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Posts Tagged ‘Howe Gelb

Step Right Up: The DeSoto Caucus

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Interview with The DeSoto Caucus.

“And you meet some very real people there to whom your craft is making a difference, not just to their current mood or something, but to their sanity and survival! You get to travel and go places you never would have found on your own or with your school or whatever. And you’re being celebrated for being yourself, doing exactly what YOU do.”

—Anders Pedersen

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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Frontman Anders Pedersen sings “I take on the foreseen / and I dream of rolling streams” beneath the reverb-drenched electric guitar tones of “Fire Sale” on The Desoto Caucus’s latest piece de resistance, entitled “Offramp Rodeo”, evoking the spirit of Townes Van Zandt and the American West. The brooding folk opus is closer to a road trip or soul journey as the song’s trajectory maps the heart of americana where traditional and contemporary sounds are effortlessly interwoven. Pedersen’s baritone melts wonderfully beneath the soothing rhythms of Dombernowsky’s drums and the seductive bass groove of Thøger T. Lund. “Fire Sale” conveys the bold spirit of “Offramp Rodeo” as the Danish quartet unleash a formidable collection of indispensable, dust-filled explorations. As the year comes to a close, the Danish foursome’s latest record is most certainly one of those overlooked albums of the year.

The DeSoto Caucus are Anders Pedersen (lead vocals, guitars), Peter Dombernowsky (drums, percussion), Nikolas Heyman (vocals, guitar, bass, keys), Thøger T. Lund (vocals, upright bass, clarinet & piano) and Henrik Poulsen on bass. The gifted musicians are better known as the more recent incarnation of Howe Gelb’s awe-inspiring Giant Sand – exploring the American musical heritage these past ten years – following in the wings of previous Giant Sand rhythm section of Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino. The seeds were sewn during the Spring of 2003 when Gelb visited the Danish city of Aarhus and remained there to record his solo record “The Listener”. Lund, Dombernowsky and Pederson, among a bunch of other local musicians were invited to take part in the recording sessions for “The Listener”. A string of compelling releases later, the Danish musicians would prove to be a trusted sonic canvas for Gelb’s visionary masterworks, akin to The Band’s Robertson, Helm and Danko serving Bob Dylan’s beguiling artistic creations.

The DeSoto Caucus’s debut record “Elite Continental Custom Club”, released in 2008, was recorded in the legendary Aarhus studio Feedback Recording. The recording sessions took place in the interim of Gelb’s gospel opus “’Sno Angel Like You”. Having time on their hands (for once), The DeoSoto Caucus was born. This album is full of intriguing arrangements and the instrumentation of horns, keys, violin, vibes creates a gypsy infused jazz odyssey that is reminiscent of The Friends Of Dean Martinez – the timeless sound of Tucson, Arizona, it seems, is never far away.

For the eagerly awaited follow-up, the band wanted to make everything count. It is clear upon listening to the Danish troupe’s sophomore record that each song is the sound of a band at the peak of their powers. The recording sessions took place during the down-time of Giant Sand’s “Tucson” tour, recorded primarily in Heyman’s Stablesounds in the Northern Danish countryside. The spark of spontaneity and masterful songcraft radiates throughout “Offramp Rodeo” encompassing the sounds of M. Ward, Granddaddy, Sparklehorse and Howe Gelb. Much in the same way as Giant Sand, the record’s shimmering quality lies in the aesthetics thus created. Happenstance, in a word.

“All alone in a dense fog when the rain starts” is the opening lyric to “Here’s One” – an endearing lo-fi pop gem – that casts the ideal backdrop for Pederson and co.’s unique blend of absorbing, bitter-sweet tales.

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Interview with Anders Pedersen, The DeSoto Caucus.

Congratulations on the new album, “Offramp Rodeo”. I love the lo-fi feel to it, the melodies remind me of Grandaddy and M. Ward. The arrangements are immaculate, I love how there are so many intricate layers embedded in the detail of every song. Please discuss the space and time this album blossomed from?

