Boredom with playing only old songs during periodic reunions combined with an unexpected opportunity courtesy of Dr. Dre sent The Long Ryders back into the studio for Psychedelic Country Soul, the Americana outfit’s first new album of original material in more than 30 years.
The set’s opening track, “Greenville,” premieres exclusively below.
The impetus was a May 2016 call to frontman Sid Griffin from Larry Chatman, a Long Ryders crew member during the ‘80s who’d gone on to work in a key capacity with Dr. Dre. “Larry kept telling me these last 20 years or so that he never forgot how kind The Long Ryders were to him and he’d pay us back one day,” Griffin tells Billboard. “I thought maybe he’d give us a thousand bucks or something one day.
“So he calls me and says, ‘Later on this fall, Dr. Dre has some studio time free and I’d like to gift it to you guys if you wanted to come in and make a record.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me!’ and he said, ‘No.’ It’s a great state-of-the-art place, and we could use the big room there ’cause Dr. Dre mainly uses the smaller rooms. I just couldn’t believe it.”
The other Long Ryders were similarly stoked and decided to take Chatman up on his offer. “We’ve done a handful of reunion tours, all fun, but we were all bored playing the old songs,” Griffin says. “No Long Ryder lives near each other now, so this gave us a framework to get together and do something. Everyone got to town in Los Angeles three or four days early and rehearsed with [producer and ‘fifth Long Ryder’] Ed Stasium.”
The band cut the album, out Feb. 15, in eight days. “I won’t say it wasn’t stressful, but we got a really good record done that I’m really proud of and really happy with.”
Psychedelic Country Soul‘s dozen tracks mine the same mix of rock, country, psychedelia and vintage ’80s Paisley Underground the group hailed from originally. It even features backing vocals on two songs from sisters Debbi and Vicki Peterson of onetime scenemates The Bangles, including a cover of Tom Petty’s “Walls.”
“Greenville,” meanwhile, was written by Stephen McCarthy as “something catchy to define our sound at the top of the album,” according to Griffin. “We needed something that was radio friendly and still our sound, something identifiably us with the twang and the harmony vocals and all that stuff. We tried to have that kind of track to kick off all the other albums and wanted to do the same this time, and [‘Greenville’] is what fit the bill.”
Psychedelic Country Soul will send The Long Ryders — also including bassist Tom Stevens and drummer Greg Sowders — back on the road, with European dates slated for April, while Griffin is hoping for an extensive romp through North America. “I know Greg and I want to perform more than we are now, and if things go well with [the album], everybody is going to want to do it,” says Griffin, who’s also working on the third in a trilogy of Bob Dylan books but has put his bluegrass band The Coal Porters on hold for the moment. “We’re getting job offers in the United States, festivals in Australia, so if there’s money on the table, if it’s a real thing, we want to do it. Is this a full-blown reunion? Not really, but if the reception for our record is really good, we’re going to have to devote our time to it and show people we’re serious.”