stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Press Quotes…

May 11th, 2008 · No Comments

choice quotes

“Steve’s complex array of sound and rare, intimate
touch are rapidy turning him into one of the most
influential bassists in the world”
– bass guitar magazine

“Lawson’s writing and his phenomenal command of the possibilities of looping creates a compelling and surprising variety of sounds one would never imagine the bass capable of producing.” – JazzWise

“Steve Lawson is a brilliant musician. I’ve known about him and listened to him for many years. He may not be one of the most famous bassists but he is definitely one of the most talented.” – Victor Wooten

“Steve..I look at you as one of the best innovators in the bass community. The path you have chosen to follow is special and deep. If anyone has any issues with this, I feel for them and they should not be paying any attention the what you do. Just move on to a more mundane approach to the instrument and be happy. You are a gift and I love your playing and concept.” – Leland Sklar

“one of the most gifted solo bass players on the planet” – Ian Peel, Record Collector Magazine

“sensuous melodies intertwine and fall away with the intimacy of Talk Talk?s Spirit of Eden and the cinematic production values of Brian Eno” – Sid Smith

“Lawson’s solo bass compositions include palettes of lush sonic soundscapes and layers of ambient textures which have helped to redefine the art of looping and live performance as a solo bassist.” – The International Insitute Of Bass

“one of today’s most inventive and original sounding voices on the
electric bass. He is a pioneering innovator in the art of looping.”
– cliff engel, www.bassically.net

“a one man cosmic symphony” – Jerry Kranitz, www.aural-innovations.com

“Taking you from new-age jazz to Starsky and Hutch, this solo bassist is a must-see for anyone who’s ever
harboured dreams of being a professional musician. Catch him while he’s hot!” (4/5)
– ThreeWeeks

“Lawson is a master of a whole universe of sounds…a truly original talent” – JazzWise

“Steve Lawson is better than good… …[his] sheer virtuosity communicates an infectious love for the music.” – Good Times Santa Cruz.

“the life affirming stuff of dreams” Sue Edwards, Royal Festival Hall.

About the cds –

“What a beautiful recording! This is perhaps the best argument yet that the bass is a versatile, deeply expressive instrument and in the hands of a brilliant and visionary artist like Steve, is capable of making music of enormous emotional and musical depth. Please buy a copy and share it with your friends and family. I think they’ll thank you for it!” – Michael Manring.

“beautifully performed throughout” – Guitarist Magazine (uk)

“From the opening trills of ‘Flutter’ it’s clear that this is going to be an extraordinary album…
…Steve’s complex array of sound and rare, intimate touch are rapidly turning him into one of the most influential bassists in
the world.” – Bass Guitar Magazine (uk)

“one of the most refreshing, listenable and unpretentious albums i have heard in one long time!” – warren murchie, global bass magazine (Canada)

“i encourage the rest of the world to get this album and find out just how versatile a bass guitar can be – 10/10 “- cross rhythms magazine (uk)

“A excellent set of truly inspired improvisational music.” – aural innovations e-zine. (US)

“Frisell, Fripp and Garbarek revisited in unique ways.” – JazzUK Magazine. (UK)

“steve has something all his own, and with it a bright future as a solo bass performer and likely anything else he chooses along the way. pick it up now so you can say you know of him from the beginning.” – bass frontiers magazine (us)

“I highly recommend this CD! As Steve’s playing and concept grow he makes ever more gorgeous and engaging music that really demonstrates the expressive depth of the bass. The richness of this music makes for a rewarding listening experience on all levels and I think Steve’s approach represents a real step forward for the art of solo bass.” – Michael Manring.

