Joe Goldmark

The Wham of That Steel Man!


Joe Goldmark is the keeper of the instrumental pedal steel guitar flame. On his last album, 2007’s “Seducing the ’60s,” he branched out by including guest vocalists on half the songs. Now, for his ninth solo album (he also was a member of Jim Campilongo and the 10 Gallon Cats as well as the Twangbangers), he branches out further with a double album — a vocal disc and an instrumental disc.

The vocal disc features Keta Bill. “I’ve known Keta for about 20 years,” Goldmark told Good New Music by e-mail. “She’s (music critic) Joel Selvin’s ex-wife. She was in (’80s R&B big band) the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra and (ZPMO’s later incarnation) Big Bang Beat. … I wanted a rock-and-roll singer rather than a jazz or country singer for this album. (Guitarist) Gary Potterton and I supply the country sounds.”

As on prior outings, Goldmark displays his penchant for covering classic rock numbers. On the vocal disc, he covers Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Bobby Fuller, the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Blind Faith, among others. He also throws in tracks of more recent vintage by Jeff Buckley, Teenage Fanclub and Dr. Dog.

The lion’s share of the instrumental disc, by comparison, is made up of Goldmark originals. The rest is covers of the Beatles, Dmitri Tiomkin, Burt Bacharach, and Dave and Ansel Collins.

Goldmark’s résumé explains his impressive musical taste — he’s an avid record collector with a website containing an LP label guide, LP price guides and an album cover gallery. He’s also a partner in San Francisco record shop Amoeba Music.

For a change of pace, he plays lap steel on “Long As I Can See the Light” and Dobro on “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Supporting musicians add fiddle to “Caroline No,” “Glass Beach” and “Tsunami,” and horns to “Long As I Can See the Light,” “Guns of Navarone” and Goldmark originals  “The Ska’s the Limit” and “Zanzibar.”

Best song on the album: “Sexy Sadie,” featuring John McFee (Clover, the Doobie Brothers) on slide guitar.


1. Long As I Can See The Light
2. On The Way Home
3. Let Her Dance
4. Caroline No
5. I Don’t Want Control Of You
6. Beware Of Darkness
7. Most Likely You Go Your Way
8. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
9. We’ll Meet Again
10. Ain’t It Strange
11. Can’t Find My Way Home

1. The High Road
2. Palomino
3. The Ska’s The Limit
4. Riptide Rock
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Zanzibar
7. Glass Beach
8. Guns Of Navarone
9. Any Day Now
10. Dede’s Delight
11. Pasta Puttanesca
12. Double Barrel
13. Tsunami

Total time: 1:14:11

External links
artist’s website
iTunes Store

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Bill Stafford

Unforgettable Melodies


staffordThey call him Mr. Smooth for good reason: His stylings are like silk. What’s more, his tone can’t be topped and he likes to mix things up with unexpected staccato bursts.

It doesn’t hurt that his pedal steel is a single-neck Excel Superb S-14 (as in 14 strings), custom-built by Mitsuo Fujii of Tokyo, who approached him in St. Louis about 10 years ago at the International Steel Guitar Convention and asked, “If I make you steel guitar, will you play?” The rest is history.

Gus van Sant must have been impressed with Stafford’s playing, too, because he enlisted him to do the music for his 1991 film, “My Own Private Idaho,” for which Stafford won an Independent Spirit Award. He also received the Jerry Byrd Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.

Impeccably recorded in Nashville at Gene Breeden Studios, “Unforgettable” is pure instrumental pedal steel backed by drums, bass, keyboards and Breeden on some very clean-sounding electric lead and acoustic rhythm guitars. Breeden, by the way, was the young upstart in 1971 who persuaded Red Simpson to cut a track by a songwriting postman called “(Hello) I’m a Truck” for his small Portland Records label. 

Here’s “Unforgettable’s” track lowdown:

1. Unforgettable (one of Nat King Cole’s best-remembered songs; written in 1951 by Irving Gordon)
2. Almost Like Being in Love (from the 1947 Broadway musical “Brigadoon”; written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe)
3. Lovely Hula Girl (sung by Alfred Apaka in the 1954 Universal short “Hawaiian Nights” starring Mamie Van Doren and Pinky Lee; written in 1952 by Randy Oness and Jack Pitman)
4. Kind of Love (aka “The Kind of Love I Can’t Forget,” a 1946 tune by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys; written by his fiddle player, Jesse Ashlock)
5. When I Dream (a No. 3 hit for Crystal Gayle in 1978; written by Canada’s Sandy Mason Theoret)
6. My Window Faces the South (first popularized by Rudy Vallee and later covered by Fats Waller, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson and Commander Cody, among others; written in 1937 by Jerry Livingston, Mitchell Parish and Abner Silver)
7. That’s All That Matters (aka “That’s All That Matters to Me,” a Hank Cochran song covered by Ray Price in 1964; Mickey Gilley took it to No.1 in 1980)
8. Making Plans (Voni Morrison and Johnny Russell co-write, covered by Charlie Louvin, Dave Dudley and Loretta Lynn; Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton’s duet went to No. 2 in 1980)
9. Sweet Memories (Mickey Newbury composition from his 1968 debut; covered by Webb Pierce, Willie Nelson, the Everly Brothers, Ray Price, Jerry Reed and Andy Williams, who got a hit B-side out of it in 1970)
10. Callie’s Song for Ruby (Stafford original written for his parents, who were kind enough to give him the rest of his older brother’s pedal steel lessons when the instructor informed them they were wasting their money and offered to refund the balance)gnm_end_bug

