The Everly Brothers: Roots

The Everly Brothers: Roots

The Everly Brothers
Roots
(Collector's Choice)

The context: After racking up a respectable number of hit singles in the early rock 'n' roll era, The Everly Brothers signed a lucrative contract with Warner Brothers in 1960, and made some astonishing, imaginative pop and rock records, striving to keep up with the changing tastes of a pre-Beatles audience and to lead them in some unusual new directions. But then Don and Phil Everly enlisted in the Marines in 1963, and when they returned to music-making in the thick of the British Invasion, most of their fans had moved on, save for the new rock stars, who still idolized them. Re-ensconced in L.A., the Everlys became the godfathers of the burgeoning Sunset Strip and Cosmic Americana scenes, playing club dates where they explored the past and future of the music they helped define.

The greatness: The 1968 "we're still here" record Roots was The Everly Brothers' typically atypical response to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the psychedelic era. It has its trippy moments—and it is a concept album of a kind—but from the snippets of old Everly family radio broadcasts to the spirited reinventions of country-and-western chestnuts like "Mama Tried" and "T For Texas," Roots is first and foremost an attempt to extend country music's relevance to the hippie set. By the time it winds down with Merle Haggard's "Sing Me Back Home" and a medley of "Shady Grove" and "Kentucky," Roots has made a moving plea for the brothers' musical legacy.

Defining song: "I Wonder If I Care As Much" is one of Roots' few Everly Brothers originals, though Don and Phil first recorded it 10 years earlier. The first version was a stately country ballad, but the remake layers snaky guitar feedback and slow, thumping bass while the Everlys practically murmur the lyrics, changing their meaning from the spiteful words of a bitter lover to the philosophical musings of two aging pop icons.

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