Butterflies, Clark Gable and
the Pedal Steel
Did you know that butterflies' sense of taste is many
times more sensitive than humans and that butterflies
taste through their feet? Do you like country music?
I'm a guitarist and funnily enough a right handed player
though left handed as regards writing, throwing bricks
through windows etc.
The reason I'm telling you all of this is because pedal
steel guitar players have an entirely different approach.
They play guitar on its side, utilising the stance somewhat
like a keyboard player. In one hand they have a bottleneck
to slide up and down the fretboard and in the other,
plectrums to pluck the strings. This is a very basic
description and I will tell you what I'm heading towards
in a couple of moments.
To repeat myself, do you like country music? Do you
like hearing pedal steel guitar? Now, if you'd asked
me this question a little while ago, I would have probably
remarked that Country music was not really my thing
but this was before I saw a band called Los Pistoleros
at our local town hall. This was an event organized
by a colourful local personality called Ted or "Ted
The Candle maker" as he is affectionately known
hereabouts, as he runs a business called Mooreland’s
Candles who make the most beautiful, traditional
The lead singer/violin player/rhythm guitarist in Los
Pistoleros is a guy you may remember from appearances
on Top Of The Pops called Bobby Valentino. He is the
spitting image of Clark Gable with as much charisma.
We met Bobby after the gig as he was dragging his gear
down a flight of stairs and he had a very interesting
anecdote about said Gable in that apparently in the
story to the film "Gone With The Wind", Rhett
Butler is supposed to have sailed to the USA from Wallsend
in the North East of England before he made his fortune.
This effectively made him a Geordie, prompting Bobby
to remark that at the end of the film, it would have
been far more apt if Clark Gable instead of saying "frankly
Scarlet, I don't give a damn", had said, "hadaway
hinny, Ar div’n't give a shite!"
Anyway, back to the pedal steel. We met a knowledgeable
guy in the bogs at the town hall who informed us that
the line-up of the band was second to none and that
the pedal steel guitar player was none other than BJ
Cole. We had read a lot about BJ Cole but never actually
heard him play. Well, what can I say, the guy is phenomenal
and a truly magical and captivating player. He exudes
personality and I became a big fan immediately. We talked
to him after the gig and I asked him about the strange
way to play a guitar as I've explained above i.e. on
it's side and sitting down like he was playing a keyboard.
He replied "it's a secret and we like to keep it
BJ Cole uses amplification that is extremely difficult
to find in the UK. In fact, there is only one amplifier
of it's like in this country. Apparently he had the
amp imported from the USA. Some guy has started to make
the kind of amplifiers he uses which were last seen
about thirty years ago.
Los Pistoleros is the kind of band whose sheer dazzling,
performing brilliance cannot be taken in on one sitting
at a single gig. You could go to see this band on one
occasion and watch the bass player all night and then
return the next night and watch the drummer all night
and so on. Believe me, they are that good! It was extremely
refreshing to see a wonderful band of musicians who
really have that magical, if not mystical touch to their
playing which can only be described as naturally occurring
genius and I repeat that I am not a country music fan!
They introduce the novice (i.e. me) to a new kind of
music by pouring loads of diverse influences into a
pot (such as everything from twenties/thirties style
ballads to psychedelic, three dimensional country style
jams) and mixing them together into a totally unique,
innovative and uplifting soundscape. In short, I feel
that I have missed out on a whole lot of wonderful music
in my ignorance. For instance, BJ Cole very kindly gave
us a promo copy of an ambient CD he has produced on
Resurgence Records entitled "The Heart Of The Moment"
and he is currently working on a full-scale dance music
project. He's not narrow minded about his musical tastes,
so why the hell have I been?
People feel a great necessity to label everything these
days and record companies package musicians and deliver
their two dimensional, shallow, empty headed "pop
stars" to their target audience. We desperately
need to break these chains and stop following the corporate
leaders like lemmings into a sea of delusion.
Butterflies taste food through their feet and I'm definitely
getting an empty bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale and turning
my guitar on its side…
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