Tuesday, August 16, 2005

darrin kobetich, jeff beck, james hinkle

i sold my old house today. it'll be nice not to be throwing money every month into a place where nobody lives anymore. my oldest dtr was living there for awhile with her family before they kinda disintegrated and she abandoned the joint. it took me eight months after that to unload it, but now it's done. the relief at being out from under that burden and knowing that my wife and i will now be able to stay solvent is mitigated somewhat by the regret i feel at all the things i hoped to accomplish with my kids when i bought the house eight yrs ago that never really happened. oh well.

the last few weeks of kat's summer va-ca since aimee moved out, we've gotten a lot of stuff out of boxes and organized things a bit. kat converted aimee's old room into a music room for me, and i've actually gone in there and dinked around on the gtr a bit, altho i wouldn't exactly call what i'm doing "practicing" -- that implies a kind of organized regimen that i don't really have anymore. it's more in the line of maintaining familiarity with the axe when i'm not either learning material or playing with other ppl, something i haven't done in years.

listening to a lot of gtrs again lately, something i generally avoid doing: darrin kobetich's cd-r of solo acoustic stuff, an old jeff beck record i found at half price, and james hinkle's new cd straight ahead blues?. it's got me thinking about the gtr again, at least more than i usually do.

darrin's such an incredible (but humble) player. at the pablo and the hemphill 7/darth vato/shark attack show at the wreck room last weekend, i ran into him and bent his ear with a bunch of effusive praise (all from the heart, d., i swear). his solo stuff reminds me of that record leo kottke made for john fahey's label (6 and 12 string guitar), as well as the early jimmy page acoustic stuff where you could tell he'd been listening a lot to english folk guys like bert jansch and john renbourn. darrin's a really disciplined player, but his technique never gets in the way of the human sound in his music (whether he's playing solo acoustic, bluegrass, or metal) -- no matter what the subject of the day is, he leaves a lot of blood on the strings.

jeff beck was my first main man on gtr (even tho i usedta execute more like leslie west back in those days). these days he's like a zen master, playing incredible stuff with seemingly no effort. he doesn't even use picks, and he has a real percussive attack. his mastery of harmonics and microtones borders on the supernatural. his instrumental records get kinda boring to listen to, tho. i'd rather hear him back when he had rod stewart, ron wood, and micky waller in his group -- the lineup that made the truth album and was probably the best rockband in the world for a few weeks in 1968, just like the stones were on their american tour in '69, the who were in the spring of '70, the stooges were in the summer of that year, etc. it's hard to believe there was a time when rod "why didn't _i_ get nominated for a grammy?" stewart didn't deserve to be hit in the head with a brick, but on his early solo stuff (with some of those same musos from the beck group), he did a real good job of taking american folk/blues/soul forms and making 'em sound organically english. and micky waller was the greatest sloppy drummer of all time. the second jeff beck group (the one that made the rough and ready album and the one i've been listening to, which has an orange on the cover) was kind of a lesser repeat of the earlier lineup: bob tench had the same rasp as stewart, but sounded a little more strained, while cozy powell on drums was another heavy hitter who used double bass drums (later on, he wound up playing with blackmore's rainbow, bedlam, and other heavy outfits). still, it's the "orange" album i always find myself reaching for when i wanna hear what's great about jeff beck -- not so much for the blazing solos and rude noises he makes as for the way he builds an arrangement around a groove with all these great little ornamental flourishes. that and the melodies he plays; he really makes that plank _sing_ when he wants to. the "orange" alb was produced by steve cropper from booker t. and the mg's, a gtrist who knew all about taste, restraint, and groove.

in some ways, james hinkle is like the polar opposite of darrin kobetich as a player. while darrin overwhelms you with technique and pyrotechnics, james weaves his magic a little more subtly; he'll turn _down_ to get your attention. in his young days, he was like freddie cisneros' shadow when freddie would haunt dives like the new bluebird nite club and tack's fun house -- drinking it all in and learning from everything he absorbed. (i wish i still had the robert ealey and his five careless lovers record that featured freddie playing gtr alongside sumter bruton. mike buck, who played drums in that band, was later in the fabulous thunderbirds and the leroi brothers, while jack newhouse, the bassplayer, was with stevie vaughan the one time i saw him play when i lived in austin.) james learned more lessons playing noisy texas blues-rock with housewives' choice and backup gtr on the road with nawlins r&b queen marcia ball. i think straight ahead blues? is the best of his four cd's, largely due to the production input he had from mike buck and wes race. wes is a poet and blues scholar from kansas city who used to be hound dog taylor's road manager back in the '70s, and whose stuff i used to read in living blues around that time. he's the man responsible for two robin sylar records that document robin's highly idiosyncratic imagination as well as his hellacious chops. i remember hanging out with wes a couple of yrs ago when he was trying to get james to record "mammer jammer," an old don and dewey number that's on this new cd. and a couple of weeks ago, lee allen's wednesday night wreck room jammers actually played "cool blues," a charlie parker toon that i misidentified in my post-jam blog. the thing i dig the most about this rec -- recorded partly in austin with buck and some cats that used to play with doug sahm, and partly here with local aces including joey carter on vibes and robert cadwallader on keys -- is the way it captures the grace and panache of hinkle's persona, as well as his profound roots knowledge and feel, even tho he only wrote one of the songs on it. further proof that sometimes it takes an outsider to help you really sound like yourself. (james did the same trick for his podnah johnny mack on _his_ gave myself the blues outing a coupla yrs back.)

blah blah blah. my insomnia's back. time to go drink some of andre's watermelon juice and make sure i'm _real_ tired at work tom'w. the good news is, it's jam day.

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