Review Summary: A great album to hunt, fish, dip, watch NASCAR, or perform any other stereotypical Southern activity to, as well as a great album to listen to in general.
One of my recent acquisitions to my iTunes library was an album I had heard since my youth. I don’t know what tempted me to even begin looking for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bayou Country, but I’m glad it did. As soon as I heard the opening notes of Born on the Bayou, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia of a brand of Classic Rock unlike any other, and that is truly what Creedence Clearwater Revival is. They are an inherently classic rock band that possesses a sound unlike any other.
Now the roots of Southern Swamp Rock are extremely deep, spawning with the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Even still, Johnson’s style of blues was downtrodden and, well, bluesy. Creedence, 30 years later, took that formula of blues and added in the contemporary style of rock and psychedelia to make a swamp rock sound that would later be developed by more successful bands such as The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I would be hard pressed to say Bayou Country is Creedence’s best work, but there is no denying its quality as well as the significance in the development of this classic southern rock band.
The album opens extremely nicely, with the classic and memorable track, Born on the Bayou. A layer of ambience opens the album, but after about only 5-10 seconds of this, John Fogerty strikes the first notes of this song. With a certain triumphant and groovy, yet absolutely bluesy sound, and lyrics regarding a man’s childhood on a Southern bayou, the song the epitome of swamp rock, and probably the objective best song on the album. However this is not the album’s height, to kick off the album with the highlight would be irresponsible of Creedence. No, the highlight of this album is Penthouse Pauper, an undeniably groovy song where Fogerty really steals the show. His voice dominates all, with his distinct rasp overwhelming the backing band, only barely upstaging his bluesy wails on the guitar. Penthouse Pauper is truly innovative and wonderful song that I may even declare Creedence’s best.
However, this album is not without its flaws. Songs like Graveyard Train and Keep on Chooglin’ seem to drag for far too long. Even still, they are decent songs not worth skipping, they just aren’t up to par with the rest of the songs on here. Their only true flaw is that they are a tad too long for their worth. There are certain sections in Graveyard Train that are wonderful, and add a great element of slow, bluesy, droning tones. But to a certain extent, aimless jamming grows tiresome. Keep on Chooglin’ has it a little worse. This song’s greatness lies in the sections of jamming. It is truly the other sections that are annoying. The verses are terrible, and the vocals are quite annoying at times. The song tries to be more upbeat than it deserves to be, especially for a band like Creedence.This problem is also quite apparent in Good Golly Miss Molly. Even though it is very much a Creedence song, it also has an air about it that is very bothersome.
Bootleg and Proud Mary are songs that are in a different vein than the others. The former is a great song in its own right, but not quite up to par with Born on the Bayou or Penthouse Pauper. It begins with an acoustic guitar strumming with a wonderful timbre about it, and as Fogerty sings through the song, his guitar answers with an appropriate response of bluesy passages. The latter is a radio favorite, and I could see why. Even though it is a great song, it follows the verse chorus verse pattern that grows tiresome after awhile. Fogerty’s voice is also quite strong on this track, adding to its appeal. Though these two are not quite the best on the album, they are still great tracks independently, and definitely worth listening to when taking in this album as a whole.
Though often overlooked while in their prime, Creedence Clearwater Revival were truly an innovative band with their own distinct style that owed itself much to John Fogerty. His distinct raspy tone in his voice was truly unlike any other, and his style on the guitar fit the music perfectly. Even though Creedence went on to make bigger and better albums after Bayou Country, this remains a landmark release by the legendary swamp rock group, a necessary acquisition for any fan, and a truly great album in its own right.