Am I the one who thinks there was an opportunity wasted with the title of this release? I mean, as a name for the group The Band was always a bit on the nose. So someone please tell me why they went for an eponymous release at this point rather than going for The Album or The LP. Well, they didn’t so here we are with their second album: The Band.
It’s been nearly a year since I listened to Music From The Big Pink, which is about the same time that passed between the releases. Where their debut went between genres, The Band is far more fixated on being a roots rock/pre-Americana release. That isn’t by any means calling this album limited in genre; there’s enough variation to keep things interesting.
Let’s take ‘Rag Mama Rag’ for instance. It’s the song that made the most immediate impact on me on the first listen, which might be because it is the most upbeat. There is something about the relentlessly cheerful fiddle and mandolin that makes this song truly sing. Not entirely sure what the song is about, but it feels like it should be something borderline bawdy.
Compare this to ‘Whispering Pines’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ – both slower songs with the latter being one of the more powerful on the album and both having hints of Procal Harum every now and then.
What truly unites the songs on this album are the stories. It’s described as a loose concept album dealing with themes around the more traditional strand of Americana. It goes beyond a more surface treatment showcasing the different facets of a genre, but instead looks more at the people and tells stories of those who would normally be associated.
It’s a different sort of Americana/country rock take than Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Where The Byrds were experimenting and trying to drive this genre forward (essentially giving it a wider audience), The Band were embracing the history and trying to bring to life a genre that was in the process of shifting identities.
What’s the better album? Well I prefer Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but The Band is still a good album. I like this more than Music From The Big Pink though, which would agree with concensus.