The legacy of cult-hero Gram Parsons dominates the conventional history of country rock. There exists this myth: Parsons single-handedly taught the Eagles -- and by extension the world -- the desert-dry joys of weepy pedal steels, soaring harmonies, and chiming guitars.
"Glenn Frey sat in my living room when I was rehearsing Poco in 1969," explains singer and guitarist Richie Furay. "Glenn obviously picked up on some things."
As a founding member of Buffalo Springfield and later Poco, Furay not only spread the country-rock gospel; he helped author the fargin' book. The music's touchstones, including dobro, can be heard on "A Child's Claim to Fame," Furay's 1967 cut for the Buffalo Springfield Again LP.
Even better is Furay's work for Poco, including a string of good to great records in the early '70s. Although Poco moved more units than Parsons, the band failed to sate Furay's Eagles-like appetite for commercial success.
Furay blames a lack of label support and the band's ever-shifting lineup. But Poco never embraced radio-friendly boredom like the Eagles; the band dug experimentation too much. Compare "Hotel California" and the title track to the 1974 LP Crazy Eyes, a nine-minute rural symphony Poco dedicated to Parsons, who died the year before. Where the Eagles sound borderline comatose, Furay and company throb with a mountainous fusion of bombastic prog, tender soul, and cosmic America. Hell, they even tossed a prickly banjo into the mix.
Living outside Denver in the Colorado foothills, Furay -- now a pastor -- splits his time between his church, called Calvary Chapel, and his new group, which features his daughter -- singer Jesse Furay Lynch.
While the band's current tour spotlights older material, expect a smattering of sacred numbers and selections from 2006's Heartbeat of Love, Furay's latest solo disc. It contains a rendition of "Kind Woman," one of the great country-soul tunes of all time, that blows away the Springfield's original.