Chris Darrow/Under My Own Disguise
By James Calemine
Chris Darrow made two great albums--Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise--in 1973 and 1974. This year these two classics will be available in one package. Darrow proved a significant musical player in the development of the California music scene. Darrow's southern musical inclinations found him working and crossing paths with Hoyt Axton, Leonard Cohen, Sly Stone, Gram Parsons, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Linda Ronstadt, Gene Vincent, Sonny & Cher, Kim Fowley, James Taylor, David Lindley, Jim Morrison and Frank Zappa.
Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page called Darrow's group Kaleidoscope his "favorite band of all time". Darrow's music always blended country, folk, bluegrass, rock, blues and psychedelic into one cohesive sound. The songs on Chris Darrow sound like a blend of The Incredible String Band, The Band and Roscoe Holcombe. Darrow (he's still living) plays guitar, bass, fiddle, violin, banjo, Dobro, lap steel and mandolin.
"Albequerque Rainbow" resembles something Levon Helm or The Byrds might have composed for some lost session. "Take Good Care of Yourself" is cajun-country at its finest. "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" blends mountain music with a country rock backbeat. "Devil's Dream" showcases Darrow's deft ability to play any instrument with strings.
Ben Harper covered this version of Darrow's "Whipping Boy", a classic blues dirge...a centerpiece song on this CD. An honorary southern artist, Darrow's soul sounds like an Arkansas farm boy that travels from the mountains to the Delta to the Topanga hills on his musical travels. "To Which Cross Do I Cling" epitomizes Darrow's broad musical depth and ability to augment various influences into one song. "A Good Woman's Love" could just as well be thought of as a Louvin Brothers song in tone and sentiment.
Under My Own Disguise continues the gypsy-colored music parade of songs. "Miss Pauline" sounds like a tune heard on a river boat floating down the Mississippi. "Living Like A Fool" is a stone cold country classic. "Maybe It's Just As Well" proves Darrow's songwriting stands the test of time with the weeping pedal steel evoking unseen emotion.
"Another Sundown" procures a piano-pedal steel laziness in this poetic composition. "Wherever You Are" emits a high-lonesome message to a lost love. "The Masquerader" transcends any music genre it's so good. "Old Scratch" resembles a homespun saloon song to close out this timeless collection. Darrow should be discovered, and this collection proves the best place to start.