He’s a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean John Fogerty doesn’t know a little somethin’ about country music.
His latest album, The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again, is dominated by classic country songs, including John Denver’s “Back Home Again,” the Kendalls’ “Heaven’s Just A Sin Away,” Ray Price’s “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” and Buck Owens’ “I Don’t Care (Just As Long As You Love Me).” He enlisted a band that includes Americana stalwart Buddy Miller and standup bass player Dennis Crouch, and it actually leans closer to pure country than a lot of the material that’s now accepted as commercial country.
“It’s been a part of me since I was a baby,” John notes. “I daresay I certainly heard country music before I ever heard rock ‘n’ roll because rock ‘n’ roll didn’t exist yet. [I liked] the sound of the instruments, first of all, and then — I’m goin’ way, way back, I’m thinkin’ into the ‘50s — I liked the style. I liked the attitude and the presentation.”
A couple Blue Ridge tracks fold in guest appearances from some of John’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame comrades. Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit provide backing vocals on a cover of Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party,” and Bruce Springsteen adds his voice to a version of “When Will I Be Loved,” a song originated by the Everly Brothers and made a hit again in the ’70s by Linda Ronstadt.
It’s an appropriate link of the two genres. The Eagles, Linda and Rick all had a hand in the rise of country/rock in the early 1970s. And Bruce’s songs have such a heartland thread in them that they’ve been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney and Emmylou Harris.
It was the artists who had their feet in both genres — country and early rock music — who particularly appealed to John.
“So many of them were what we now call crossover artists and basically they were just doin’ what they did,” John says. “Carl Perkins sang ‘Blue Suede Shoes.’ Rock ‘n’ rollers loved that, but Carl himself, I think, thought of himself as rock ‘n’ roll, but everything he knew up to that point was sort of blues and country. Elvis Presley was in the same boat. So many of those guys were just doin’ what they did, and it ended up being this new thing that was country and rock ‘n’ roll at the same time.”
The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again is a long-overdue sequel to a 1973 album that marked John’s first solo project after leaving Creedence Clearwater Revival. On The Blue Ridge Rangers, he played every instrument and covered some of the most important acts in country music history, including Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Jimmie Rodgers.