“All in all, “and nothing but the bass”, is a most delectable and auspicious debut release from a very talented artist with the vision and ability to think and play outside the box. Definitely recommended listening” – www.ambientvisions.com (US)

“Take the playing expertise of Phil Keaggy mix in a healthy dose of the solo work of Robert Fripp and transfer that to a six string fretless bass guitar. What you have as a result of the best of both is a gentleman known as Steve Lawson.” – www.tollbooth.org (US)

“On technical terms alone, Lawson holds his end up alongside American stars of the lyrical bass suchas Victor Wooten or Michael Manring. But his work showcases not only prodigious playing talent
but also a thorough lack of self-consciousness about engaging with his listeners.” – Misfit City E-zine (UK)

“Using only a couple basses and a handful of electronic gadgets, Lawson skillfully paints sonic textures of ambient soundscapes with adventurous soloing and masterful layering.” – www.bassically.net (US)

” This is such a special album that a short review like this can hardly do it justice. The moody melody of ‘Need You Now’, the funky slap and pop of ‘Channel Surfing’, the atmospheric ‘Jimmy James’, all these and every other track are worthy of careful examination and I only have 200 words! ‘Chicken’ is an album that invites you to sit back,
close your eyes and get involved in it’s shimmering melodic beauty for an hour.” – Euphoria Magazine (UK)

“The marvelously musical result on Lawson’s second [solo] album, which tends toward a mellow, ambient vibe that sometimes recalls new age
music and ’80s art-rock, has as much to do with Lawson’s melodic sense as it does to do with his technical mastery.” – Bass Player Magazine.

“Folk music, Frippertronics, fretless Jaco Pastorius flights, country melodies and world-music trance epics mingle here, plus a few hints of past effects-pedal kings like Dean Carter or Pat Orchard. And it’s utterly inclusive music, lacking the smugness and self-love that blight many solo instrumental jaunts, and more interested in raising a happy smile rather than pulling an anguished ‘guitar face’ ” – Organ Magazine (UK)

“In summary, Lawson succeeds in showcasing the range of his instruments’ possibilities while also creating enjoyable and interesting music. The album’s real strength
lies in it’s variety, from Frippoid soundscapes, to jazz, and ambient space. – www.aural-innovations.com (US)

“On the last piece – “Pillow Mountain” – Lawson shows that, with a few electronic gizmos, even very “unbasslike” sounds can be produced. A
wonderfully melancholic fretless solo is played over an underlying mood reminiscent of Brian Eno. Beautiful.” – Jazz Dimensions Magazine (Germany)

“Only a musician with great talent and sensitivity can provoke such emotions, giving us these 52 minutes of pathos from solo bass and effects.” – No Warning e-zine (Italy)

“Steve Lawson [is an] innovative bassist dedicated to stretching the boundaries of bass. On Lawson’s And Nothing but the Bass album,
the simple boom-di-boom we know as bass is transformed into a spray of chords, arpeggios, hammer-ons and rangy melodic runs, flecked in harmonics and reinvented by effects.” – San Jose Metro (US)

“Lawson and Carr alternate playing Jekyl to the other’s Hyde. Dreamy pastoral visions interrupted by an invasion of drunk Martians. Steve’s sonic pallette allows him to blend beautifully, or create havoc, a dichotomy he clearly enjoys. A fascinating listen. A Little Nitrous Music anyone?”
– Ed Friedland, Bass Player Magazine (US)

“The music Steve and Jez make is reflective, intimate and powerful. It takes you on a journey that is
simultaneously familiar and exotic, engaging and serene.” – Michael Manring

” ‘Conversations’ finds pianist Jez Carr and bassist/loopist Steve Lawson deftly walking a fine line between
new age and avant-garde, drifting from meditative serenity to angular abstraction so smoothly that the seams
barely show. With its extended and often reflective feel, the highly-attuned duo improvisations allude to the
vintage eras of record labels like ECM or Windham Hill.” – Andre LaFosse (guitar looping genius)

“This is subtle music that demands your undivided attention.” – www.aural-innovations.com

“Close to perfection… …Magnificent” – No Warning (Italian e-zine)

“I can’t say enough to recommend this CD adequately. Just do yourself a favor and get it if you haven’t already.”- Ted Killian, Loopers Delight.

