Poco is one of those classic rock-era bands whose members have been so successful — in Poco and other projects — it’s difficult to believe they all came through one group.
Members of the seminal West Coast country-rock outfit have been involved with Buffalo Springfield, the Eagles and Loggins and Messina, but throughout 50 years of music making and lineup changes, founding member and current frontman Rusty Young has been a constant.
Young and Poco will be reunited with founding former member Jim Messina when they perform during an evening of music that begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Young, an accomplished songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, released his first solo album, “Waiting for the Sun,” in September and found the process more labor-intensive than his experiences recording in Poco.
“A solo album is a little more challenging, because I did write all the songs,” Young said in a recent phone interview. “Generally in a band … over the years in Poco, you’d write maybe three or four for an album and other writers would contribute as well.”
Without fellow songwriters like Messina, Richie Furay and Timothy B. Schmit — each of whom made his mark on the Poco catalog — Young took a year to write about 15 songs and narrow them down to 10.
“You really want to have a flow,” Young said. “All the songs can’t sound alike, so you want to have different moods and approaches for songs to keep things interesting.”
Young said he would get up at 4 a.m. each day during the writing process — a practice that inspired the album’s title — and kept a journal where he’d record lyrics and song titles.
‘“My Friend’ is my favorite song,” Young said of the tune he wrote about Poco and its members throughout the years. “It’s a song about Jimmy and Richie and all the guys. I wanted to have a song on there to address the fact that there were five of us; we didn’t have much of anything except an idea of the kind of music we wanted to play. Here we are after all these years, and we’re still the same as we were back then.”
Furay and Schmit provided backing vocals on the song, and album track “Honey Bee” features Messina and fellow Poco alumnus George Grantham.
Friendship and mutual respect, Young said, has kept the group of musicians collaborating even after members moved on to other projects.
According to Young, the current lineup, which features bassist Jack Sundrud, drummer Rick Lonow and multi-instrumentalist Michael Webb, stands up against previous ensembles.
“The four-piece that goes out there now is as good as any I’ve played with,” Young said. “I’m having more fun playing with this band than I’ve had in a long, long time.”
The tradition of bringing upper-echelon talent into Poco has grown from the excellence of the original roster.
“One thing I’m most proud of is we’ve always had great musicians, players and artists in Poco,” Young said. “That really stems from the beginning band, because that group of musicians was so good and so well respected.”
The 2018 tour with Messina will be unique, Young said, because of the past experience Messina and Poco have sitting in with each other.
“This time, both bands are on tour,” Young said. “Jimmy is going to start off and do Loggins and Messina songs that you’d expect, like ‘Your Mama Don’t Dance’ and ‘Angry Eyes.’ He’ll do those, and I’ll sit in.”
The Messina set will include “You Better Think Twice,” a song he penned as a member of Poco and “Kind Woman,” a song written by Furay in the waning sessions of Buffalo Springfield’s career, during which Messina was involved as a producer and session player and Young was brought in to play steel pedal guitar.
“After his set, we go on and Jimmy joins us,” Young said. “With Poco, we’ll cover ‘Heart of the Night,’ ‘Crazy Love,’ ‘Call It Love.’ We’ll do the new song, ‘My Friend,’ and ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces,’ the very first tune from the very first album. We’ll do a song of Tim Schmit’s called ‘Keep On Tryin.’ … No one will go away disappointed.”
Young said his latest release, “Waiting for the Sun,” reflects the musical culture absorbed by anyone who played music and grew up in the ’60s.
He describes the song “Waiting for the Sun” as having a “real Beatle quality” to it, while he calls “My Friend” a “classic Poco song.”
“Honey Bee” is reflecting on my grandparents,” Young said. “They were musicians in the ’30s. I was asking myself, ‘What would Grandma and Grandpa have been playing in their bands back then?’ ‘Gonna Let the Rain’ wash it all ways, is my comment on what’s going on in the country today. It has a real Rolling Stones vibe to it.
“Spread over the album are all of these influences of my 50-year career in Poco and with my music. They are more apparent in my solo record than in the Poco records I’ve done.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: An Evening with Poco and Jim Messina
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre.
Additional information: Tickets range from $29.50 to $49.50 and are available through the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.