By Luke Simons
It has been at least five years since David Lindley has been in our lovely town, and it sure is nice to have him back. Lindley is playing in Fayetteville Sept. 12 at George’s Majestic Lounge. For many local aural adventurers who know of this man, I expect a ticket for the show is already in hand. For those less (or un-) familiar with “Mr. Dave,” here’s a peek into the prolific career of this maestro of all things stringed.
Lindley has been a constant presence on the greater musical landscape for over 40 years. “Which… what… musical landscape?” you might ask. It is certainly hard to pinpoint. At the core, his journey is a bewildering one that is steeped in mastery of stringed instruments near and far.
A native of Southern California, the “take it easy” vibe of the early ‘70s is something Mr. Dave knew well. A musical prodigy from youth, he was uncovering sonic possibilities by his mid-twenties with the (aptly named) band Kaleidoscope. This late ‘60s band was successfully melding odd instrumentations and time signatures into psychedelic brews.
Starting around 1970, Lindley’s legacy as the preeminent session musician of choice took off at light speed. His guitar, slide guitar and fiddle are on innumerable classic ‘70s sides for artists including
Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt, the late Warren Zevon, Jackson Brown – and so many more. Many of the classic Southern California artists have Lindley as part of their inner circle. He is the hepcat with the highly intelligent perspective. This shaman-like legacy has only grown over the years as Lindley continues to do session work on albums ranging from Ziggy Marley to Bruce Springsteen to Ben Harper who recognizes Lindley as a significant influence on his own guitar playing.
The work Lindley has with Jackson Brown is notable. Recording and touring extensively throughout the ‘70s, each was a formidable influence on the other as their careers grew. They have continued to work together in the intervening years reuniting in 2006 for a tour of Spain, which produced a Grammy nominated live document in 2010, “Love Is Strange: En Vivo Con Tino.” This album won the 2011 Independent Music Award for live performance.
At varying points, Lindley has become immersed in just about any land on the planet that has some traditional stringed instrument of its own. Such string prowess has boggled many a mind over the years and led people to say Lindley is from another planet. This is a ‘tag’ he takes in good stride and, if anything, it gains merit when seeing him perform and interlacing songs with his left-of-field and yet spot-on stories taken from an awesome career. He gained many of his fans during these early years.
Fellow guitar great Ry Cooder is another in Lindley’s inner circle. Early works together include Ry’s late seventies classics ‘Jazz’ and ‘Bop Till You Drop.’ Over the years, the two have continued to work together including occasional live tours. A very nice live document from the ‘90s is “Live at the Vienna Opera House.”
“What about Lindley’s own projects?” Firstly, El Rayo X. This is Lindley’s preeminent 1980’s party band embodying Southern California surf, his voice and sense of humor stepping out, all mixed in reggae beats. Great stuff and a superb vehicle for his slide guitar prowess.
A lot of what Lindley has done in the subsequent years gets at his love of anything (non-western) on this Earth with strings. There has been a transition towards smaller ensembles allowing Lindley to better explore the exotic and perplexing world of strange tunings, odd numbers of strings and frets. A glance online to see instruments Lindley has mastered quickly returns upwards of 20.
Two separate working duos Lindley led in the ‘90s under his own name that featured his playing and singing have great live documents to search out: one with Jordanian dumbek wizard Hani Naser, and another with percussionist Wally Ingram (who is currently working with Steve Kimock). Don’t stop there — check out his work with avant guitarist Henry Kaiser and their collaborations delving into the music of Madagascar, as well as another project they did from Norway.
Over the past 10-15 years Lindley’s most fitting setting is solo, like his Wednesday night show. I say “solo” and yet expect him to be surrounded by several friends up on stage, each with some Picasso-esque shape of a woman. The focus is definitely on his craft both as songsmith and master string musician. Hopefully interspersing odd and appropriate stories — and possibly some channeling of Lightnin’ Hopkins via an oud. The “take it easy” vibe is certainly still there, possibly much better understood now, all these years later, in a Zen-monk sort of way.
Last fall Lindley played Fort Smith and Kirby opened that show. It is not surprising that Kirby has been invited to open for this show. He is an intense bottleneck slide guitarist and singer, the real deal, and you should plan to arrive in time to hear him.