Reviewed by Lee Nichols, Fri., July 16, 2010
Blaze FoleySittin' by the Road (Lost Art)
The legend of Blaze Foley continues. True to the scattered way Austin's Duct Tape Messiah lived his too-short life – cut short by a gunshot in 1989 – the low-tech recordings on Sittin' by the Road were left at a friend's house in Georgia three decades ago and are only now seeing the light of day. Recorded on a reel-to-reel back when Foley lived in a tree house in the Peach State (see "Faded Love," Oct. 31, 2008), they offer the earliest known audio of the songwriting talent that in life attracted Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and posthumously made John Prine and Lyle Lovett into fans. He had a tendency to rush in those days; "Big Cheeseburgers & Good French Fries," for example, is too uptempo, inferior to the laid-back version on Oval Room. In fact, these tapes create the feeling Foley was in an experimental stage with these then-new songs, still searching for the right feel. A sharp exception is "Cold, Cold World," which he delivers in fully realized brilliance. "If I Could Only Fly" (also on this disc) may be the calling card that captured Haggard's ear, but I assert that "Cold, Cold World" is Foley's masterpiece. For the completist, there are three songs here that appear nowhere else: The title track and "The Way You Smile" aren't particularly special, although "Smile" hints at his later mastery of the melancholy, but "Fat Boy" perfectly captures his weird sense of humor. Sittin' by the Road will never be heard as essential Foley – it's hard to describe anything he ever did as "polished," but his later recordings appear so by comparison – but it's a welcome complement to the collections of existing fans.