(L-R) Riley Watkins, Jim Snead, Gary Stewart
The late Gary Stewart was a true-blue country artist, the nasal-twanged voice behind “Single Again,” “She’s Acting Single (And I’m Drinking Doubles),” and other hardcore honky-tonk gems.
Before he grabbed Nashville’s attention with those whiskey-soaked beauties, though, he earned early chops as a member of upstart country-rock band Riley, named after the band’s leader, Riley Watkins.
Riley released just one under-the-radar album, Grandma’s Roadhouse, in 1971, which has since been unearthed and reissued by Delmore Recordings.
Grandma’s Roadhouse is all grease and grits, moonshine and leafy-green dreams (see “Field of Green”), so it’s curious to learn it was recorded at Bradley’s Barn, home of the clean-cut Nashville Sound (Stewart worked there as an engineer’s assistant). Riley and pals had wide musical taste and weren’t afraid to let it show. Or to blur the lines: The songs here are a fresh, impassioned mix of swamp blues and hippie honky tonk swirled with redneck rock ‘n roll and even some folk-inspired harmonies (see again “Field of Green”). It’s also amazingly well recorded, sporting sharp guitar playing and some truly catchy melodies. Drink it up and kick on back.