” There’s music here to appeal to a diverse crowd… from space ambient to jazz fans to prog fans. And I can’t imagine any musician who wouldn’t appreciate the results of what are actually solo performances. Recommended.” – www.aural-innovations.com

About Steve’s gigs…

“Most bass players settle for one distinctive tone and make it their own, yet solo loop guru Lawson is a master
of a whole universe of sounds all conjured from his fretless six-string bass. It’s a feat equivalent to juggling
half-a-dozen lit torches that not only he makes look and sound effortless, but his sense of otherworldly narratives
makes his a truly original talent.” – JazzWise magazine.

“Steve’s style is to look like he never knows what he’s doing in the first place,
he talks nonsense to distract you from how frighteningly good he is at what he does.” – www.bassworld.co.uk

“steve plays with a wonderful fluidity. his fingers glide lovingly, effortlessly over the fretless, the chording and intonation never less than perfect. whether a simple, relaxed glissade or a line demanding
huge control and dexterity, his fingers did the talking.” – michael cowton, journalist and author of ‘level 42 – the definitive biography’ (UK)

“[steve is] very much his own musician, and one capable of taking on any of the american virtuosi on equal terms… his improvised melodies…make for an assertive and individual new voice.”- dann chinn, misfit city e-zine (uk)

“…an evening of technological wonder and musical psychadelisizing.” – Santa Cruz Sentinel

About Steve…

“a gifted and imaginative bassist, whose melodic ideas and encyclopedic chordal knowledge are at least equal to many (currently) more well known artists.”- www.globalbass.com online magazine. (Canada)

“Bottom Line: Virtuoso technique + imagination + a vision + improvisation chops to burn = Steve Lawson.”- www.bassically.net (US)

“At last! Steve Lawson – a bassist with a commanding technique that doesn’t mean more notes,
but a truly good sound and great time, with melody a priority. Finally, lots of notes when needed.
How refreshing! Now all we need is a Steve Lawson that plays double bass – are you out there?” – Danny Thompson (double bass legend)

“Steve Lawson has got to be one of the most tasteful bassists I’ve heard in a long time and is certainly a creative
player who focuses on sound and the quality of individual notes, not to mention different ways of speaking with his
instrument.” – Jerry Kranitz, www.aural-innovations.com

“Somehow I had never heard of Steve Lawson before and while at the recent NAMM show a friend of mine dragged me
to a booth to check him out. When I heard Steve play doing a live solo with self accompaniment I was instantly
transported to somewhere beautiful inside, even though we were in Anaheim of all places. The CD does the same
thing for me…I listened to it driving through the desert and again at home…lovely,
wonderful stuff…I’m a fan” – Andy West

(solo artist, bassist with The Dixie Dregs)

“When I first heard Steve Lawson it made me go home and practice my bass again, it was inspiring to hear his use of bass loops with great melodies.
He doesn’t play like a bass player, he plays like a musician. I am going to rip off every idea he has ever had!!” –
Matt Bissonette (bassist to the stars!)

Tags:

Review – And Nothing But The Bass (Jazz Dimensions)

May 7th, 2008 · No Comments

“As we know, bassists always have to stand in the shadows of their fellow band members. The answer is to play a solo which is as meaningful as possible in concerts, or to record a whole solo album on which you show that you also know how to handle all the other instruments. But there is a more logical route, as is shown by Steve Lawson with his – literally – solo bass album.

The CD “and nothing but the bass” represents a document of Lawson’s live work as a soloist in London during the first half of 2000. Apart from one piece – “Bittersweet” – on which pianist and co-producer Jez Carr contributes a few notes in the studio, everything was recorded live in front of an audience and without overdubs. This all takes place in a peaceful atmosphere, almost reminiscent of chamber music. You will not find displays of power playing à la Stuart Hamm here.

Essentially these are duo pieces “in disguise”. With the aid of his loop sampler (Lexicon JamMan), Lawson plays duets with himself, plays around his own parts, and lays down tapped chord foundations under bass solos which are sometimes squeezed through a distortion unit. The great thing is that this approach never descends into guitar territory, even on the 6-string bass. A few mistakes have been left in the recording, as has the audience applause, but these could have been cut here and there.

