This is another concept album, and tackles the topic of what “America” as an idea really means. It is another deeply moving recording, beautiful, sometimes painful, and always compelling. Many consider ‘Frisco to be Newbury’s masterpiece. Peter Blackstock, editor of the influential No Depression magazine organized ‘Frisco Mabel Joy Revisited in 2000, a re-creation of the entire album with artists including Dave Alvin, Bill Frisell, and Kris Kristofferson.
Mickey Newbury revisits “San Francisco Mabel Joy” on his 1973 release Heaven Help The Child. As a matter of fact, four of the eight tracks are re-recordings of earlier songs. The other three updates are “Sweet Memories,” “Good Morning Dear,” and “Sunshine.”
Unlike the previous two efforts, Heaven has no unifying concept. It is a marvelous collection, however. Leading with the powerful and evocative title track, the new material is right up there with his finest work. “Why You Been Gone So Long” has become something of a bluegrass standard over the years, and has been recorded by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and David Allen Coe among others.
The fourth disc in the set is Better Days (Demos, Rarities, And Unreleased). The 16 tracks are of varying quality, as is generally the case with such odds and sods collections. Five are publisher’s demos, and are pretty raw. There are a couple of home recordings that remained unreleased until now. The most interesting material are the seven songs recorded for a radio broadcast in 1970.
Indie label Drag City has pulled out all the stops for this set. First of all there is the remastering job, done from the original analog tapes for the very first time. They were believed to be lost in a fire many years ago, but were recently discovered in the Elektra Records vault.
The box is a one-time only pressing of 1,000 copies, and features an elaborately annotated booklet with everything one might want to know about Mickey Newbury. In truth, everything you need to know about him is contained in his songs though. An American Trilogy is a virtual treasure trove of music, just waiting to be discovered.