By Dennis Roger Reed

flying_burritos_last_of_th_300.jpg Hot on the heels of the Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 release last autumn comes this import re-release of Last of the Red Hot Burritos, featuring a remarkably different Flying Burrito Brothers. These tunes were recorded live at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1972.

The Flying Burrito Brothers band on Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 consisted of lead vocalist/writer Gram Parsons; Chris Hillman vocalist, writer and guitarist; Chris Ethridge writer and bass player; Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar and Mike Clarke on drums. By 1972, FBB personnel had been altered remarkably, and the direction of the band had altered as well.

  Parsons was a deeply flawed genius, and his interest in the Burritos had waned by the second record Burrito Deluxe, and he began missing practices, recording sessions and gigs. Eventually he was fired from his own band. Ethridge was gone before Deluxe and Hillman had moved to bass. The band on Last of the Red Hot Burritos consists of Hillman on bass and vocals, Rick Roberts on vocals and guitar; Mike Clarke remains on drums; Al Perkins plays pedal steel and Kenny Wertz was on acoustic guitar and banjo. The recording features two guests, fiddler Bryon Berline and acoustic bassist Roger Bush. With the addition of banjo player Alan Munde, Wertz, Berline and Bush became Country Gazette. This version of the FBB had a decidedly bluegrass bent, with an acoustic mini-set highlighting not only Berline's hot fiddle and Wertz's banjo chops, but also Hillman more than holding his own on mandolin. According to Pete Frame's "Byrds of a Feather" family tree, both Berline and Bush were actual members of FBB #6, the last of the "original" groups. Once Hillman left, Frame counted the group as over, although different incarnations actually lasted into this century.

The FBB on Last of the Red Hot Burritos repertoire included FBB standards like Devil in Disguise; bluegrass tunes like Don't Let Your Deal Go Down; and indulges in the FBB's love of rock and roll with Wake Up Little Susie. Much like Gram Parsons & The Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, this version of the FBB is best served on their originals. Last of the Red Hot Burritos finds Hillman as the main vocalist. Wertz and Roberts add impressive harmony on many of the numbers, and take lead verses or choruses. My Uncle fares well in a more country rock version. Both One Hundred Years From Now and Hot Burrito #2 are truly moving, considering that Hillman was estranged from Parsons and these were Parsons' songs. Parsons' Hot Burrito#2 is an incredible performance on FBB's first album, Gilded Palace of Sin, but Hillman's version with Roberts' and Wertz's more "Eagles-like" harmonies is equally creative. Perkins uses Kleinow's original solo and feel as a template, but makes the song his own. The three bluegrass numbers are surprisingly traditional in feel, though Country Gazette would be known as a pretty cutting edge outfit. Hillman gets to play country, old time rock and roll, and he gets to play mandolin with a great bluegrass group. A pretty good deal for him, and for the most part, a pretty good deal for the listener when Last of the Red Hot Burritos comes out of the speakers...

Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He's released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard's and Paul Simon's revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.