Better Late Than Never: Great Songs I Missed The First Time Around

Check out some buried treasures from Blodwyn Pig, Silver Jews & others.

Despite (or, more likely, due to) the fact that I sometimes blast through hundreds of songs a day, tons of worthy releases manage to whiz above, beneath and beyond my radar. Glossed-over singles, long-forgotten deep cuts, crazy cover tunes, oddball ditties from who knows where; they’re all out there somewhere, just waiting to be (re)discovered. Thankfully, online streaming algorithms are always ready, willing and able to churn up those buried treasures and add them to my playlist (and, by extension, yours). Here are some recently discovered gems from way down the digital rabbit hole:


Jeannie C. Riley | The Back Side Of Dallas

Sometimes the first time’s the charm. It clearly was for Jeannie C. Riley. The Nashville secretary and aspiring singer walloped it way out of the park with her debut 1968 single Harper Valley PTA. The tale of small-town comeuppance made her an overnight sensation and netted her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, among other accolades. She never managed to bottle that pure white lightnin’ again — but she’s a country mile from a one-hit wonder. During her late ’60s / early ’70s heyday, she churned out a couple of albums a year and notched a handful of hits — including this snappy little number. The portrait of a woman on the skids after being dumped by the beau who lured her from small-town Tennessee to the Big D, it’s cut from the same musical / feminist / social commentary cloth as Harper Valley. And while it only reached No. 33 on the charts, it earned Riley her second Best Female Country Vocal Performance Grammy nom in a row. Too bad it came in the same year Tammy Wynette released Stand By Your Man. Oh well. It’s still a keeper. Check out the studio version below, or watch her do it live above.

Blodwyn Pig | It’s Only Love

From the man who helped bring you Jethro Tull, here’s a band with an even shittier name: Blodwyn Pig. Formed and fronted by guitarist Mick Abrams — who apparently got tired of butting heads with Ian Anderson and left Tull in the wake of their debut album This Was — the Pig were one of approximately 16,000 British blues bands revamping 12-bar American sounds for swinging Londoners in the late ’60s. Their distinguishing feature: Horns that gave them a jazzier sound than most of their peers. If you’re feeling generous, you could view them as a precursor to everyone from Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears to Canada’s own Downchild. Either way, It’s Only Love — the opening track from their Andy Johns-produced (and enigmatically titled) 1969 debut Ahead Rings Out — is a propulsive little Chicago-style blues-rock shuffler. Dig that snare drum in your left ear.

Silver Jews | San Francisco B.C.

Killer cuts come in many forms. Or at least two, going by this gem from late singer-songwriter David Berman’s sixth and final album Silver Jews album Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea. Lyrically, it’s a hoot — a shaggy-dog story / hardboiled mystery about a hipster love triangle, the murder of a barber and a cat burglary gone wrong, complete with fisticuffs, grisly death and downbeat ending. Somehow, Berman crams it all into six minutes of scrappy, punky garage-folk reminiscent of Jonathan Richman. I own a couple of Silver Jews albums, which I bought because Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich were also in the band (thought they’re not on this album). But Berman and co. have always been one of those acts I know I should listen to more often. If you resemble that remark, this might be a good place to start.

Jim Ford | Harlan County

I have been listening to Rockpile — and the many fine solo albums of its various talented members — since I was a teenager. Which means that I’ve heard the songs JuJu Man (from Dave Edmunds’ 1977 album Get It) and 36 Inches High (on Nick Lowe’s Jesus Of Cool / Pure Pop For Now People) countless times. But somehow, I have never heard anything recorded by Jim Ford, the guy who wrote both those gems (and also penned tracks for P.J. Proby, Bobby Womack and his onetime girlfriend Bobbie Gentry). If Ford is news to you too, here’s your chance to fix that. This horn-topped slice of freewheeling country, soul, funk and gospel is the title track from his 1969 debut album — and handily justifies former collaborator and housemate (?!) Sly Stone’s description of Ford as the “baddest white man on the planet.” Fun Fact: The backing band included members of Redbone. Come and get your love, Jim!