Crazy Horse’s Billy Talbot – On The Road To Spearfish (2013)

Even as bassist Billy Talbot prepares for a round of European shows with Neil Young and Crazy Horse, he’s issuing a new studio album with his own band. On the Road to Spearfish is due today from Vapor Records.

Rather than mimic the torrential guitar noise of his best collaborations with Crazy Horse, however, Talbot tells stories on a much more personal scale. Spearfish, his second Billy Talbot Band recording after 2004’s Alive In The Spirit World, saves that kind of ferocious interplay for its title track.

Elsewhere, from the lonely reminiscence of “Empty Stadium to the tender pain of “Cold Wind,” from the ruminative explorations of “Big Rain” to the shambling gypsy adventures of the improvised “Miller Drive,” Talbot more often offers a gently assertive, root-bound journey from darkness toward the light. At times, there is an almost mythical quietude about the Great Plains fables, so very unlike the garage-band outbursts we’ve come to expect from the group he co-founded in the late 1960s.

Of course, that makes “On the Road to Spearfish” — a 13-minute behemoth marked from its inception by this swirling storm of angry feedback — all the more redemptive, and all the more memorable.

Even here, though, Talbot adds new wrinkles, this time in the form of the offbeat instrumentation that his own band provides: Sharing the stage with multi-instrumentalists who are adept at trombone, mandolin, lap steel and autoharp, Talbot is able to eventually reshape the song into a loose, honking groover with a far more epic sweep.

Finally, there arrives a redemptive coupling of “God in Me” and “Ring the Bell,” the first a harmonica-driven ballad written while on the road with Neil Young in support of 2003’s Greendale and the second an billowing E Street-esque tune composed as a tribute in part to a picturesque hill near his home at Spearfish, South Dakota.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso