Bobby Valentino

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 dipped candles.

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 that way!"

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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