Rusty Young is no Clay Walker or Wade Hayes, and he would be the first to admit he doesn’t look great in a cowboy hat, but thanks to warhorses like The Tractors, he has a record deal.
The pedal steel guitar player for the veteran country-rock band Poco has teamed with Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, Bill Lloyd (formerly of Foster & Lloyd) and John Cowan (New Grass Revival) to form an as-yet-named country group. (Young jokingly says they’ve tossed out names like the Armadylans and Counting Cows.) They’re signed to Reprise Records and are aiming to release their debut album in early 1996.
Between work on the new album, Young squeezes in an occasional gig with Poco member Paul Cotton to perform acoustic versions of the band’s hits.
“I’m the only one who’s been in Poco for 25 years and has never done an outside project,” Young said recently from his Nashville home. “Paul’s done solo records, so has Richie (Furay) and Tim (B. Schmit). Pretty much everyone’s done something outside of the band except me, so I thought it was my turn, and it’s about time.”
And the atmosphere now couldn’t be more ripe, Young said. Once the other labels saw Arista Records’ unexpected success with oldtimers The Tractors, things opened up quickly.
“Before The Tractors,” Young said, “the record companies wanted to sign a lot of young guys pretty cheaply and throw it out there, and if it worked, great. Guys like Clay Walker are selling a lot of records. When the labels hit a formula, they stick with it.
“Now, because of The Tractors, everybody’s out looking for old, ugly people,” he said laughing, “… so now we have a chance.” Young, who grew up in Colorado, has lived in Nashville for 10 years. He said the area is much more suited for his type of music.
“These days, ’70s country-rock is mainstream country music, basically,” he said. “Friends of mine that made rock ‘n’ roll records in the ’70s are now making country records in the ’90s, like Henry Paul with BlackHawk. I wouldn’t know anyone in Los Angeles anymore; they’re all here.”