NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Country-Rock Pioneer Richie Furay Is Back

His New Heartbeat of Love CD Is a Treasure

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Any of you who were around in the days of the Buffalo Springfield and Poco know that those two groups pioneered country-rock in a very substantial and major way. Along the way, they provided not only some great music but also such very durable talents as Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Timothy B. Schmit, Randy Meisner, Jim Messina and Richie Furay. The latter’s song “Kind Woman” has been called by some the first true country-rock song, but that’s very difficult to quantify.

Furay was a founding member of both bands and later formed the Souther-Hillman-Furay band with J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman. He then went solo, but didn’t find a lot of success, and eventually walked away from popular music to enter the world of Christianity. He began to record inspirational albums and became a minister. Today, he is pastor of the Calvary Chapel church in Broomfield, Colo., near Boulder. I’ll bet the music in that church is something else.

And he has a new country-rock CD out titled The Heartbeat of Love that I think is simply striking. As far as I can tell, it’s only available from his Web site or from Amazon.com, which is where I bought my copy. And I’m glad I did so. It’s a return and a reprise but not at all a repeat of what Furay was doing with his genre-bending bands years ago. For country-rock aficionados, it’s like a shot in the arm.

When he was in Nashville a couple of years ago shooting a Poco DVD, Furay writes in the liner notes for the new album, he was rehearsing “Let’s Dance Tonight” when a friend of the band said it was one of his favorite songs. Furay decided if he ever again recorded what he termed a “mainstream record,” he would re-cut that song.

Well, he did so. He returned to Nashville and began to recruit an all-star stream of stalwart country-rockers to come to Quad Studios to cut The Heartbeat of Love with him. This is who he got: Neil Young, Stephen Stills, the great Nashville bassist Michael Rhodes, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna, Timothy Schmit, sax player Jim Horn, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Willie Nelson’s harp player Mickey Raphael, Sam Bush, Al Perkins, Rusty Young, Dan Dugmore, Pete Wasner, Mark Volman (a member of the Turtles) and many others.

Listening to it is a sort of time rush. Hearing this kind of great music again and realizing it’s not at all dated is something I would never have predicted. His re-recording of “Kind Woman,” with Young playing his Gretsch guitar and singing harmony along with Loggins is goose-bump inducing.

Furay wrote or co-wrote all 12 of the songs, and it’s very evident he’s still got the gift of writing great music. There are lovely, sentimental love songs on the album such as “In the Still of the Night” and full-on, hard-charging, infectious rockers like “You and Me.”

And he’s still in great voice. It’s like he never went away. Hearing his voice again above ringing guitars, soaring fiddle and ice-pick sharp steel guitar is a joyous experience. If I sound like I love this album, you are dead-on right. It’s the best thing I’ve heard this year. Go to his Web site to hear some song samples. You won’t be disappointed.

“Let’s Dance Tonight” finishes the album and it does indeed complete it, very nicely. The Rev. Richie Furay deserves our attention.

Slippin’ away headin’ out to L.A./Gonna sing in the city tonight, tonight/Slippin’ away headin’ out to L.A./Gonna sing in the city tonight/This rock ‘n’ roll feelin’s got my head reelin’/A feelin’ I know that is right/So c’mon let’s dance.