Country rock came into its own in the late 60s and on through the mid 70s, with artists like Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Poco, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, The Eagles and even ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith contributing to the genre. One of the best albums to come out of this era is Dillard & Clark’s 1968 release The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark. The group was founded by Gene Clark, a former member of The Byrds (no strangers themselves to the country rock sound) and Doug Dillard, who had just left his family’s bluegrass outfit, The Dillards. They recorded the album with some talented collaborators, including guitarist Bernie Leadon, who later went on to join The Eagles, and bassist Chris Hillman, who had also been a member of The Byrds. Hillman and Leadon would help form The Flying Burrito Brothers, another well regarded and highly influential country rock band.
The album is awash with the sounds of banjo, fiddle and organ, and features some incredible songs, including the opening track “Out On The Side,” and “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” which was later covered by The Eagles during Leadon's stint with that group. Other notable tunes include the haunting “She Darked The Sun,” and Clark's melancholy “Why Not Your Baby?” which is included as a bonus track on the CD version of the disc. The inspired songwriting by Clark, Dillard and Leadon, their stellar playing and achingly beautiful harmonies all combine to make this album a high watermark for the genre. The group recorded one more record together, 1969's Through The Morning, Through The Night. That sophomore release leans even more heavily toward the country and bluegrass side of the road. It wasn’t as well-received as their debut, but there are still some great songs to be found, including the title track and outstanding covers of The Everly Brothers classic “So Sad” and The Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down.” On both of these albums, you can hear the lasting influences these incredible musicians would have on modern artists who have visited these wide-ranging soundscapes in their own careers.
Sadly, Gene Clark died in 1991, and Doug Dillard passed away in 2012. But they left behind a musical legacy that still enchants listeners and fans to this day. I first discovered The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark in the 1990s when I was going through a major Byrds listening phase, and it has remained a favorite of mine. If you’re a fan of country-flavored rock, which has seen a resurgence in recent years with the success of groups like The Avett Brothers, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons and The Zac Brown Band, you owe it to yourself to check out the album. It’s truly an aural journey worth taking. Both Dillard & Clark albums are available on a "two-fer" CD which can be found on Amazon and other online sites. Here are links to the songs “Why Not Your Baby?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JqEuUEHxCk and "She Darked The Sun" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O9QENNNPwQ.