that Webb Pierce would appreciate.
The last cover on the CD is another long time live favorite of the band and their audiences, the blue grass standard “Fox on the Run.” Bassist Steve Reis’s vocals are perfect for this song, and the background harmonies are pretty damn good too.
Intertwined amongst these classic covers are three original ‘Lane songs that go back to the late 70’s, have been played live on and off for years, but have never made a studio release; including Steve Reis’s “Cowboys Like What Cowgirls Do”; and two John Schwab penned songs “Sing a Song” and “Cowboy in the City.” All three will sound familiar to long time McGuffey Lane fans.
Like most bands going back forty years McGuffey Lane has had some personnel changes. However, this current lineup has been together longer than any other version including the original one, and with three original members and four long time additions, is loyal to the true McGuffey Lane sound of rock, country, along with just enough bluegrass. For more about McGuffey Lane and “Legend of the Red Eye” visit www.mcguffeylane.com.