I knew the myth of Gram Parsons_ cosmic cowboy, pal of Keith Richards, mysterious desert burial after dying from a drug overdose in 1973 at age 26_ before I knew much of his music.
That wasn't the case for Patrick Coman.
"In some ways, I've been familiar with his music my whole life," Coman says. "I grew up in Oklahoma, and my mom was into country music. We listened to Flying Burrito Brothers in my house all the time when I was a kid."
The Flying Burrito Brothers will be one source of Gram tunes when the "For the Sake of the Song" series spotlights Gram Parsons Sunday at Johnny D's in Somerville. Mount Peru and Bryan Pero & Tired Horses join Coman and his band the Lo-Fi Angels in celebrating Parsons' work with the Byrds and Burrito Brothers and as a solo artist. Show time is 8:30 p.m.
"For the Sake of the Song" is more than tribute. Rather, the bands performing will intersperse their own songs amid Parsons gems.
"It's important to the series not to just perform songs people may know, but to provide some insight into new local artists," says Coman, who started the bi-monthly series three years ago. Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, and Townes Van Zandt are among the songwriters featured so far.
And for the first time, "For the Sake of the Song" is going on the road, with shows happening this month in Philadelphia, PA, Bridgeport, CT, Providence and Westerly, R.I., and Brooklyn, NY. Coman and fellow Bostonians Amy Alvey and John Colvert will team with artists in the cities they visit and showcase a variety songwriting giants.
As for Parsons, Coman says his importance cuts two ways. "He was a curator of classic American traditions. He covered a lot of songs, kept them alive," Coman says. On Sunday, Coman will tackle "Streets of Baltimore," one of those songs Parsons didn't write (Tompall Glaser did) but is considered a "Gram classic."
And as a writer, Coman says, Parsons found the "sweet spot" where country, rock 'n' roll, blues, and folk converge. You'll hear that Sunday when Coman tackles Parsons' woeful "Sin City."
"He fit it all seamlessly together. You sometimes don't know if it's his song or someone else's song you're listening to him sing," Coman says.
Not a bad goal for Sunday's show.
We'll sign off with Coman's original song "Gram Parsons."
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