On the last piece – “Pillow Mountain” – Lawson shows that, with a few electronic gizmos, even very “unbasslike” sounds can be produced. A wonderfully melancholic fretless solo is played over an underlying mood reminiscent of Brian Eno. Beautiful.”

Tags:

Creativity and Socially Networked Marketing – the good and the bad.

March 23rd, 2008 · Comments Off on Creativity and Socially Networked Marketing – the good and the bad.

So much is being written about the egalitarian nature of online distribution, it would be easy to believe that all our worries as wannabe professional musicians are now over. We all know that we can get a myspace page and a facebook music page, a reverbnation widget and a last.fm page, just like the big boys. We can also get our music onto iTunes and eMusic, Amazon and Rhapsody, just by sending a CD to CDBaby and paying them less than $40 to set it up. Easy, huh?

Well, not quite. It’s true that the music economy in the last couple of decades has shifted from hundreds of acts selling millions of records to millions of acts selling hundreds of downloads, but two things are still problematic – monetizing the attention that we’re given, and building online spaces where attention is available in units greater than 30 second chunks.

You see, the huge problem with the MySpace/Youtube/iTunes generation is that it favours instantaneous gratification. It favours music that ‘wows’ in the first few seconds over music that takes a while to grow – in much the same way that mainstream pop radio has done for decades. It’s just that now, it’s not just the top 40 sector that’s expected to fit that paradigm, it’s everyone. There’s no special version of myspace for people with long songs, where the listener knows that it’ll take a particular piece of music a good few minutes to get going and reveal its hidden magic.

It’s true that to a degree it has always been thus – playing music to your friends in a ‘hey, check this out!’ scenario has always been a less comfortable proposition if you’re introducing them to the magic of Steve Reich or Brian Eno’s Music For Airports than if you were letting them in on the hitherto-undiscovered-to-them genius of Chic or Duran Duran. Pop music is by its very nature more immediate.

No, the problem here is a slightly more insidious one – it’s that all of us, ‘pop’ acts and more difficult to classify musicians alike, are being encouraged to market what we do via these channels in the same way, and music lovers are being encouraged to look for it in that way, and it can have a negative effect on the way we create and the way we find the music we love.

The fantastic potential that Myspace/Youtube/iTunes gives us to connect with an audience that we’d previously have needed a record label and radio plugger to connect with is still largely bound up in the ‘instant gratification’ notion of where the value lies in a piece of music. 30 second previews of tracks are useless for through-composed or gradually evolving music. 30 seconds of just about anything by Michael Nyman or Philip Glass isn’t going to show where the piece goes as it unfolds over the course of minutes rather than seconds.

How do we deal with this? I think acknowledging it is the first part of the answer – once the influence has been ‘named’ we can see if for what it is, and hopefully recognise the difference between our own creative urge pushing us towards brevity or accessibility (certainly no bad thing if that’s where you’re leaning) and the crippling of a deeper more evolved sense of where a particular piece of music should be going out of a fear that it just won’t work on myspace.

Download culture is wonderful in that it frees us up from the limitations of length – in both directions – that vinyl/casette/cd/minidisc had – we can put out tiny short works and not feel like we need to pad it out to fill a CD, or we can release massive epic hours-long single pieces if that’s really where our muse is heading. There’s nothing to stop you putting out 10 hours of continuous music, other than the limitations of the download speed of the person trying to get hold of it. We’re no longer constrained by pressing cost or media size, but we are still subject to the evolution of the music-discovery culture, and we all need to be thinking hard about how we build a space where we encourage people to investigate music that takes many listens to sink in, music that doesn’t reveal any of its complex magic in a 30 second low-res preview, but given time will seep into our consciousness and affect us in a unique way.

We need filters. We need

  • people and
  • media-outlets and
  • blog groups and
  • socially networked advisors who will recommend great music to us in the way that magazines used to.

