Thursday, November 7, 2013
Mike O' Roark and the Free Born Men How Do You Like It So Far? Big K Records
This LP was put out by Big K Records in Kansas City. The label is a bit of unknown, likely due to the fact that there isn't as big of an interest in obscure country as there is rock n' roll, but they put out a bunch of vinyl regionally in their day. The label focused on rural sounds in the Kansas and Missouri area and was located in Kansas City, Missouri.
This LP was typical of the label's releases. Focused around traditional country and bluegrass. During a time when Nashville was focusing on Countrypolitain, there were labels like Big K trying to provide people the traditional stuff. All the players are native to the Kansas City area according to the back sleeve and even features a 15 year old on the stand up bass, Mitch O'Roark, who is obviously the band leader's younger brother.
The concern I always have for regional country is the fact that it was regional to Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma; y'know the middle states, which means a lot of this stuff can tend to be drenched in Jesus and influenced by the Ozark and Branson scenes. Good news about this LP is it suffers only slightly from the Ozark scene. None of that hillbilly Ozark Mountain crap though, there's no fiddle (well, truth be told, one song features it), but no spoons or washboards, just stringed instruments. Also, there's no religion which is always a huge plus in my book (not that I mind the occasional gospel tune, but, when they start with their originals on the subject, fuck, I don't have time for that).
Overall, I'm not enough of bluegrass, old-time expert to know if this a long lost gem. What I can say with authority is that it's rooted in traditional bluegrass and old-time music. No original tunes by Mr. O'Roark, but he's credited for the arrangements. It is an interesting Kansas City nugget for sure. Also, "the Free Born Men" is clearly a reference to being from Kansas and not Missouri, right? Points for that.