Total time: 38:19

External links
artist’s website
artist’s order page

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Mike Headrick

Heart of the Night

Country Discovery

One of the things that made late ’60s/early ’70s country rock so great was pedal steel guitar. There was something pleasantly anachronistic about hearing that old-fashioned sound amid electric guitars and hard-chargin’ rhythm sections.

Intrepid fans just discovering the instrument via country rock and thirsting for more could track down output by such classic players as Jerry Byrd, Speedy West, Pete Drake, Leon McAuliffe, Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons, Tom Brumley, Red Rhodes and Jaydee Maness, all of whom cranked out instrumental albums featuring covers of popular hits in which the pedal steel took the place of vocals.

Headrick offers the best of both worlds, cherry picking from country rock’s finest to fill an album of instrumental covers: three by Poco, three by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, two by the Eagles and one each by Pure Prairie League and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Hearing the pedal steel carry the melody rather than embellishing it enables a new level of appreciation — there’s not as much of a “distancing” factor involved as there would be, say, in listening to a pedal steel rendition of “Danny Boy” or “Moonlight Becomes You.” Listeners quite possibly could forget they’re hearing an interpretation, since the originals featured the instrument to such a high degree to begin with.

Highlights include Headrick’s use of the Pedabro (a type of Dobro fitted with a pedal and played like a pedal steel guitar) for Jerry Garcia’s parts on “Teach Your Children,” and harmonicat Charlie McCoy’s guest solos on “Rose of Cimarron.”

1. Take It Easy
2. Amie
3. She’s No Angel
4. Heart Of The Night
5. Teach Your Children
6. Bad Weather
7. Henry
8. Ol’ ’55
9. I Don’t Need No Doctor
10. Rose Of Cimarron

Total time: 41:39

External links
artist’s website
CD Baby

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Michael Perlowin

Spanish Steel


The journey off pedal steel guitar’s beaten path continues with Perlowin’s third release: First he proved the instrument capable of rendering classical standards with unspeakable beauty on “Firebird Suite”; then he tackled Leonard Bernstein’s multicultural “West Side Story” with such aplomb it was like hearing the masterwork anew; now he takes listeners on an auditory voyage to the Mediterranean and unearths some sublimely exotic “Spanish Steel.”

First up is Manuel de Falla’s 1915 ballet “El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician),” a 22-minute tour de force embellished by sitar and five-string banjo, the former bringing the composer’s use of Middle Eastern modalities even more to the fore. The steel-to-guitar ratio overall is down from Perlowin’s previous two albums, with multitracked guitars on some of “Brujo’s” movements rivaling Mike Oldfield’s groundbreaking work on “Tubular Bells.”

Next on the itinerary are three shorter pieces, led by “Asturias,” previously known as “Leyenda” or “legend.” Originally written in the early 1890s for piano, Isaak Albéniz’s composition arguably is the quintessential Spanish guitar piece. Andres Segovia began playing it in the 1920s, and the Doors used it to great effect half a century later as the intro to their “Spanish Caravan.”  

The third movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s obscure 1967 “Concierto Andaluz for 4 Guitars” follows, with Perlowin using pedal steel solely to cover brass and woodwind parts. The result is his highest guitar quotient yet, a 50-50 blend.

“Spanish Steel’s” final shorter piece actually is Peruvian: “Fantasia Inca,” written by the great South American classical guitarist Julio Martínez Oyanguren and performed here entirely on multitracked pedal steel. Having scoured libraries coast to coast in vain for sheet music, Perlowin created his own arrangement, using a recording by flamenco legend Sabicas as his starting point. Those familiar with Peter Green’s exquisite instrumental “Oh Well (Part 2)” for Fleetwood Mac will be especially pleased.

Last but not least is the 15-minute “Capriccio Espagnol,” written in 1887 by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. A brilliant orchestral showpiece requiring considerable virtuosity on the part of each player, Perlowin is up to the task, making it a mammoth production requiring 109 tracks at one point.

1. El Amor Brujo
2. Asturias
3. Concierto Andaluz For 4 Guitars
4. Fantasia Inca
5. Capriccio Espagnol

Total time: 53:41

External links 
artist’s website
CD Baby
Steel Guitar Music

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