Review by: Spencer Lewis          

Sisco & Pals the End of the Trail  (Frederick Productions 2006)

How do you write a review of a CD by an artist who hasn't picked up a guitar since 1984? Well....ya just listen...and for me -- remember.  Remember that Gary Sisco had a great set of music and because there
sometimes is  justice in this world:  this CD has found the light of day.  Gary Sisco was a musical protégé and drinking buddy of his two musical mentors:  the late Jeffrey Fredrick -- "the best barroom rocker and crooner ever"  -- and the off-center genius, cult folksinger Michael Hurley. Ya can't understand *The End of the Trail* without knowing these direct musical roots and also for putting these two aforementioned musicians' careers in a special place in the musical history of the State of Vermont -- if there is such a thing. Their highest watermark on a national scale was the album "HaveMoicy!" (Rounder Records) which teamed them with The Unholy Modal Rounders and landed on rock critic Robert Cristgau's *Village Voice* list of the 10 best albums of 1976.  Sisco later played drums and wandered with Hurley in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, California, Massachusetts and
Vermont, and also rambled with Frederick while residing and playing in roadhouses in northern Nevada and all across the west. Hippie barroom rockers, all, in that delicate era of the 70's when flower power met sour mash bourbon.Vermont. This band was a great vehicle for his song writing and gravely baritone voice. But he also had a busker's sensibility from his many years as a musician hobo before and after a four-year stint in the Vietnam Era armed services, and this provides the backdrop for some of his tenderest material

The opener "Gypsy Bill" is just such a story song, featuring the hard realities and sweet poetry of the road and the amazing, dancing mandolin licks of Will Patton. "If Your Ridin' Next to Me" is another road ballad with "country radio" lyrics, a slow-driving piano part, and a cacaphony of three fiddles played by each not knowing the other was playing on the song -- which kinda works -- most of the time. The album takes a turn for the bluegrass with the spoken banjo of Gordon Stone and Patton's mando in a Robert Wilkins' song "Jim Canaans."  "Settle For a Ramber" is another folk road piece, played with that classic folk-rock rhythm acoustic guitar but now introduces the slinky electric guitar riffs so vital for gettin' over in the bars.  "The End of the Trail" is just such a song that has that infectious, rockin', 'throw life to the wind' approach that -- with drums, bass, and a belly full of rum -- you could dance your cares away to in whatever honky tonk Sisco was playing:  "So won't ya take me back out to The End of the Trail/
I'm tired of this Rollin' Rock n' Molson's Ale/I want to sit and drink Mextaxa 'till I fall on my ass/and my eyes glaze over like a smallmouth bass.

"Missoula" captures the longing of the road with a love song to the Montana city that provided a respite for the young old rambler:  "You know Missoula was the first place comin' back from the war/ where I found some peace/now I need some more/I'm gonna leave this 'ole cowtown/leave the key in the door/love song" to the Montana city that provided a respite for the young

 

 

 

 

old rambler:  "You know Missoula was the first place comin' back from the war/ where I found some peace/now I need some more/I'm gonna leave this 'ole cowtown/leave the key in the door/and go back to Missoula once more."  Sisco covers Hurley's great "Whiskey Willey" and a forlorn homage to his other musical mentor in "Talkin' About the Clamtones"  (Jeffrey Frederick's band) -- which sounds like it was recorded in a western bar.
The CD closes with the gem "I Don't Know" that reveals the hard-earned wisdom of life's changes and in its final verse offers a hard farewell to a friend killed in Vietnam. 
 

These songs were rescued from cassette tapes in shoeboxes and under car seats then mastered with today's amazing technology -- you would think they were all studio takes save for the barroom talking on two live cuts. But most importantly  they are the
legacy of one human soul's musical life that made his mark on several corners of the world when these folk-country-rock hippies were young and livin' hard -- playin' for a livin', the love of the music and each other, and a passion for the times they were livin' in -- and it's still a great set of music.

 

Tune: Gypsy Bill from Sisco & Pals

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