Born and raised in Kentucky but calling Northern California home for some time now, Charlie Tweddle is an outsider polymath: musician, artist, taxidermist, designer of cowboy hats. And while that last one (imagine a wearable ten-gallon peyote trip) brought him a degree of notoriety among a certain swath of the showbiz elite beginning in the early seventies (Cher and Reggie Jackson are fans of his hats), it’s his music that has been peaking the curiosity of underground and private press fiends for some years now.
A beguiling patchwork of lo-fi country, warped folk, and way-gone found sounds, Tweddle’s 1974 self-released opus Fantastic Greatest Hits is back in print for the first time in decades.The estimable chronicler of all things underground and way out the late Patrick Lundborg dubbed Fantastic “one of the major pieces in the Fringe of Everything genre.” Indeed, the album is clearly the work of a rustic iconoclast following his own hidden path, yet there is something peculiarly inviting at play here as well. The A-side comes off like a lysergic hootenanny that shares as much in common with Mike Rep and first-generation Shrimper tapes on the one hand as it does with Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury on the other; while the B-side is a sort of Americana concrète piece where the gentle beat of the earth takes over, full of crickets and the wind. Cosmic country indeed.
Essentially impossible to find since its initial release, Fantastic has been lovingly reissued as a co-production from Mighty Mouth Music (who released Tweddle’s The Midnight Plowboy in 2012, a collection of slightly more straightforward but no less charmingly odd country tracks recorded in the 1990s) and Ever/Never Records. The double-LP gatefold set presents the original 1974 LP and a bonus LP of recently unearthed experiments from the early ‘70s. This is essential stuff for fans of psychedelic roots music, loner singer-songwriters, or just plain strange sounds.