AP: The album was done over a year or so in Nikolaj’s studio Stable Sounds in the Northeastern corner of the country. When you walk the hills there you overlook Skagerrak. It’s a pretty remote place, and the studio is basically heated by fireplaces and tube amps. When we set off to start the album, the first thing we did was to eat well, have drinks handy, and then talk about the reasons for even recording music when there is so much out there….discussing how albums should make a difference, and obviously, discussing what that meant and what albums we thought did make a difference. PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake” had just come out, and knowing John Parish it was obvious how those guys must have been aware not to waste anyones time with un-necessary sounds and songs without significance. We decided to go ahead and make the record, but make everything count. And not settle with any “that works alright”.

When it comes to the guys you mention, Matt Ward is a friend of ours that we were all fans of before we got to know and play with him, and his aesthetics are related to ours, I guess. Same with Jason Lyttle and Grandaddy. But it’s funny to think of where melodies come from, and how guys that grow up under different circumstances in different parts of the world come up with familiar melodies. My best guess is we’re all third generation US popular culture, all grew up with the same records, comics, and movies. Even our parents did. For the arrangements we didn’t want an over-produced smooth album, and ended up treading very carefully because we liked the raw feel of the basic takes and the cue vocal, which is also what you hear on most of the tracks. Some songs we would add a lot of stuff to, just to peel it off again during the final mixes. We also found it very inspirational to lay down basic tracks with say, just an African drum and vocal, adding organ and guitar, before adding the bass last and leaving it at that. Trying not to fall into too much automation of how things are usually done. And of course eating and drinking well was a big part of the work routine. Like keeping the fire going.

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Album closer “Firesale” is my current favourite. The many verses on the song transports me to Dylan’s “Desolation Row” or “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands”. Please talk me through this song and its construction? How quick did the words appear to you?

AP: Nikolaj had the melody line, but felt it needed something, maybe a chorus or something to take it out of its loop, but driving to the studio one day by myself when the others were already there, I started to enjoy that loopiness, almost like a meditation or something. A had a tape of Nikolaj humming the melody that I kept rewinding, and at some point during that drive it was as if I started hearing single words and names in there. Santa Fe was one of them, and driving as I was, I decided it should be a road movie with a lot of verses, like some of the trippier Dylan or Townes Van Zandt songs. We like to think of ourselves as European explorers in the American musical heritage, hence the DeSoto name, so I thought this road movie should be like a modern-day “DeSoto trail”, the route Hernando de Soto travelled upon discovering the south-eastern states in the early 1500’s. My favorite road movies tend to deal with soul journeys of some sort, so to me it became a story about a guy running from something, surrendering to greater powers, maybe the nature, experiencing something that clarifies matters, before he finally tries to reconcile with what ever he’s running from. I got really in to the plot and I guess it was a bit like writing a novel or a script. At least that’s how I felt as I was doing “research”, googling places I imagined the narrator visiting, and stumbling on amazing locations like the Devil’s Inkwell, for instance.

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The four members of The DeSoto Caucus (before DeSoto Caucus was born!) and a bunch of other local musicians in Aarhus, Denmark were invited to take part in the recording of Howe Gelb’s “The Listener” record. This was ten years ago. Please take me back to this time and working with Howe for the first time? It must have been a fulfilling experience. I think this particular record is one of the strongest of Howe Gelb’s solo records—I love the European feel that radiates throughout.

AP: When the word started going round that Howe Gelb was in town, some of us got pretty excited….both Thøger (GS bass player, sings and plays all sorts in the DC) my girlfriend (Danish singer and songwriter Marie Frank) and myself had been fans of Giant Sand since the early/mid ‘90s, and had all been to shows that had left strong impressions on us. Howe’s slightly anarchistic approach, more like that of the improvisational jazz player than of your classic front guy in a rock band, was a bit of a revelation. When people now talk of how incredible it is that you can follow Howe’s every move and whim on stage and in the studio, I believe it’s also a matter of his always insisting on not arranging much….you know, we never had a setlist before the Giant Giant Sand started happening and we’re so many people on stage playing that guidelines became significant. And even now there’s always an element of improvisation that’s very important. And for us younger, disciplined, Danish musicians the aesthetics of happenstance have become a way of life almost.

