The history of rock is often the history of roads not taken, ideas picked up and then dropped, "side projects" that suggested new horizons that were scarcely explored. With "Blue Ridge Rangers," John Fogerty's first solo album after the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival, he went way into country and gospel, melding a few of his unique musical trademarks, specifically his signal guitar sound and the tight, double-tracked vocal harmonies, into some very traditional songs. One of them, his version of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," was even a hit. His versions of the gospel standard "Workin' on a Building," the countrypolitan standards "She Thinks I Still Care," and "Today I Started Loving You Again," and the half-bluegrass cuts like "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues" are all very tasty.
But CCR was, above all a rock band, and so Fogerty decided, I guess, that he was born to rock. His solo albums since this one are all based on the CCR formula, updated in the 80s and 90s with Fogerty's imitations of his imitator, Bruce Springsteen. Some of it was very good (his next album after this one had the classic "Almost Saturday Night," and the song "Centerfield" is nice), but most of it sounds to my ears very sour and spiteful--albeit for reasons that have been well-documented and are perhaps justified, but also are none of our business. In retrospect, even a lot of CCR is pervaded by a kind of free-floating anger--at bandmates, at the music industry, at audiences, who knows? It's a feeling that limits how much fun you can have listening to them. Fogerty can be kind of a scold.
But not on "Blue Ridge Rangers." This album is a joyous musical treat that sounds like liberation for the artist. A moment in time that should be listened to more today. And a road that maybe Fogerty should be encouraged to take again.