Poco ‘All Fired Up' (Drifter's Church Productions)
Steel Guitar Hall of Famer Rusty Young is the last original man standing in a group that helped forge the California-style country-rock sound that the Eagles would soar so high with in the '70s. In fact, bassist Randy Meisner left Poco during the recording of its 1969 debut album to later help found the band that made Don Henley rich and famous.
Meanwhile, Poco's fortunes haven't flown so high, with a revolving-door lineup that at one point included another future Eagle, bassist Timothy B. Schmit.
But that was then and this is now, and Poco has never stopped touring through all the personnel changes, although “All Fired Up” is the band's first studio album in 11 years, the 19th in its 45-year existence. And Young is determined to prove the classic Poco sound is still alive and vital.
The good news is he acquits himself beautifully on the opening title track, an upbeat, handclapping reel that fairly sparkles with pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and pitch-perfect harmonies as Young declares “Let's do it all again / Like we did back when / We're all fired up.” Founding drummer George Grantham adds to the heat as special guest percussionist.
New keyboardist Michael Webb adds piano and organ elegance to Young's showpiece brokenhearted ballad “Regret,” which features a soul-stinging electric guitar solo by Young midway through. Current drummer George Lawrence lends an infectious, altered-military/jazz beat to the blues-tinged dobro rocker “A Little Rain,” and bassist Jack Sundrud's melancholy acoustic ballad “Hard Country” is a particular standout.
And in a lighter vein, the band does a pretty fair imitation of Crazy Horse on “Neil Young,” as Rusty Young quashes a longstanding rumor: “Neil Young is not my brother / We hardly know each other.”
Former members Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Paul Cotton may be missed, but with his new partners, Young's carrying on the tradition just fine.
— Gene Triplett