Meeting Howe, taken on the road, and being trusted with some of the best songs I can imagine definitely changed the course of our professional life. Tapping in to such a rich source of wordplay and going on stage night after night with a guy who seriously challenges the nature of rock is incredibly inspirational and educational. You grow up loving music so much you wanna be with it all the time and learn that you must practise and study in order to do that. You slide in to a system of highly trained, rule abiding, correct musicianship, and then one day a guy appears at the back door and introduce you to a different world behind the building, in the alleyways and backyards and basements. And you meet some very real people there to whom your craft is making a difference, not just to their current mood or something, but to their sanity and survival! You get to travel and go places you never would have found on your own or with your school or whatever. And you’re being celebrated for being yourself, doing exactly what YOU do.
And in terms of Howe hooking up with us Danes, I guess we do go about the traditional American music tradition in a slightly different way, all though we all grew up on Hazelwood, Dylan, The Band, Billie Holiday, old blues records, Hollywood and Donald Duck and so on.

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I am very interested to gain an insight into the inspiration that you draw from the places of Arizona and Aarhus? It feels that the spirit of both Europe and the desert heat and vast plains of Arizona are deeply rooted in your music.

AP: I guess the nature and folk music of the place you grow up is something you’re not always aware of, but something that will show up in any artistic expression. I will say that I at least feel an influence from nature…the light, the long dark winters are significant to all Northerners. Arizona, and Tucson in particular has become a second home for us, Thøger even moved there and has a family there now. Needless to say the country has left a huge impression on us…as has the culture, maybe more significantly so because of our Scandinavian upbringing…the USA basically still baffles us. At the same time we all love the free-flowing feel of it as a contrast to the very well-ordered Danish society.

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When did the members of The DeSoto Caucus first meet? What were the records you all shared a common affinity with?

AP: Thøger and I had a short-lived trio with my girlfriend playing Gram Parsons songs. Nikolaj and Peter went to the music academy together and had a band called Western Stars that is worth checking out. They did two great albums. Peter and I played in a local band together where he was the percussionist…..actually that’s what he really is…also teaches percussion at the academy now. But it was in Giant Sand we all got together. And at some point Howe started asking about our plans…we had none. playing with him was the best we could think of. But he insisted that we had to get something going because he wouldn’t always be around to provide songs and shows. That seemed pretty fatalistic to guys in their twenties, but it got me started on writing in English (I used to write for a band I had that played some sort of Danish folk-beat).
When we started playing there was a shared affinity for some older Danish stuff, and then “Lee & Nancy” by Hazelwood and Sinatra, Lambchop, Mark Ribot’s stuff, Buena Vista Social Club, and the record Ry Cooder did with Manuel Galban called “Sinuendo”, anything Gillian Welch was part of, also dug Lucinda Williams (who turned out to be an old friend of Howe’s) and then Bob Marley’s “Survival” record was and is very dear to us!

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As members of Giant Sand — and more recently, Giant Giant Sand — you have been at the forefront of traditional and contemporary American music. What are your favourite recording sessions you have had with Giant Sand? Is there one particular album you feel most proud of?

AP: The Listener is an album with a great atmosphere oozing from it, reflecting a dwelling on hot climate and possibly inspired somewhat by the aftermath of Buena Vista Social Club that we all enjoyed and heard a lot at the time.

All Over The Map has incredible songs, but as we recorded it right after touring a lot with “The Listener” the band was taken by surprise when Howe announced that it was going to be a punk-rock record (the lineup was percussion, upright bass, acoustic guitar/piano and mandolin/lapsteel). Being in the studio with John Parish was very inspirational, and I think the album will stand out further in hindsight.

