Mickey Newbury “Looks Like Rain”
Mickey Newbury’s 1969 release Looks Like Rain is one of the best singer songwriter country folk albums ever. It’s that rare thing of beauty, a perfect album, and could also be considered the outlaw movement’s very own Astral Weeks. Looks Like Rain is more of a folk record than Newbury’s later lps and similar to the Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Townes Van Zandt, and Fred Neil confessionals.
This highly desirable lp occasionally pops up on ebay though it’s somewhat hard to get and was recently reissued on cd (1998) as part of the Mickey Newbury Collection from Mountain Retreat (box set). Newbury along with contemporaries Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson stayed true to C&W’s traditions while adding a unique, sophisticated spin on songwriting and an emotional reach that was new to the music. Newbury’s importance to the world of Americana is still strong and deeply felt, and Looks Like Rain would be known as his first major work (his debut lp is solid and worth owning though more of a country baroque psych lp!).
One song off the above album, T. Total Tommy, clearly had commercial potential with delicate harpsichord and a catchy chorus. Each song is linked by the sound of rain and many of these tracks have clever arrangements and brilliant studio effects. The chimes and electric guitar on Write A Song A Song create an intimate atmosphere that is peerless. This is a quiet album for sure, a very personal statement that finds Newbury in superb voice, writing excellent lyrics and sounding down and out. I Don’t Think About Her No More, 33rd of August, and San Fransisco Mabel Joy are country folk masterpieces of the highest order. Every detail and nuance is so precise and well thought out, everything from the sitars that grace Mabel Joy to the distorted vocals that briefly highlight 33rd of August. The latter song has gorgeous Newbury vocals that are similar to Happy Sad era Tim Buckley.
While the studio production is a rare work of genuis and will catch your ear first, Looks Like Rain’s stories will eventually penetrate your heart and soul. It’s a very deep lp and Newbury’s tales speak of freedom, death, depression, failure, love, and happiness. This is definitely a must for country and folk fans and will proudly stand next to any of the best singer songwriter albums you care to name.
“I Don’t Think Much About Her No More”
“An American Trilogy” Mickey Newbury