What is country funk? Well, that is the first question I asked before I had even listened to a single track off this 2012 compilation. As a style label, country funk has been coined years later probably by the people who conceived this compilation, and musically speaking is meant to encompass a range of different styles including gospel, blues, county, and roots rock which many American artists in the late-60s and early-70s were experimenting with and blending together in their music. At this time, artistic experimentation in music was rife, with many artists mixing things up and crossing over into different musical territories, something you can certainly here on this album with elements of country, gospel, and funk featuring within a single track. So although country funk is not exactly a precise stylistic term musically, and I would argue has been used more so as a selling point for this compilation, the term does a nice job of describing the types of musical merging’s that were taking place in the States during this period.
Aesthetically I would also say the music termed country funk is linked together by the fact that the songs which fall under this umbrella term as witnessed by the material on this compilation tend to have a groove, boogie, and an underlying rawness about them. I would say it is music from the country but with the feel of the city. Spiritually I also think the themes of the songs are coming from a southern perspective, and you can certainly see that in some of the song titles on this album, with things like “Georgia Morning Dew”, “Lucas Was a Redneck” and “Bayou Country”. As for the artists that feature, well they are not big names by any stretch, something that I actually find a good thing and is one of the reasons I find these sorts of stylistically-based compilations quite intriguing, as I come to listen with no real pre-conception of the artists themselves and what sort of music they play. This in itself can often make the listening experience that much more enjoyable. With this in mind, just some of the standouts for me on this compilation included Johnny Adams “Georgia Morning Dew” which is a sort of slide guitar country blues, Bobby Charles “Street People” which has a Band feel to it, the playful kick of Larry Jon Wilson’s “Ohoopee River Bottomland”, the southern soul of Bobbie Gentry’s “He Made a Woman Out of Me”, and finally a storming blues cover of Dr. John’s “Walk on Gilded Splinters” by Johnny Jenkins.
This compilation for me represents a melting pot of those Southern styles of music that were often mixed and molded together into completely new sounds, sounds which came to dominate the music scene of the late 60s and into the 70s. Artists might have been country at heart but were willing to throw in a funk rhythm or bass line, or they might have been a gospel singer but the country came calling. This sort of musical freedom reigned supreme for a slight moment in time there, and for a fleeting second was the norm in the music industry until the corporates of LA came calling and one had to be pigeon-holed into a box to be sold. It is hard to pin country funk down, let alone describe it, so perhaps, in conclusion, it is best to simply acknowledge country funk for what it represents, and that is music which is fun, playful, and experimental. So credit to the folks at Light in the Attic Records for releasing this neat little set, and I certainly look forward to hearing volume two “Country Funk 1967-1974” which itself has just been released.