Magazines still provide some of that, but they are very limited in their scope, because they are beholden to their advertisers and the broadcast nature of what they do, so are constrained by the need to write about people their core readership already know about. Those people aren’t really our concern. The ones who already have a career, a fanbase, a stream of self-generating traffic to their sites and online store. Finding out about the new Nick Cave or Pat Metheny record is rarely going to prove difficult.

No, we need microfilter channels, groups of 5,10,20,50 friends who get excited about new music and do the research for eachother, in the same way that Google Reader lets us search out news and blog posts for eachother.

There are already music blogs like this – audioblogs that feature MP3s on a daily basis. Some of them are fabulous. Many of them are less helpful in that they are basically a mashup of bit-torrent and blogger.com – illegal giveaways of whole albums that don’t actually help the band because they direct no attention or traffic in their direction. I was talking with a guitarist friend in LA in January who found that only a week or so after his latest album had come out, someone was giving it away on an audioblog based in Holland. The sales in the first few weeks of any project are important because that’s when the publicity is focussed on, so to be offering illegal free downloads of an album that close to the release date is particularly galling.

The new currency online is attention. Time is valuable, and it is possible to monetize that, through sales of CDs, downloads, DVDs, t-shirts, gig tickets, teaching weekends, meet and greets, promotional spin-offs, advertising revenue. But directing attention is best done by communities, by trusted advisors, but bloggers and twitterers and facebookists and friends of friends who know their subject and seek out the best new music around and tell people about it. And do it because then their love for it is propogated, the artform and the creators are encouraged, make enough money to make the next record, and the cycle of soundtracking a part of our lives is completed and begun again.

BUT if you’re a musician, unless the career part of being a professional musician is more important to you than the musician part, all of that has to be at the service of getting the word out about YOUR art. That which you hold most dear. Not an advert for what you hold dear, not a truncated, MySpace-ized version of it, but the real deal, however dense, complex, mellow, subtle or otherwise it is. Which brings me back to a point I’ve made a few times on here before – BE THE KIND OF FAN YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE – musicians need to be using the attention they have from their audiene to share the love, to let their listeners know about the music they love. It’ll come back, karmic-stylee, and will solidify your position as a guru of great music, a person of taste and discernment and the hub of a music-loving community. That’s how we build RELATIONSHIPS with the people who connect with our art – relationships built on shared knowledge and an unfolding understanding of where our aesthetic tastes overlap…

That is, as the yanks like to say, all good.

Tags: cool links · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Why I love David Byrne

December 19th, 2007 · Comments Off on Why I love David Byrne

Three great reasons to love David Byrne:

Firstly, Talking Heads are one of the greatest bands in the history of music. Right now they’re also probably the most influential band on the planet, given how many crappy indie bands are trying to sound like them and failing miserably… But that aside, they made some of the most engaging, interesting, funny and downright funky music of the 70s and 80s.

Secondly, he writes one of the most interesting blogs on the planet. My understanding of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco came from reading his blog (I’d seen all the news reports, but no-one had explained it with the same clarity as he did…) Reading it makes me want to live in NYC, not to say play bass in his band.

And Thirdly – and for now most importantly – he’s just written the best article I’ve yet read summarising what’s going on in the music world, Music 2.0, digital worlds, indie marketing etc… loads of great recorded interviews with people like Brian Eno and Radiohead’s managers… It’s utterly unmissable for anyone wanting to see where things are going.

One of the most glorious things about the internet is that people like David Byrne are emerging as creative industry polymaths – he’s a great musician, thinker, writer, cultural critic… and we can find out about all of in a way that wasn’t really possible before the interwebs. Hurrah for le net.

(thanks to Jeff Schmidt for the link to the David Byrne piece….

Tags: Musing on Music

another Behind Every Word Review…

September 28th, 2006 · Comments Off on another Behind Every Word Review…

Another review just in of Behind Every Word – this one from Sid Smith on his blog – Sid is the author of ‘In The Court Of King Crimson’, a brilliant book about the entire history of the Crims – a very fine writer and long time supporter of all things Stevelicious.

thanks Sid

click here to read the review – the choice pull-quote from it is “sensuous melodies intertwine and fall away with the intimacy of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and the cinematic production values of Brian Eno”. Which is nice.

