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Ranting, Raving, and Guitar Solos

McDonalds banana bread and scones

And I’m going to Paulie, my car mechanic, for a colonoscopy. Lord, please.

Carsie Blanton

She’s the next thing, in my book. She’s opened for me a few times, and then some work with Paul Simon...A lyrical genius, magnificently sweet-voiced, a fine guitarist, melodic as all get out. Imagine Shawn Colvin and Billie Holiday having a vocal child with the wry word sensibilities of Richard Thompson.

I feel musically freed after hearing her, like I have a reason to do this now, and that the whole singer songwriter thing both has purpose and is forever in good hands.

10 Greatest Guitar Solos

This rose out of a conversation with Duke Levine some years ago, while recording Edgewise for that matter in 1992. I promised to make a “tape” of my favorite solos for him. It was hard to do because one of the solos was what he played just a day later on "When Jimmy Falls In Love". So I never did it. Then Duke worked on Side Of The Road with me and Ellis Paul in 2002. Still no list. Then in 2004 he was slinging guitar on Unfamiliar Moon, and I was probably too embarrassed to even bring it up. Finally, I saw him at my local cool restaurant, Flora (, as part of a rockabilly trio just 3 - 4 months ago. Nothing.

Into 3 decades now and I will finally at least make a top 10 list in very loose order. Please note how subjective this is, that there are another 20 solos (maybe a part II?) that could should would be here, that unlike Rolling Stone’s Great Guitarist list I fully admit that there are full genres missing (there is a video of Andres Segovia on YouTube that I have worn out, as for an Arilio Diaz album, oh and there’s Bola Sete and Joao Gilberto, and…), and that these solos simply have relevance to my personal journey thru music:

1) Wes Montgomery - "No Blues" (live at the Village Gate??) The chord soloing around 3:12 leaves nothing for anyone else to ever play again. All music forever is in this solo

2) Amos Garrett - "Midnight At The Oasis" by Maria Muldar. This is near the top of many best solo lists. I remember talking to Maria Muldar at a gig where I had opened for her - the Town Crier I believe - and she said that Amos had garnered kudos letters from a wide spectrum of musicians, and to illustrate the point she said he got one from Chet Atkins and another from Stevie Wonder. That’s amazing to have such broad appeal and to be that consummate at the same time. Oh, and p.s., the comping in the background is pretty spectacular too.

3) Steve Lukather - on Dane Donohue's "Whatever Happened". I don’t know what happened to Dane Donohue. His was music when everyone wanted to be Kenny Rankin, James Taylor, Kenny Loggins, and Jesse Colin Young all at the same time. But Lukather’s classical guitar solo is so magnificently constructed and climbs out of the track like a genius orphan child finally raising his hand in class:

4) Larry Carlton - "Spiral" from The Crusader’s album Those Southern Nights. This solo defined jazz rock for me for many years.

5) Duke Levine - on Vance Gilbert’s "When Jimmy Falls In Love" for the album Edgewise. Wow. He did that on MY song?

6) Richard Thompson - "The Way That It Shows" from the album Mirror Blue. You can’t build to another crescendo. And another? Another? It never loses me, remains eternally interesting and inventive.

7) Don Felder & Joe Walsh, "Hotel California". Not unlike the Richard Thompson, how can they continue to build phrase after phrase?

8) Eddie Van Halen - Michael Jackson’s "Beat It". It’s so wonderfully over the top. Plus the knock on the door before the solo is the perfect hello.

9) Don Felder - "One Of These Nights" by the Eagles. I guess I’m partial to Felder’s solos because the cut through pop music’s Hollywood patina, all sensibility, and time.

10) George Benson - "The Cooker" With Ronny Cuber. It’s hard to imagine that I was introduced to jazz by this man’s singing on Leon Russell's This Masquerade - many people’s intro to jazz, even though it was considered the beginning of what we call “smooth jazz” today. He tips his hat in no small way to #1 on this list. The more recent release containing this tune is from volume 9 of what is titled This Is Jazz. I agree.

11) Johnny Graham - on Earth Wind & Fire’s "That’s The Way Of The World". Allena Burge (if that is still your last name), you were brilliant, drop dead gorgeous, very kind to say yes to me as your date, and I think we looked great in our matching prom attire. Yes, remember the pink tux? Well, I owe you an apology for humming this solo note for note into your ear during one of the slow dances that evening.

Yes, there are eleven. Oops.

The Tulsa Air & Space Museum

Tulsa, your folk scene is grand. Your city historic and charming.

Your aviation museum, eh.

For twelve bucks I counted maybe 10 planes, and many of them replicas. And please tell the otherwise wonderful docents to stop whining about not getting one of the Space Shuttles for display. Even though you worked hard on many aspects of that grand dame of re-entry aircraft, you’re kinda at the open mic level of “museumship”. Run on sentences and weird placements of sentence subjects on exhibit signs is inexcusable. You owe the great folks of this town (2 guys stopped to help me change a flat tire on my rental car - I had to beg them to take two CDs, and yes I slipped a $20 in between the CDs to their protestations…hmmm, maybe it was the CDs they didn’t want?) better. And another clue. I go to see the airplanes. Planetariums are poopie.

Austin IRS Terrorist Attack Remembrance

Remember the poor sick soul who flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas? Recall that tragedy? Well, I was standing waiting to rent a car and they had these TV screens - apparently we can’t be without TV for even a minute at the airport, doctor’s offices, gas stations, and everywhere else - and on this one screen was a piece recalling the anniversary (2 years & 2 months?) of this horrific event. Two women in front of me were looking and listening too when the announcer said something to the effect “At first, officials thought this to be another terrorist attack. It turns out that it wasn’t...”

The three of us looked at each other and snorted just about simultaneously while head-shaking. One woman said, “It wasn’t? Really?”


...and of course after going to bed, I forgot these three monumental solos. How'd they get forgotten? Well, they are like cobblers children - so much a part of my musical being that I simply took for granted their place in my brain:

12) Doug Edwards of Skylark - "Wildflower". Probably the grandaddy of all guitar power ballads, this solo used to make me sad.

13) Onnie McIntyre of Average White Band - "Work To Do". Firstly, this version of the Isley Brother's hit is, well, hotter than the Isley Brothers' hit. That's in no small part to Onnie McIntyre's searing solo. It's another stretch of music that I committed to scat vocal memory long before I even thought of playing guitar and singing, slide notes and all.

14) Everett Pendelton - "Taking It All To Tennessee" from my album Shaking Off Gravity. Please don't accuse me of being self aggrandizing. Honestly, the song is almost draggy slow, my singing a bit stiff (so worried about intonation and phrasing etc) and I was so in the middle of being my own producer that I didn't even realize until we were done recording that day how Everett's haunting, mournful solo had said more than most of the lyric.