Drag City Sandy Bull


When the name Sandy Bull is uttered, it’s in hushed tones of reverie, and for good reason. We’re just the latest name-droppers on a list that started with legends like The Beatles and Hunter S. Thompson, and today, his records have a resurgent influence that probably exceeds the cachet Sandy had with listeners during his sadly truncated time on the planet. Just listen to one of his four classic Vanguard albums to know that Sandy was the real deal; categorizing his musical contributions to the world or his influence on others is kind of impossible.But really, who else was trying to play ragas and classical pieces on banjo in 1963? What other honky musicians were adding exotic instruments and teaming up with respected jazz drummers like Billy Higgins to expand their multidimensional sound? Through his signature “blends” of folk, pre-war blues, eastern music, acid rock, and everything else he threw into the drugged mix, Sandy Bull gave the world a great gift—while leaving only four proper albums in his wake.

Well, further gifts abound, as this 1976 concert on Galactic Zoo Disk/Drag City will attest. Almost a follow-up to 1972’s Demolition Derby (a candidate for President of unhinged, bottom-of-the-barrel brilliance), this historical nugget shows that Sandy had expanded his sound even further than anyone could have imagined in the lost post-Vanguard quietude. Rocking the then-pretty-new Rhythm Ace drum machine and utilizing pre-recorded tracks of bass and fuzz guitar (simulating how he’d do mad overdubs in the studio really) and adding some pedal steel at one point, Sandy conjures whole new inflections over his classic sound. Of course, the performance is book-ended by classic electric oud workouts in pure, golden Sandy Bull form. Sandy runs through his entire instrumental palette while performing a set of songs that never made it to vinyl, but recall some of his classic themes. The show, captured warmly on tape, is a vital performance and a rare glimpse into the previously unheard 1970’s progressions of Sandy’s music.

If you are even a casual fan of guitar music or artists like John Fahey, Jack Rose or Robbie Basho, you owe it to yourself to delve into Sandy Bull & the Rhythm Ace, Live 1976. Drag City will release Sandy Bull & The Rhythm Ace, Live 1976 on March 27th, 2012

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