November-December 2007


By Terry Roland

richie_0107full.jpgOn first listen to Richie Furay's latest CD, Heartbeat of Love, one may have a hard time hearing his folk influences. As co-founder of the legendary Buffalo Springfield and country-rock pioneers Poco, he is no str anger to originality, innovation and the marriage between traditional and contemporary music. One of the many innovations of his first mainstream release in 25 years is the layer of styles that he has successfully integrated. As in the past, he has provided an innovation of country and rock roots into an original contemporary sound.

The influence of folk music on Richie's music should come as no surprise for those who know his story. He began playing Kingston Trio influenced music in the early 60's in his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. From these roots he graduated to the basket houses of Greenwich Village following in the footsteps of artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton. Richie's musical odyssey in NYC included the formation of the Au Go-Go Singers which included a young Stephen Stills. The Au Go-Go singers were an attempt to follow the success of the New Christy Minstrels. They performed Civil War songs and traditional folk songs with a contemporary flair. The group completed one album before disbanding

Later, through a meeting with Gram Parsons in Greenwich Village, Richie heard the newly born electric sound of The Byrds performing Mr. Tambourine Man. From this moment he fell in love with the blend of folk and rock. This was just a breath away from the merger of country music and rock and the creation of a style of music that would influence and re-shape today's mainstream country music.

Before he left for Los Angeles, Richie met a young, struggling songwriter named Neil Young. Stephen Stills was touring in Canada at the time and had already met Neil while on this tour. During this time Neil Young played a song for Richie called Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing. Richie had the good sense to record this song on an old reel-reel tape deck.  This song would go on to become a Richie Furay signature song with the Buffalo Springfield and during live performances for his solo career. After this, Young and Furay parted company feeling that one day they would meet again. How Stephen Stills and Richie Furay met Neil Young to form The Buffalo Springfield on Sunset Boulelvard in Los Angeles is now a part of rock and roll legend. While The Buffalo Springfield became one of the major innovators of the infant country-rock sounds, their internal battles caused the band to break up pre-maturely within two years; But not without leaving behind a legacy of folk and country influenced rock music that would find them inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thirty years later.

Frustratingly, Richie's next projects, including another seminal country-rock band Poco, never brought him to the level of success that came to Stephen Stills and Neil Young. A brief involvement with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther as The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band would yield one minor Top 40 hit, his own Falling In Love. After leaving this band, Furay embarked on a four year/four album solo career that didn't catch fire in spite of excellent reviews and dynamic live performances due to a lack of corporate record company support. After this Richie Furay left the music scene, but not for good.

Today, he has emerged with Heartbeat of Love, his first mainstream release in 25 years. It is a straight forward country-rock CD with 10 new original songs, co-written with his partners Scott Sellen and Jim Mason, and two well-deserved re-recordings of songs from his Buffalo Springfield and Poco days. From Heartbeat of Love emerges a sound that not only recaptures the sound of his early days in Greenwich Village and the Buffalo Springfield, but advances the long neglected and influential genre of country-rock. While some bands have sold the soul of their music to exclusive deals to with large retailers and morphed into corporate rock, Richie Furay remains an independent artist free to experiment with fresh new approaches to country-rock.

Always trying something new to advance his music and bring something fresh, the CD allows saxophones, mandolin, fiddles, rock guitars, drums and electric bass to play side by side. The sound of acoustic guitars are always present as a foundation for the variety of instruments. The remarkable part of this approach is the total integration of the three major musical influences on this artist that brings together and builds on his musical history with folk, country and rock. The blend has never been better than on this CD.

And to top it off, Richie's vocals are fresh, energetic, passionate and sound like he's still 22. At age 63, this is quite a feat. His voice is widely recognized as one of the best of the classic rock era. Heartbeat of Love serves as a reminder as to why this is not an exaggeration.

While the material on the CD is consistently first-rate throughout, there are some stand-out tracks which must be mentioned. The opening track, Forever With You, begins with an acapella three-part harmony vocal provided by Richie, his daughter Jesse and The Dirt Band's Jeff Hanna. It then kicks into a full-blown country-rock celebration of devoted love.   It's a fine introduction to what is to follow. The title track, Heartbeat of Love is richly layered country-rock at it's best. The song features Poco's Paul Cotton and session man Dan Dugmore who provides guitar work throughout the CD. Dean's Barbecue is the most stellar and straight forward country song on the CD featuring Mickey Raphel on harmonica, Rusty Young on dobro, Al Perkins on guitar and Richie's partner, Scott Sellen on banjo. Calling Out Your Name is song of desperate love featuring Stephen Stills on background vocals.

The two songs chosen for re-recording are Kind Woman from The Buffalo Springfield and Let's Dance Tonight, a Poco song. Both songs provide high points on this CD. Kind Woman features Neil Young on backing vocals and Gretch guitar and Kenny Loggins on background vocals. The song has been called the beginning of Poco and one of the songs that started the country-rock movement. It is interesting to contrast the 1968 version with this new production. The first version has the feel of a soulful, new-found love while the new version resonates with the depth of a love that has grown through the years. The truth of the new version of "Kind Woman" is the feeling that through the struggles that most couples face, his marriage has endured and grown.It could be said that the song, written about his wife Nancy of 40 years, has deepened because of a commitment held steadfast through the years. This is a rare thing in today's culture

Let's Dance Tonight is a Poco song from 1973. This version is performed with a passion and focus that is only hinted at in the original recording. It's no wonder that the genesis of Heartbeat of Love was the suggestion of a friend in Nashville that he re-record this song. Let's Dance Tonight features bluegrass great, Sam Bush on mandolin and fiddle

Since Heartbeat of Love is an independent project, it is available through Richie's website, It is also available through Amazon and Friday Music ( ). For a more in-depth look at the journey Richie Furay has been through over the last 40 years, I would recommend reading For What It's Worth: The Story Buffalo Springfield by John Einarson and Richie Furay and Pickin' Up the Pieces by Richie Furay and Michael Roberts. To find out what Richie has been up to over the last 25 years read the My Story section of the same website told in his own words. The Richie Furay story is a journey of the magic of music, the success, the frustration, the pitfalls of fame, and ultimately the redemption of this legendary pioneer of American music who has earned a place in both rock and country music history.

Terry Roland is an English teacher free-lance writer, occasional poet, songwriter and folk & country enthusiast. The music is in his blood since he was raised in Texas, but came to California where he was taught to say, 'dude' at an early age.