Mickey NewburyCountry Singer-Songwriter
Often-underappreciated early Nashville rebel.
Mickey Newbury's two best-known songs are, it must be said, pure kitsch: one of the struggling Music Row songwriter's first major hits was Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's psychedelic-country epic "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," much later immortalized in a beloved dream sequence in The Big Lebowski. In the early '70s, the sweaty-jumpsuit-era Elvis Presley made Newbury's "An American Trilogy" (in his own hands, a sensitive medley of "Dixie," the slave spiritual "All My Trials" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") the overblown and mawkish centerpiece of his Vegas act. But on his own, Mickey Newbury is a key figure in the growth of the alt-country sound. After an abortive late-'60s attempt at traditional Nashville stardom shepherded by countrypolitan king Felton Jarvis for RCA Victor, Newbury took control of his own career, releasing three classic concept albums (gathered in 2011 by Drag City Records as the box set An American Trilogy) that sound like a fusion of Nick Drake's hushed intimacy and Willie Nelson's Nashville iconoclasm. Though he was one of the original country music rebels -- Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, David Allen Coe and Townes Van Zandt among the many younger songwriters he gave early career boosts to -- Newbury's laconic edge and taste for sweeter production than the 1970s outlaws' rockier edge have left him underappreciated by many, although contemporary singer-songwriters like Will Oldham and Bill Callahan are unstinting in their praise.
|Mickey Newbury: Critical Connections|