The album that captures the “Danish” Giant Sand best I guess is “Blurry Blue Mountain”. Recorded live in the studio, pretty much, all the arrangements are based on the live format and some even on jams.

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Describe for me please Wavelab Studios in Tucson? What is it about the place that makes for such a special sound?

AP: Well…..first off people make the main difference. Climate matters too. Then Wavelab is one big room, the engineer sits in the same room every one else does, that matters a lot.

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Will there be a European tour for The DeSoto Caucus?

AP: We play the Orange blossom Special festival in Beverungen, Germany on Sunday May 19th and start European tour October 23rd in Berlin. No UK dates as of now, but we’ll be there soon, I hope!

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What albums are you listening to most these days?

AP: “Total Dust” by Dusted, Bombino’s “Nomad” record that Dan Auerbach produced, Nick Cave’s recent Bad Seeds record.

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“Offramp Rodeo” is available now on Glitterhouse Records.

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http://www.desotocaucus.com
http://label.glitterhouse.com

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December 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

Ten Mile Stereo

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Howe Gelb ‘The Coincidentalist’ (New West)
“The Coincidentalist is someone who can read the coincidences but who doesn’t try to figure out their meaning. For if one tries to figure out the meaning it will be lost. The coincidences aren’t there to figure out but to point the way.” (Howe Gelb)
Since last year’s excellent Giant Giant Sand LP ‘Tucson’ – where Gelb draws from his beloved hometown for inspiration – legendary Giant Sand leader Howe Gelb will return this November with has latest solo work ‘The Coincidentalist’. The album is Gelb’s first release for New West Records. Over the last three decades Gelb has produced a mightily sprawling body of work – whether as Giant Sand or under his “solo” guise – and has peerlessly fused myriad genres and traditions into his own dusty, earthy trademark sound. Highlights are too numerous to list but personal favorites include Giant Sand’s ‘Center of the Universe’, ‘Glum’ and ‘Chore of Enchantment’, as well as Gelb’s ‘The Listener’ and ‘Sno Angel Like You’. ‘The Coincidentalist’ proves to be yet another career peak for Gelb, and is available on 5 November via New West Records. 

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Rachel’s ‘Systems/Layers’ (Quarterstick)
Rachel’s wonderful “System/Layers” sounds as immaculate today as it did a decade ago on its release on US independent label Quarterstick Records. Recently, Rachel’s – formed in Louisville, Kentucky in 1991 – can be heard on the soundtrack to the visually immaculate Paolo Sorrentino film “The Great Beauty”, a film set in present-day Rome. The song used by Sorrentino is ‘Water From The Same Source’, a heavenly ballad and a timeless piece of music. Rachel’s are responsible for some of the most breathtaking and ambitious music over the last couple of decades. Tragically, founding member Jason Noble passed away in 2012 but has left behind a truly remarkable musical legacy in the form of Rachel’s beloved chamber music output. Also essential is the fabulous ‘The Sea And The Bells’. For all information on Rachel’s please see here.

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Zola Jesus ‘Versions’ (Sacred Bones)
Nika Roza Danilova returned this year with ‘Versions’, her fourth Zola Jesus studio album, released at the end of August by the Brooklyn-based independent label Sacred Bones Records. The album’s genesis began when Danilova was asked to perform at New York’s Guggenheim and, on accepting the invitation, she requested her wish to work with a classical composer who could arrange her songs for a quartet. The pioneering and versatile JG Thirlwell (Foetus) who is best known in industrial music circles, was recruited for this purpose and to fulfill Danilova’s artistic vision. According to Danilova: “Versions is about the bone of the music; taking approximations from past records and turning them inside out. With all framework exposed, the songs are given a new medium in which to evolve and bloom into their own tiny worlds.”

