Slide on In
catalog-no. tx 2058
rock - 2002
Slide on In
Chris Darrow and TAXIM - this has become a long and interesting
journey. Every new CD by this veteran Southern California roots musician is
like a musical postcard received from a distant yet familiar world. Darrow's
music is as far from being part of the mainstream pop world as a typewriter
is from a modern high-tech office. And yet it feels familiar because the man's
personal touches are as distinctive as the sound of his beloved "Studio
Nadine", the place where all his music finds its way onto tape and is mailed
to the outside world as sounds of a somewhat "analog" nature. So get
ready and SLIDE ON IN...
Chris Darrow's artistic integrity and honesty shine through in each of his projects and SLIDE ON IN make no exception. Again, a small number of friends, family members and musical partners-in-crime were invited to participate in the new project: Max Buda, Elizabeth Darrow Jones, Craig Van Sant, Bob Siggins, Robb Strandlund. SLIDE ON IN is an album of songs and instrumentals that are loosely based on the concept of presenting the his personal approach to playing slide guitar. And that's because Chris Darrow likes to do things differently. He plays all of his slides in a lap steel style and with a very personal sound, no matter what instrument he chooses.
The project was sparked by less fortunate circumstances, though. A problem with his shoulder prevented the musician and professional photographer from Claremont, CA, from playing many of his regular instruments. So he came up with the 'slide' concept for this record. There were many interesting axes for playing lap steel slide. Some vintage gear Darrow even re-discovered for himself. The instruments to be heard on SLIDE ON IN include the following: a mid-60s Fender lap steel guitar, 1914 Knutson Hawaiian Guitar (the original precursor to the famed Weissenborn), a couple of 30s style Dobros, a fake Gibson J-200 copy made in China, the fabled WMI (weird Mexican instrument), a prototype sitar slide and some other stuff...
Despite of all of the other vocal and instrumental contributions delivered by his friends, the result is another distinctive Darrow effort - idiosyncratic, entertaining and beautiful. Today, the man who wrote a chapter of California musical history with Kaleidoscope and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is still admired by his peers, amongst them Ben Harper, another successful Claremont native and great slide player in his own sense.
Chris Darrow's repertoire for this album is just as versatile, rich and left-fielded as the man himself. It's always interesting to speculate about the nature of the material in Darrowland. This time the material includes a hypnotic Indian groove in a minor key for sitar slide ("Kumbha Mela"), a couple of songs about prison folks ("Jailhouse Tattoo", "Tore Up From The Floor Up"), covers of songs by disco soul siren Candi Staton ("Love Chain"), the late Don "Sugarcane" Harris & Dewey Terry aka Don & Dewey ("Soul Notion"), R'n'B piano pioneer Sonny Knight ("Short Walk"), Nashville piano man Floyd Cramer ("Last Date") and a bunch of originals and instrumentals from Darrow and his clique of cohorts - 16 tracks in all and none resembling the other.
Chris Darrow is an old school kind of guy and like Bob Dylan he values the magic of a good first take. You can easily tell that there is nobody in sight out to get "perfect" sounds. This record is all about intelligent and earthy kind of roots music. And that's just the way Darrow sings his material these days - deep, sonorous and honest. You can tell his own subdued kind of enthusiasm for what he's doing when he speaks about his arsenal of tools and about the music he loves. Some of his genre interests are manifest on SLIDE ON IN: early black R'n'B, Hawaiian music, early Country Blues and Gospel stylings, Indian and Middle Eastern musics, authentic C'n'W, rock'n'roll, folk songwriting, blues. It's a pretty all-encompassing roots cocktail.
Although Chris Darrow's original songs are not the prime spotlight on the record, there is a nice remake of his tune "Whipping Boy", a song that Ben Harper decided to cover for his first album - ending in a Top 40 hit! The package for the album is another piece of love and art, filled with photos and personal comments by the artist. Darrow's statement about the nature of this beast called slide guitar reads as follows: "The fretless instruments are the ones that most approximate the human voice. The lyrical moaning of the slide guitar is a very seductie sound. Though I was introduced to the slide through folk music, it was pop radio that led me to one of my major slide guitar sounds. The record was "Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny. I wanted to sound like that. So there is a strong melodic strain to my slide playing that comes from Hawaiian and pop music. Though I have been certainly influenced by the blues, my style has a different slant. The reason behind this record is to show some of the other sides of the slide guitar."
See also: Chris Darrow
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