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Music Review: Alan Tyler & The Lost Sons Of Littlefield – Lonesome Cowboys

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So, just who are The Lost Sons of Littlefield, you may ask? To answer that, we need to go way, way back. Back to Waylon Jennings birthplace, in fact. Yes Littlefield is where the great man comes from but his inspiration has spread a great deal further.

It’s not quite that simple though and we need to go digging a little deeper. Alan Tyler, the singer with the acoustic guitar, was turned on to country rock by listening to none other than the late, more than great, Gram Parsons, and, of course, The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Back in the early nineties together with his band The Rockingbirds he made two highly regarded country-rock albums, their eponymous debut in 1992, and Whatever Happened To The Rockingbirds, two years later.

Alan is from the UK and these albums were seen as pioneers of English country rock. Television appearances followed, most notably slots on Later With Jools Holland, Top Of The Pops, and MTV. The Rockingbirds also clocked up four Glastonbury’s during an extensive tour schedule.

Now Alan has teamed up with former Rockingbird bassist Chris Clarke to form Alan Tyler And The Lost Sons Of Littlefield. Clearly he needed more than one lost son to form a band. So they added guitar man Paul Lush; Canadian drummer Phil Van Couver, formerly of The Raincoats; along with the superbly named Jim Morrison, who adds the vital ingredient of fiddles, and that wonderful instrument, the mandolin.

That’s the history, so let’s mosey on up to the present. The band has earned a huge reputation within the UK alt-country scene, performing a mix of their own songs that sit comfortably alongside covers from their heroes.

When seen live we are treated to the inevitable Waylon, alongside versions of George Jones, Hank Williams, and Townes Van Zandt. All three of which are connected by the curse of driven genius but whose music will doubtless live forever.

Alan Tyler's band is helping to keep that legacy alive on this, their latest album, Lonesome Cowboys (Hanky Panky Records, October, 2008). He combines that tradition with his own well crafted songs that, despite his English heritage, are rich in Americana.

Or is it that simple? There is most definitely an Englishness to some of the lyrics, telling campfire stories but from a North London perspective.

The first thing that hits you when playing Lonesome Cowboys is that the band couldn’t be more authentic if they had been born on the streets of Nashville itself. They generate a warmth, and style that is quite simply top drawer. If Alan Tyler had recorded with a Nashville band he surely couldn’t have bettered the performance contained on this album.

As a result we need to put aside those doubts about birthright. Either the music flows through your lifeblood or it doesn’t. It is as simple as that. The band conclusively dispels any lingering doubts and shows that the country heart is pumping within the first few bars of the album.

Recorded in London, Lonesome Cowboys, should act as a clear indication that the influence of the country greats extends far beyond American shores. It is alive and well, and most definitely kicking on the other side of the Atlantic in the UK.

There is a deep affection, understanding, love, and respect for the legacy they are tapping into. It would all sink very rapidly if they lacked any of these elements. Not only do they achieve all of this but they do so with a huge amount of panache, style, and undeniable musical ability.

There are standouts aplenty. For example the Waylon inspired “Rambling Girl”, or the fiddle soaked, “The Man That I Am”. “Something You Haven’t Told Me” sounds every inch the genuine article.

The mandolin rich hoe-down of “When You Get Back From New York City”, sits nicely alongside the closing track, “O’er The Hill And Far Away”. The standout “Time To Pay” simply oozes quality.

There is only one cover on this album, Pete Dello’s “I’m A Gambler”. This last statement should surprise any remaining doubters. With this in mind I challenge anyone who, without prior knowledge, would listen to this and not get an overwhelming impression of authenticity.

On Lonesome Cowboys Alan Tyler And The Lost Sons Of Littlefield not only keep the heritage alive but they actually manage to add to it.

Please visit the band's MySpace page to find out what I am going on about!

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