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Lucrecia Dalt ‘Syzygy’ (Human Ear Music)
Hugely talented Colombian-born artist Lucrecia Dalt – now based in Berlin – returns this year with the mesmerizing ‘Syzygy’, the much-anticipated follow-up to her second full length ‘Commotus.’ The record took shape quite by accident. When Dalt moved to a new place located in close proximity to a metro station, she soon discovered that the magnetic field of the metro affected the sound of the bass. Whereas her previous album ‘Commotus’ was largely centered on bass-driven melodies, ‘Syzygy’ sees a shift to a more dreamy, ambient-textured palette, as Dalt could only record the songs in the dead of the night, as she recounts: “I could only record at 4:30 am when the metro wasn’t working. So I love these kinds of accidents. I’m not sure if the new record would have shaped the way it did if I wan’t under that circumstance.” ‘Syzygy’ is available now on Human Ear Music.

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Chequerboard ‘The Unfolding’ (Lazybird)
Chequerboard is the moniker for Dublin-based composer John Lambert who released ‘The Unfolding’ – Lambert’s third LP – this year on independent label Lazybird Records. It has been five years since Chequerboard’s previous album, ‘Penny Black’, and ‘The Unfolding’ sees Lambert expanding on a more complex and panoramic sound than before. Collaborations on the record feature Seti The First’s Kevin Murphy and Crash Ensemble’s Kate Ellis (both on cello) as well as guest vocals from Eileen Carpio. Much like the beautifully textured and multi-layered sonic palette of Thrill Jockey’s Mountains, Chequerboard’s music is stunningly complex, mixing soft focus ambient vignettes with highly detailed, intricate guitar patterns. An album which reveals more upon every listen, ‘The Unfolding’ is a true delight.

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Lisa O’Neill ‘Same Cloth Or Not’
‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is Lisa O’Neill’s second album and follow-up to her 2009 debut ‘Has An Album.’ ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ confirms County Cavan-born O’Neill as one of Ireland’s finest and most unique young songwriters and was recorded with Dublin-based songwriter (and occasional Tindersticks contributor) David Kitt as producer with Karl Oldum on engineering duties. In the past O’Neill’s name has become better known with support slots with the likes of David Gray and Glen Hansard. A tour with the wonderful Scottish musician James Yorkston this November should be particularly special occasion for music audiences across the UK. O’Neill supports Glen Hansard on his solo Irish tour this October. ‘Same Cloth Or Not’ is released on 18th October.

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Joni Mitchell ‘The Studio Albums 1968 – 1979’ (Warner Music / Reprise / Asylum)
Since last year’s Joni Mitchell boxset release – comprising Mitchell’s studio albums from her most prolific and creative period of the late sixties and seventies – the astonishing music and artistry of Mitchell’s can be explored by a whole new generation of music-lovers. The set contains Mitchell’s best-loved and most revered albums including the timeless string of albums at the turn of the seventies – 1971’s ‘Blue’, ’74’s ‘Court and Spark’ and ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’ from 1975. The set also features such slightly less known gems as ‘Hejira’, ‘Ladies Of The Canyon’ and ‘Mingus’, Mitchell’s beautiful Asylum Records album from 1979 dedicated to the life and memory of Charles Mingus who passed away in January of the same year.

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Peter Jefferies ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ (De Stijl)
Originally released on tape cassette by Xpressway, a label based in Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990, the mystery and allure surrounding Jefferies’ debut solo album has only grown since. Hence, this year’s reissue of the New Zealander’s ‘The Last Great Challenge In A Dull World’ via De Stijl Records (the first time that the vinyl has been repressed since the LP version of the album on Chicago’s Ajax label was out of print some twenty years ago). The collection itself is an engrossing set of songs highlighting the raw talents of Jefferies as a songwriter whose songs reveal much pain, sadness and indifference to a world which seems at complete odds to it’s author, while ultimately the album conveys a sense of fragile hope and soft light which diffuses Jefferies’ stark shadows with soft edges. A redeeming and life-affirming record.

