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On The Right Track: Demick and Armstrong’s Lost Country-Rock Classic Reissued By RPM

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Rod Demick may be best-known as a top sideman, serving with such talent as Screaming Lord Sutch, Dr. John, The Strawbs and the David Essex Band.  Herbie Armstrong has had a similarly long career, playing with Van Morrison and film composer Mark Isham, co-founding the band Fox, and even entering Britain’s Got Talent as a contestant.  But Demick and Armstrong have shared a long association, dating back to their days in the clubs of Belfast where they played alongside Morrison and his early band, Them.  Demick and Armstrong’s 1971 album Little Willie Ramble, recorded at London’s Trident Studios for Gordon Mills’ MAM label, made a splash in 1971.  It was greeted by acclaim from BBC Radio One as well as the music press.  But Demick and Armstrong were destined to take second place at MAM to Gilbert O’Sullivan, and their contract was bought out by A&M.  Their lone album, Little Willie Ramble,  disappeared without a trace, but now this unique blend of country, rock and pop has been reissued as a expanded edition by Cherry Red’s RPM Records label.

Little Willie Ramble is one of the major landmarks of the partnership between Rod Demick and Herbie Armstrong.  Before teaming up for the LP, the duo issued three singles in the 1960s for Columbia as The Wheels.  (These songs are available from Big Beat Records on Belfast Beat Maritime Blues!)  According to Armstrong in John Reed’s detailed liner notes for this reissue, Van Morrison himself almost joined The Wheels as lead singer before Bert Berns spirited him away to America to sign with Bang Records!  Demick and Armstrong pressed onward after the dissolution of The Wheels, placing compositions as songwriters with other artists, touring with the colorful Screaming Lord Sutch, and attempting fame on their own as The James Brothers.  (Ironically, neither had the name of James!)

Hit the jump to explore Little Willie Ramble!  We’ve also got a full track listing and order link for you! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

May 7, 2012 at 12:19