Act: The Long Ryders
Venue: Oran Mor, Glasgow
Date: 27 October 2019
On a cold autumn night, the faithful gathered under a spire to hail the return of The Long Ryders, last seen in Glasgow in 2004, when they lit up King Tut’s with their own special brand of jingly-jangly Americana. They were now out on tour to promote Psychedelic Country Soul, their first new album for three decades.
The Long Ryders began life as a band back in 1981, and have had more comebacks than Frank Sinatra, breaking up at least three times between then and now. They were formed in Los Angeles, California, when Sid Griffin left his punk band The Unclaimed after having bonded musically with former Boxboys drummer Greg Sowders at a jam session in Silverlake. The other guitar player, Stephen McCarthy, a country music lover new to L.A. stepped in after answering a ‘Musician Wanted’ ad in a local Korean free newspaper. They eventually found the right bass player after a few false starts, when Indiana’s own Tom Stephens signed up for the band.
While most of the rest of the world were listening to, or creating eighties synth rock, the Ryders were bashing out their own brand of punk mixed in with electric folk and country. The band have been described as the founders of the genre ‘Alt Country’, and helped inspire various acts including The Jayhawks, Uncle Tupelo and Lucinda Williams.
Oran Mor as a music venue came about as a result of the conversion of a well known church in the West End of Glasgow into a centre for entertainment, and it was made for nights like the return of The Ryders. It’s just the right size to accommodate the five hundred souls who packed the auditorium, creating the noisy, vibrant atmosphere of a big crowd, without losing the warmth and intimacy which only smaller rooms can provide.
The audience, as is usual in Glasgow, gave good-natured encouragement to the support act, Hannah Rose Platt, before preparing themselves for the arrival of the Ryders.
As that time drew nearer, the buzz of excitement grew, and the air crackled with anticipation of what was to come.
The dimming of the lights heralded the appearance on stage of the boys themselves, swiftly followed by the first big, bouncy chords of Gunslinger Man. The Ryders have a sound which is uniquely theirs, but elements of The Byrds, The Clash, Gram Parsons and Tom Petty can be heard in their songs, particularly when given the live treatment.
The band doesn’t really have a ‘front man’ , as Stephen, Tom and Sid take it in turn to provide lead vocals, but it was hard to take your eyes off Sid. He bounced around and wore the expression of someone who is living every word of every song, and can’t think of a place he would rather be, than up there on that stage. Stephen and Tom are also supremely talented musicians and songwriters, swapping guitar for bass from time to time when the song required.
All too soon, the pulsating ninety minute set came to a close with a suitably raucous version of Lights of Downtown, however the boys didn’t need too much persuasion to come back out and wow the crowd with Psychedelic Country Soul and Looking for Lewis and Clark, which was accompanied with great gusto by everyone in the room. Sid then came back out on his own and sang an a capella version of I belong to Glasgow, which further delighted the audience.
What a great way to bring the night to a close and, after this performance, let’s hope it’s not another fifteen years before the Ryders are back to thrill their fans again with a visit to ‘Dear Old Glasgow Town’.