After joining The Byrds for one legendary album in 1967 (“Sweetheart of the Rodeo”) and singlehandedly turning them into a country band (the first major rock act to do so), restless singer/songwriter Gram Parsons moved on.
When I first heard the band’s name I thought it was a joke. Now I consider the band’s 1969 debut album “The Gilded Palace of Sin” to be one of the greatest country albums ever recorded. If you were to remove the last track (a novelty number with its heart in the right place but unlistenable after the first time), this album would be perfect in every way.
The song that stands out the most on this album has a title almost as silly as the name of the band: “Hot Burrito #1.” (It’s so silly that when Elvis Costello covered it on “Almost Blue”,” he changed the title to “I’m Your Toy.”)
With Parsons, bassist Chris Ethridge co-wrote the heartbreaking “Hot Burrito #1” and “Hot Burrito #2” (the latter being a more uptempo romp, covered by Dinosaur Jr. at one point) as well. Listen to it now. The melodic pedal steel guitar from “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow is just sublime, but it’s Parsons’ impassioned vocal delivery that sells the tune.
Ethridge said of Parsons, “He had a soulful, almost ‘help me’ voice. He had a voice that when he would sing it was almost like he was asking for help…” Listen to the tune again and hear that fragile and imperfect voice crack a couple of times.
Listen one more time and pay attention to the insightful lyrics. Gram also had a penchant for cutting through the bullshit. He’s heartbroken and bitter. She’s moved on and it’s not fair. But that sounds petty as described just now
The opening line says it way better: “You may be sweet and nice, but that won’t keep you warm at night/’Cause I’m the one who showed you how to do the things you’re doing now.”