This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Shawn Lane. Lane was known the world over as a peerless guitarist. Newby's is hosting a weekend-long festival of music to remember him. Below, his friend and student Paul Taylor remembers Lane as a mentor and considers Lane's influence on his musical life.
When I was a boy, my father would take me to see Shawn, and I really couldn't — I still can't — understand how anyone could play that fast. At first, I made the common mistake of writing it off as finger-wiggling with no depth. My brain couldn't process it. Many guitarists view Shawn this way at first. Maybe It's a mechanism of jealousy, or all of our ears are just entirely too slow!
My dad's band was Shawn's rhythm section, so I had access to bootleg tapes that would become his Warner Brother record Powers of Ten. I obsessively wore those tapes out. Slowly it began to sink in. This guy was playing very legitimate musical patterns at blinding Art-Tatum-does-triple-time speed. It was no B.S. And it was all on top of his beautiful compositions that had the rare ability to invoke deep feelings. That trait is so hard to come by in instrumental music. It was a rare gift.
Shawn did his best to teach others how to do what he did but always would say that his nervous system was just wired differently.
I had the good fortune of befriending Shawn and playing music with him in my late teens and early 20s. It was at this time that his true depth became clear to me. He was an avid reader, student of philosophy, science and culture; a film devotee; a lover of soundtrack music and classical music. He was a self-taught piano savant and a student of music from all over the world, especially qawwali (Sufi music of Southeast Asia) and Indian classical.
In the last 10 years of Shawn's life he was able to tour the world in a trio with bassist Jonas Hellborg and master drummer Jeff Sipe. Shawn's interest in Indian classical music was fulfilled as they toured India, and he made music and studied with many of his heroes. Shawn himself is still regarded as a hero all across Europe and the east.
Shawn languished in obscurity stateside and particularly in his hometown of Memphis. In a city that claims to be a music town, his is no new story: Original artist/innovator can't buy a gig, while cover bands thrive on Beale and dance and garage bands fuel people's weekends. Shawn led that double life many of us know well. His craft was recognized largely everywhere on earth except for this town.
After battling illness for most of his adult life and without health coverage, Shawn’s health took a drastic downward turn in 2003, and he died from a lung-related illness 10 years ago today.
Although his technical wizardry will always be that for which he is most known, Shawn's legacy lies far more in his melodicism and his compositions than in his speed and literally unparalleled technical prowess on guitar (and piano). His soul shines through in his songs: in the singing bits of his guitar parts, the little inflections.
Still, for pure fire and an unworldly experience, watch footage of Shawn. It's unholy. Actually, it’s totally holy!!
His friends and family sorely miss Shawn, but he isn't going anywhere. He still sits atop the ever-clattering mountain of competing guitarists, laughing down at a rat race he never had to play a part in. He transcended. He transcends.
LONG LIVE SHAWN LANE!
— Paul Taylor
James McMurtry is at the Hi-Tone tonight. He's such a good songwriter. Always loved this song:
Memphis-based guitar-maker St. Blues is honoring local guitar mastermind Eric Gales tonight with his custom-designed instrument. Gales, a former child prodigy with few if any equals in technique and imagination, will speak and present the instrument tonight at a gathering at the St. Blues factory at 645 Marshall starting at 6 p.m. Gales' trio will perform and the whole shebang will haul it over to Kudzu's for an after party.
Memphis' major export, the Oblivians, were on NPR today at KEXP at the University of Washington. On Monday evening, the layout of NPR's music site placed them below Elton John but on par with ?uestlove and Leonard Berstein. That'll work. Eric Friedl is cloud-seeding Gonerfest 10 like a master. Nicely done, sir.
Looks just like her daddy. Starts at 7:30. Only jerks park on Kenilworth. Don't park on Kenilworth.
Goner Fest 10 kicks off tonight at Crosstown Arts, with a photo exhibition showcasing some of the best live shots from the past 10 years of the annual weekend blowout. The Photo Fest features snapshots from locals like Tommy Kha and Christopher Reyes, as well as nationally known rock and roll photographers like Renate Winter and Marty Perez (the man responsible for the infamous "Popular Favorites” album cover by the Oblivians).
The curator for the event is local photography guru Don Perry, someone who definitely knows a thing or two about dodging flying beers to get a shot. The exhibition serves as a unique look into the history of this once-low-budget garage rock festival, especially for those who prefer to catch the debaucherous action of Goner Fest from a safe distance. “Goner Fest Photo Fest” runs until October 6th at Crosstown Arts, 422 N. Cleveland Avenue.
Valerie June played the Tonight Show last night. She starts after the last hash mark in the video timeline. 37:42. You can see it if you watch a million commercials. Seriously, a million. You will watch 2 minutes 30 seconds of commercials; Xfinity seconds, not real seconds. It's worth the wait. Compared to her David Letterman appearance, she seems more at home with her band and more comfortable in her role. She seems to be justifying all the recent publicity. All the best from Memphis.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, September 19) British singer-songwriter Glenn Tilbrook makes a rare Memphis-area appearance at the 1884 Lounge at Minglewood Hall.
Tilbrook is undoubtedly best known for his work fronting the alternative/power-pop outfit Squeeze, who scored several big hits in the 80s, including "Take Me I'm Yours," "Up The Junction," and "Tempted." But throughout his long career, Tilbrook has made several fine recordings outside of the Squeeze moniker, both as a solo artist and part of the duo Difford & Tilbrook.
Memphis rapper Juicy J teams up with The Bieb on the new video "Lolly" for Maejor Ali, who produced two songs for Beiber's Believe album. Juicy J also helped Katy Perry on her latest track "Dark Horse."
Between Juicy J and Elliot Ives, the stars of pop can't do it without their Memphis.
Memphis Master flat-picker Eric Lewis is at the Overton Park Golf Shack tonight at 6 p.m. SHARP.
If you have not been to music at the Golf Shack, we gotta wonder about you. Get out there and marvel at the place and the talent.
Here is Mr. Lewis:
The Eagles are coming to FedExForum on Monday, October 14th, and we've got your chance to win tickets.
Click here and fill out the form to register for your chance to win. You can enter as many times as you like.
Winners will be selected and notified on Monday, October 7th.
It’s getting close to go-time for the fest, and Indie Memphis has made its first reveal about what attendees can expect this year: the screening of four major features — Nebraska, One Chance, Computer Chess, and Deceptive Practice.
Yesterday, on the anniversary of the concert, the downloadable clip was linked in the news section of the official David Bowie site.
The Lumineers are coming to Mud Island Amphitheatre on Tuesday, October 8th and we've got your chance to win tickets.
Just click here to fill out the entry form. You can enter as many times as you like.
Winners will be selected and notified on Tuesday, October 1st.