The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

More of The Byrds

Two stunning sides — a Red Label side one and a 360 side two! The instruments here have more texture, the bass has more weight and the soundfield has more depth than on any other sides we played in our shootout. Pull together enough copies and you might find one this good, but based on our experience you’ll face some pretty long odds finding any that can compete with this.

We’ve been trying to find good sounding copies of this great album for ages, but that is no easy task. For one thing, it’s not an easy album to find in clean condition, and for another, most copies we do find just don’t sound all that good. We had a big shootout this week and were thrilled to finally hear what a serious pressing can do. The sound on side two is natural, realistic and lifelike with excellent presence and tons of energy.

The album features Gram Parsons leading the Byrds deep into country territory, paving the way for much of the country-flavored rock that ruled the charts in the early ’70s. The All Music Guide gives it a Five Star Rave Review, and I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there who think that it somehow should have rated even higher!


Side One

You Ain’t Going Nowhere 
I Am a Pilgrim 
The Christian Life 
You Don’t Miss Your Water 
You’re Still on My Mind 
Pretty Boy Floyd

Side Two

Hickory Wind 
One Hundred Years From Now 
Blue Canadian Rockies 
Life in Prison 
Nothing Was Delivered

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo was not the first important country-rock album (Gram Parsons managed that feat with the International Submarine Band’s debut Safe at Home), and the Byrds were hardly strangers to country music, dipping their toes in the twangy stuff as early as their second album.

But no major band had gone so deep into the sound and feeling of classic country (without parody or condescension) as the Byrds did on Sweetheart; at a time when most rock fans viewed country as a musical “L’il Abner” routine, the Byrds dared to declare that C&W could be hip, cool, and heartfelt.

Though Gram Parsons had joined the band as a pianist and lead guitarist, his deep love of C&W soon took hold, and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman followed his lead; significantly, the only two original songs on the album were both written by Parsons (the achingly beautiful “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years from Now”), while on the rest of the set classic tunes by Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers, and Woody Guthrie were sandwiched between a pair of twanged-up Bob Dylan compositions.

While many cite this as more of a Gram Parsons album than a Byrds set, given the strong country influence of McGuinn’s and Hillman’s later work, it’s obvious Parsons didn’t impose a style upon this band so much as he tapped into a sound that was already there, waiting to be released. If the Byrds didn’t do country-rock first, they did it brilliantly, and few albums in the style are as beautiful and emotionally affecting as this.