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Kwes ‘ilp.’ (Warp)
‘ilp.’ is the debut album by Warp’s hugely talented London-based producer Kwesi Sey (who has worked with the likes of Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn in the past). The album’s ten tracks cut through every conceivable genre and style so effortlessly, fusing pop, electronic, hip hop, found sounds and ambient traditions to a mesmerizing effect (at times recalling Warp’s Bibio at his most expansive). The album’s hallmark is Sey’s vocal work, adding heart and soul to the beguiling, multilayered soundscapes beneath. Sey’s journey in music began when he was given a present of a keyboard from his grandmother (an instrument he still uses), and from the evidence of the hugely promising ‘ilp.’ expect a very bright future indeed for Kwes.

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Pharaoh Sanders ‘Elevation’ (Soul Jazz, Re-Issue 2013)
Soul Jazz Records’ Universal Sound recently re-issued Pharaoh Sanders’ classic ‘Elevation’ which was originally released on Impulse Records back in 1973. This was a golden era for Impulse when such jazz greats as Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Sam Rivers and Marion Brown were making records for the label. Sanders was one of the greatest saxophonists of all time, and worked with both John Coltrane in the sixties as well as Alice Coltrane in the following decade. Beginning with the album’s majestic title-track, ‘Elevation’ is a key cornerstone to the spiritual jazz genre and highlights Sanders as one of the greatest tenor saxophonists there ever was.

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The Last Waltz: Rainer Ptacek

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Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

Singer Songwriter, Guitarist (born East Germany on June 7 1951), died of brain cancer, aged 46.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Rainer Ptacek passed away on November 12, 1997 after succumbing to brain cancer. He left behind a musical legacy and an unrivalled reputation as a “musician’s musician.” His progressive approach to guitar playing was wholly unique and revolutionary. His unique guitar technique, which incorporated slide, finger-picking, tape loops and electronic manipulation won him huge critical acclaim from luminaries such as Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris and PJ Harvey. Earlier this year, ‘The Inner Flame’ was released on Fire Records which is a tribute record celebrating the talented life and music of the great musician and songwriter. ‘The Inner Flame’ features a whole host of rock ‘n’ roll greats. ‘The Farm’ is reinterpreted by Lucinda Williams, ‘Rude World’ is covered by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Evan Dando, Vic Chesnutt, Grandaddy and Chuck Prophet amongst others also feature. The special spark arrives at the end in the shape of ‘Be Prepared’, performed live by Rainer, alongside Joey Burns and John Convertino (of Calexico/Giant Sand fame). The compilation opens with the title track ‘Inner Flame’, where Giant Sand alongside Rainer deliver one of Americana’s defining moments ever put to tape. The benefit album ‘Inner Flame’ was originally released in 1997 with the proceeds going towards Ptacek’s medical bills. The re-released version contains many extras not featured on the original release. It is reissued now in 2012, to pay tribute and celebrate the remarkable artist. In the words of Howe Gelb: “We offer up this new version to pay tribute and celebrate the man, the likes of whom I’ve yet to ever encounter again, and allowing a glimpse now of what he had done here on the planet and to share that embrace for ever having known him at all.”

‘Inner Flame’ and Giant Sand was how I first discovered Rainer. I remember picking up Giant Sand’s ‘Selections Circa 1990-2000’ compilation in Plugd and immediately became utterly transfixed by their visionary and beguiling sound. Classics such as ‘Shiver’, ‘Inner Flame’, ‘Corridor’, ‘Yer Ropes’ and ‘Temptation Of Egg’ introduced me to the sound of Americana. ‘Inner Flame’ was my first glimpse of Rainer. His slide guitar and vocals on the song is awe-inspiring. The weight of the song is staggering, with a force to be reckoned with. It’s the spark of musicianship between frontman Howe Gelb and Rainer, together with the rhythm backbone of Joey Burns and John Convertino, that makes for a truly special sonic landscape. It’s cinematic blues covering the plains of Arizona and beyond. The lyric ‘Everything should come from the deepest place’ is one of my favourite moments from the stellar Giant Sand songbook. In fact, it’s the essence of Rainer’s music, where his songs transcend space and time.