Tags: Music News

singer/songwriter genius shows Street Team how it's done…

September 16th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Juliet Turner, fabulous singer/songwriter and Recyclist from Greenbelt, sent this out to her mailing list yesterday –

“Hey. For any of you who are in London, try and check out this gig. Super amazing bassist Steve Lawson gathers together GREAT musicians and they play off the cuff/of the moment/who knows whats going to happen next/ music. I did some singing with Steve at the Greenbelt festival this summer which was a lot of fun. There’s a Recycled gig on the 21st Sept at 182 St John’s St. Clerkenwell, London when Jason Yarde (saxophonist, very celebrated jazz musician) and Leo Abrahams (guitarist, Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt, Roxy Music) will be joining Steve. The music will be extraordinary. More details on their myspace site.”

How lovely is that? The date is a day late (MySpace quite often lists gig dates a day late for some reason – always click on the gig and check the ACTUAL date of any gig you get off MySpace), but that’s the kind of support and encouragement that any musician craves but rarely gets.

As I’ve said numerous times before on this ‘ere blog, you REALLY need to check out Juliet’s music – her website is julietturner.com and her myspace address is myspace.com/burntheblacksuit – all three of her albums are beautiful, and her new single is utterly gorgeous (if you were at the Greenbelt RC gig, you might recognise the words to ‘Joy’ as she used it as the basis for the improv she did with Harry Napier, Huw Warren and I.)

Tags: Music News

Recycle Collective recommended in Time Out again…

September 13th, 2006 · 4 Comments

Next week’s Recycle Collective gig gets the recommended gig treatment again in Time Out this week. Here’s what they say –
Steve Lawson’s Recycle Collective/Jason Yarde/Leo Abrahams –
“Improvised, organic electronica from a fabulous trio featuring bassist and live sampler Lawson, producer/saxophonist Yarde and Brian Eno’s guitarist Abrahams.”

so there you go – we’re fabulous, it’s official, so you can’t miss it!

Tags: Music News

More recycle bookings…

July 27th, 2006 · Comments Off on More recycle bookings…

Been busy over the last couple of weeks lining up the musicians for the new few RC gigs – lots of the people have had on my wish-list for ages are now booked! Yay!

August 23rdSebastian Rochford, Andy Hamill and me. This is a bit of a dream line-up. Seb’s one of my favourite drummers I’ve ever played with. We did one gig together in Brighton a couple of years ago, and he listened so well to the loop stuff, and played beautifully. An immensely creative chap, and Mercury Prize nominee last year, no less! He’s in Polar Bear and Acoustic LadyLand and plays with lots of people in the F-IRE collective.

And Andy Hamill. As well as officially being of the nicest people in jazz ever, Andy’s also one of my favourite double bassists anywhere. If you’ve heard either of Theo’s last couple of albums, he’s the low end on there, but has also played with 4 Hero, Carleen Anderson, Shea Seger, Theo Travis, Mark Murphy, Nitin Sawhney, Chris Bowden, Boris Grebenshikov, Cara Dillon, Tracey Thorn, Kylie Minogue, Ben Castle, Ursula Rucker and Harry Hill!

I’ve been wanting to try a trio with drums and double bass for ages, and feel so lucky that the first time I get to try it is with two musicians of this kind of quality. Wow.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, on Sept 20th, we’ve got saxophonist Jason Yarde, one of the most celebrated young british jazzers of recent times. An outstanding performer, composer, improvisor – a really really interesting musician, who will add something completely new to the RC vibe, for sure. Another huge talent.

And with Jason and I, making a very welcome return, Leo Abrahams – currently out on the road playing guitar for Roxy Music, is also Brian Eno’s guitar monkey, and has worked with Imogen Heap, Nik Kershaw, Ed Harcourt, Paul Simon and a host of other great people. He was excellent last time, he’ll be just as great this time.

