After releasing a couple of excellent albums for Elektra records in 1969, Lonnie Mack moved into production and A&R work. He signed a number of southern blues and country musicians to Elektra, and worked as a session musician. As the 70s began, his days as one of rock & roll's most innovative electric guitarists were a distant memory.
He released a third album for Elektra in 1971. The Hills Of Indiana must have come as quite a shock to those who remembered his blues-rock work of the early 60s, as it saw him move towards a rootsy country-rock sound. It shouldn't have been that unexpected, as both his 1969 albums had featured country material. It certainly was a different sound though, having much in common with the singer-songwriter movement of the time.
It turned out to be a brilliant album. It was produced with Russ Miller, and recorded both at Quadrofonic Sound Studios in Nashville and at Muscle Shoals Sound studios in Alabama. The Muscle Shoals recordings saw him backed the studio team of Roger Hawkins, Barry Beckett, David Hood and Wayne Perkins, and the Nashville recordings featured drummer Kenny Buttrey, pianist David Briggs, bassists Tim Drummond and Norbert Putnam, steel guitarist Lloyd Greene and fiddler Buddy Spicher. Putnam was also responsible for some really lovely string and horn arrangements (it was he and Briggs who owned the studio). Four of the songs were written by his label-mate Don Nix, who he also let sing lead on one of these. There were also covers of songs by Mickey Newbury, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Bill Monroe and others.
This album saw Mack pretty much abandon his role as an flashy lead guitarist. Only three songs featured electric guitar of any note, and for the rest of the album he played some fine acoustic, sharing the spotlight with the other musicians. The focus now was fully on his soulful vocals, which along with the masterful production really brought the material to life, the rootsy instrumentation and the orchestral arrangements combining to give it a unique sense of pastoral grandeur. It was probably never that popular with the fans of Lonnie Mack the guitar hero, and for that reason remains a true obscurity today. It is one of those great albums which has unfortunately fallen through the cracks.
Later in 1971 Elektra Records organised a tour to be led by Mack, featuring many of the musicians he had brought to the label. However days before it was to begin he dropped out, reportedly citing a nightmare he had experienced as the reason. Don Nix took up the role of bandleader, and The Alabama State Troupers went on the road without him. Mack then left L.A., returning to his home in Indiana, and quickly faded into obscurity.
Whatever's Right (1969) <|> Home At Last (1977)
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