Over the years, several releases featured the songs of Rainer, of which I only realized a good time later. One of those such songs is ‘Square’, which was taken from one of Howe Gelb’s many off-shoot projects, The Band of Blacky Ranchette. The album was entitled ‘Still Lookin’ Good To Me’. The album features everyone from Kurt Wagner and Cat Power to M. Ward and Grandaddy. ‘Square’ is a gem of a song, which was co-written by Howe Gelb and Rainer Ptacek. The version of the song found here is recorded live in Austin, Texas and the magical trio of Howe Gelb (vocals, guitar), John Convertino (drums) and Joey Burns (cello) weave their magic. Howe Gelb’s vocal delivery hits you deep and hard, amidst the heart wrenching bowed cello of Burns and Convertino’s evocative drumming. The song is achingly beautiful. A lyric on the opening verse: ‘Times spent with you is always way too few. Finer than the finest dream well displayed on the silver screen.’ The lyrics of the chorus, for me, epitomizes the life and music of Rainer: ‘You’re way too real for wide appeal/You’re one of the last of a kind/Out of the past and right in time.’ Listening to the lyrics echoes Howe Gelb’s words for his best friend, ‘the likes of whom I’ve yet to ever encounter again.’ Certainly, Rainer is just that, ‘one of the last few one of a kind.’ It is only fitting in 2012, fifteen years since Rainer’s passing, that we see his music being released again, where Rainer’s music will be introduced to new audiences.

My favourite Rainer song must be ‘Rudy With A Flashlight’. Funnily enough, five or six years passed before I heard the original version of Rainer’s! The song was beautifully covered by Evan Dando (featuring Howe Gelb) on The Lemonheads’ ‘Best Of’ compilation. ‘Rudy With A Flashlight’ always strikes me with its powerful emotion and its immediacy and directness. The guitar playing by Rainer is astounding. You can hear John Fahey, Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson all at once in his unique style of guitar playing. The opening verse recounts watching his son playing in the yard, ‘Rudy with a flashlight, playing out in the yard, shining it straight up, right at the stars.’ In a later verse, Rainer sings ‘Some times all we need/Is right in front of us/Right in front of us.’ I can visualize Rainer singing with his guitar, while watching his son playing in the yard and in the process writing ‘Rudy With A Flashlight.’ A very special song, that pours with a father’s love.

Several of Rainer’s albums I’ve been listening to lately for the first time. My current favourite is ‘Rolling Back The Years’, which is Rainer with John Convertino and Joey Burns. Three musicians in deep communication with one another at the highest level, through music. It was recorded in late July/early August 1997 in Tucson, Arizona at the Barrio Viejo home of journalist, author and activist, Bill Carter. Rainer was at a high point in his recovery from a brain tumor when these sessions were recorded. ‘The Farm’ is another striking document of Rainer’s legacy. The sessions recorded would be the last recordings Rainer ever put to tape, before his untimely passing in November 1997. Those sessions were released in 2002, after being untouched for several years. A whole host of recordings are available across many releases, where Rainer’s phenomenal talent is showcased.

Throughout 2012, Fire Records will be releasing the vast archives of Rainer Ptacek’s works. The much beloved slide guitarist from Tucson, Arizona who originated Giant Sand’s sound from their inception to creating a stream of remarkable solo albums and with his band, Das Combo, described as mutant roots/power blues. Near the end of Rainer’s life, when asked the impossible question of what he thinks we are all doing here in this life, Rainer answered without hesitation: “to love away the pain”.
Listen to Rainer’s music and you soon feel just that.

‘Inner Flame’ is out now on Fire Records.

Written by admin

September 26, 2012 at 11:14 am