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.”

Tracks
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

self-released

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.

Tracks
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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