Have you heard this one before?
So, a guy walks on the stage with a lute.
It sounds like the first line of raunchy bar joke, doesn’t it?
But in reality, that’s what happened. Even after the roadies set up the most primitive stage I’ve seen this year – it was just a folding metal chair and five or six instruments, most still in their cases, on the floor kind of in a semi-circle. There was a whole rack full of acoustic guitars to the left, and a monitor speaker on the floor in front.
Even with all these instruments to choose from, this guy still walks on stage with a lute.
And not just any lute. This 7-string strange looking monster was a Baglama-saz, which happens to be the national instrument of Turkey. The thing looks to be 5 ft. long, and it’s really thin. Imagine a really long thin banjo-type neck, with a gourd-type piece on the end. It was fretted, and upon further research, it turns out that the frets can be moved, I guess to accommodate different tunings. It was all-white, and it was fitted with a pick-up system for the PA, and it sounded really cool.
So this guy starts playing the saz.. At first, it sounded Japanese. You know, that strange drone-sounding stuff. And then, he continues to play more, and now it’s really sounding like Middle-eastern stuff.
Then he starts picking up the pace, and now the music is sounding a little more familiar, I’m starting to hear a mix of bluegrass and folk, but with the other cultural influences still in the mix.
And then he starts singing.
And by the third line or so, I’m like saying to myself, “I can’t believe this. There’a pretty strange looking guy playing a baglama-saz, tuned to god-knows-what, and he’s wailing away on Steve Earle’s renegade anthem “Copperhead Road.” And it’s only the first song. This is going to be a fun night, for sure.”
David Lindley is probably not a household name, but in musician circles, he’s one of the go-to session guys. This man plays anything and everything that has strings, and for this show, he favored some custom-strung acoustic guitars played on his lap with a slide. He mentioned one guitar was just an old Yamaha, and there looked to be a Weisborn-style guitar up there, too. One instrument was custom made in Australia, with some type of wood that gave a “really good” bass response. David was really glad he found this particular guitar. It sounded amazing. Also thrown into the mix were at least two mando-cello type instruments, and of course, the lute.
Lindley’s career has involved playing on a countless number of records, but I guess I know him best for being a longtime member in Jackson Browne’s band, including the “Running on Empty” album from 1977. He has more than 25 “solo” records, and has worked with Warren Zevon, Rod Stewart and Grahm Nash and David Crosby. More recently he’s worked with Ben Harper (who, interestingly, I just saw in September.)
Most of David’s show was great mix of strange, humor-filled stories, off-beat immitations (Jimmy Swaggart) and eclectic song choices – anything from Poor Dirt Farmer, to old English folk-song material, to his raucous version of “Mercury Blues.”
And, as David Lindley could only do, for his last song he asks the audience to give him some random themes and thoughts for a tune, which of course culminated into the dark-humor song “Methlab Boyfriend” a song David wrote for some friends that were going through a tough time.
Oh, did I mention who the opening act was? We were treated to a great set of blues by John Hammond. Talk about a guy who’s been around. As you may know, Hammond’s father was a Columbia Record Company executive, who signed many legendary performers, including Bob Dylan.
Hammond’s set paid tribute to the early blues people – Johnson, Estes, McTell – along with his own material. He was playing music with key blues players in the 1960s in New York and Chicago. We’re really talking the real deal, here. For this set, Hammond alternated between an acoustic guitar and a national steel, with harmonica and vocals.
For John’s set, I took notes, but I still couldn’t nail down two of the songs. After what seemed like hours of searching on the internet, I finally emailed Mr. Hammond’s management and asked if he could be so kind to help me out. I’m happy to report that he did reply, so songs #1 and #5 are now complete. I also sent along a short interview – and it looks like he’s going to respond – so stay tuned. John has had an amazing career in the blues, and I’m really looking forward to his reply.
OK, that’s the November show. I can’t believe that the year has gone by this fast. Thanks for reading so far, and we’re going to start planning the last show of the year. I’ve got kind of a feeling as to what it’s going to be, and if it works out, I’ll technically have to file my report in January, 2010.
Of course, that’ll be after the big music hangover. J
David Lindley/with John Hammond
Sunday, Nov. 8
Aladdin Theater, Portland
John Hammond (solo)
Ride Till I Die (John Lee Hooker)
Heartache Blues (John Hammond)
Mean Old Lonesome Train (John Hammond)
It’s Gonna Be My Time After a While (Buddy Guy, Robert Geddis 1960)
My Mind is Rambling (Howlin Wolf)
Come On in My Kitchen (Robert Johnson)
You Know That’s Cold (John Hammond)
Love Changing Blues (Blind Willie McTell)
Come To Find Out (John Hammond)
Someday Baby (Sleepy John Estes)
Tell Me (Little Walter)
Dreamy Eyed Woman Blues (Hambone Willie)
Drop Down Mama (Sleepy John Estes/Joe Williams)
Found Love (Jimmy Reed)
David Lindley (solo)
Poor Dirt Farmer
Folk Medley feat. Night of Trafalgar/Prince William
King of the Bed? (I sing you a song, it ain’t very long)
Meth Lab Boyfriend