Side 1, Track 2: Prodigal’s Return
“Some of Shelly’s Blues” was the first of three uptempo, driving tunes that launch Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy with an energy that may have been present in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s live shows but had never been heard on vinyl until now.
Much like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band three years earlier, the songs on Uncle Charlie were packed more tightly together than the average album of the 1960s – remember the record didn’t even seem to possess the usual visible spaces between tracks. So, no sooner did “Some of Shelly’s Blues” fade away than we were greeted by a growling harmonica, a rolling rock drumbeat, and a thumping electric bass that led into a more purely rock song called “Prodigal’s Return.”
The first of four songs on this album co-written by a newcomer named Kenny Loggins, this tune has a distinct 1960s psychedelic rock feel, with the electric guitar and bass leading the way in a story of “18 years of total revolution come riding down the road.”
The guitar solo and climax of the song are treated with a heavy phasing effect, and the impact of the first two songs combined was to declare that the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was simultaneously redefining itself and defying any effort to define it by genre.
Were they a country-rock band? Were they straight-ahead rockers? Was this psychedelia? What happened to the jug band? Stay tuned …
Side 1, Track 3: The Cure
OK, now, here’s that banjo again, and a straight-up chicka-chicka country-style electric guitar, trading leads in a third consecutive energetic song that opens this album with an enthusiastic bang, bang, bang. Now we know this band may do some rocking but it won’t stray from bluegrass-country roots for very long.
Well I know your little games and I don’t wanna play
It’s like takin’ sick when nobody knows the cure
Written by lead singer and guitarist Jeff Hanna, “The Cure” is the first song on Uncle Charlie that comes to an actual close after two songs that faded out. The effect is like finally stopping to rest after a good hard sprint.