And at the moment, it looks like October is going to be BJ Cole and Ingrid Laubrock joining me. How lucky am I? Yay!

Tags: Music News

Tim Bowness/Steven Wilson live in Norwich

June 17th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Norwich is an awful long way to go to watch a gig. Norwich is an awful long way from anywhere. Which would be fine if it was a stinking hole, but it’s a lovely city, and someone should pick it up, drag it 50 miles west and join it up with Cambridge – Camwich would be a really really lovely city.

But I digress. It’s a long way, but I went anyway. on the main bill were Tim Bowness with his band, and Steven Wilson. Tim was the singer I gigged with last Friday. This time he had a whole band with him, featuring the truly marvellous Andrew Booker on drums (the last time I saw Andrew play drums with Tim, Brian Eno was at the gig, and wanted his phone number… did he ever get it? I don’t think so… a miss opportunity methinks).

The show was opened by Andy Butler – a looping guitarist, using multiple echoplexes. Sadly, because the gig started earlier than advertised, we (by ‘we’ I mean me, Dweez and Mrs Dweez, who all went for food, planning to be back in time for advertised start) missed all but the last few minutes of Andy’s set.

Steven Wilson set was really enjoyable – I didn’t know any of the songs (for some reason, despite liking all the stuff I’ve heard of theirs, I don’t own a single Porcupine Tree album… must rectify that), no, I lie, he covered ‘Thankyou’ by Alanis Morrisette, and that I knew. Anyway, most of it was just electric guitar and voice – something that I’m always amazed more people don’t do. Billy Bragg is the absolute master of that format, but i’ve heard others do it well (Iain Archer is another that plays brilliantly with just a elec. guitar and no band). I had a brief chat with Steven afterwards (we’ve got a fair few mutual friends, not least of all Theo who has played on Porcupine Tree things and opened for them at Shepherd’s Bush).

So all in a great night, and what’s more I got to meet up with Myspace chums Jeffrey and Samantha, here from New York. Much fun.

Tags: Musing on Music

Paul Simon – Surprise

June 5th, 2006 · 2 Comments

Just got this through today, and am on my second listen. Paul Simon is in that very tiny group of people who’ve never done a bad album (caveat, I’ve never heard ‘Capeman’, the soundtrack to his ill-fated musical) – most people of his era (Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Neil Young etc.) mad some fairly duff albums in the 80s, but Paul, like Tom Waits and Bruce Cockburn, has remained pretty consistent all along. Which is why it always amazes me when this album is described as a return to form – his last album, ‘You’re The One’ is outstanding! It’s a really great record, with a couple of tracks that would be in my all time Paul Simon top 10, and not a duff track on it.

It was the same when James Taylor brought out ‘Hourglass’ – ‘return to form’ says the press. Huh? His previous two albums before that were ‘Live’ (possibly the greatest live album ever recorded) and ‘New Moon Shine’, a truly beautiful album.

The problem is that critics always want a hook to hang a story on. ‘It’s brilliant, like all his other albums’ isn’t as dramatic as stories about emerging from a creative wilderness or doing your best album for 15 years… maybe I should just pretend that everything else I’ve done has been completely eclipsed by my new album… :o) I mean, I do genuinely think it’s the best thing I’ve done (I wouldn’t release it if I didn’t…), but it doesn’t make Grace And Gratitude look like an amateurish work…

So, my review – the new Paul Simon album is magic. Full of great songs, great playing, and some fantastic sonic treatments from Brian Eno. For the bass geeks amongst you, Pino’s on it, Abe Laboriel Snr’s on it, Alex Al is on it and Leo Abrahams (from the RC gig before last) is on fretless bass on one tune! That’s the kind of calibre of player we get at the RC.

But every Paul Simon album is magic. You really ought to have the set. He’s got a way with phrasing a line that make it feel like a conversation. The melody never gets in the way of the words. Like Joni Mitchell and a handful of other singers, it’s as much story-telling as it is singing.

Tags: Musing on Music