Songwriter John D. Loudermilk called it quits this past week at the age of 82. But man was he a master of songcraft, of disguised defiance and blinky humor, and building on the musical bones that'd come before him. In fact, the kickass-named Loudermilk is known for many oddball things in song, but not for this Hoyt Axton-helmed ’69 Nashville masterpiece, The Open Mind of John D. Loudermilk, one of a handful of albums he recorded for RCA/Victor in the ’60s. It's a mad pastiche of psych, straight-up country, pop, protest folk, with sitar drones and big-band nods and lots of plucky acoustics, as well as a treasure-trove of beat philosophies, well-sketched characters and swampy epistles to bizarre loves (including a graveyard romp).
My fave among faves here is “The Jones’.” In the album’s notes, Loudermilk writes that he penned the tune “for those who fall for Madison Avenue ‘truth,’ Haight-Ashbury ‘freedom’ and Washington D.C., 'advice and assistance.'” He nailed it too. The song's a perfect little pop parable that Tim Hardin could’ve written, with sweet dynamic shifts, panning backup vocals, and a gentle acoustic guitar that builds to a chorus that’s as a sugary a protest as you’ll likely ever hear.
In honor of J.D. Loudermilk, we say goodnight, brilliant sir, and sweet dreams.
**If you can the find the Omni Recording Corporation’s beautiful 2007 reissue of this album, it features restored audio straight off the master tape reels, as well the album John D. Loudermilk Sings A Bizarre Collection of the Most Beautiful Songs, plus his versions of songs he wrote that others had hits with including the ubiquitous “Tobacco Road,” “Indian Reservation” (called “The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian”) and “The Little Bird” (and seek out Marianne Faithful’s tender version).