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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 10:36 pm | Overcast 49º


Jeff Moehlis: The Incredible David Lindley

Stringed instrument virtuoso wows Sings Like Hell audience

Multi-instrumentalist David Lindley’s musical resume is simply incredible. He was a key member of 1960s eclectic psychedelic band Kaleidoscope, an underappreciated band that has been described by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as “my favorite band of all time — my ideal band.”

He is best known for his fretwork for Jackson Browne — for example, on the classic albums Late for the Sky and Running on Empty, and he also contributed to music by David Crosby and Graham Nash as part of The Mighty Jitters band, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt and many, many others. Somehow he also found time for his own project, El Rayo-X, in the 1980s.

It was a special treat to hear Lindley — all by himself, with mutton chops and wearing clothes with crazy prints as is his wont — at the first show of the 29th series of Sings Like Hell at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday night. He has a long history with Sings Like Hell going back to the first season in 1997, and according to series founder Peggie Jones was the first artist to sell out a Sings Like Hell show.

Lindley played a mind-boggling collection of stringed instruments, including the saz baglama, bouzouki, Weissenborn lap slide guitar and a flat-back Turkish oud with a dramatically bent head. Each has a distinctive sound, and in Lindley’s hands, each was the medium for an amazing musical journey.

He covered little-known songs from various eras, ranging from the century-old banjo song opener “Way Out West in Kansas” to the plaintive old Weavers tune “State of Arkansas” to “Revenge Will Come” by old Browne friend Greg Copeland, to Bruce Springsteen’s song about homeless Vietnam veterans, “Brothers Under the Bridge,” to “Well Well Well” co-written by Danny O’Keefe and Bob Dylan.

Lindley is particularly effective with humorous songs, such as the outrageous “He Would Have Loved You More Than Eva Braun” by O’Keefe (sung by request and with lyrical gems such as “He wouldn’t have cared you’re not a natural blonde”) and “Little Green Bottle,” a “drug song” about Excedrin that amusingly, and musically, followed the response to taking Excedrin PM and Extra Strength Excedrin.

David Lindley
David Lindley (Andrzej Pilarczyk photo)

He also told an amusing story of his trip with Browne to play at a Scottish castle, which happened to be Andrew Carnegie’s old house, for a lavish birthday party for a wealthy American. The bed and breakfast they stayed at was also a distillery, and there was much imbibing. Lindley also got to sit down on Carnegie’s loo, which he described as “the best seat I ever sat on in my life.” This led into a stately bouzouki instrumental that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at this castle centuries ago.

After the playful “Bon Temps Rouler,” which Lindley dedicated to Ashura Ito, a leopard-skin wearing Japanese artist who succeeds despite it being “real difficult to be an eccentric in Japan,” he finally used a regular old guitar, playing El Rayo-X’s “Quarter of a Man” and “Waimanalo Blues.” For an encore, he played “Mercury Blues,” another song from the El Rayo-X catalog, here tweaked with a tale of mercury-laced tuna from Costco.

One gets the impression that Lindley could pick up any stringed instrument and his magical fingers would make it sound great. While he is best known for playing with other artists, his incredible talent particularly shines through when he is on his own. Let’s hope that another slot in Sings Like Hell is in his future.


Way Out West in Kansas
Poor Old Dirt Farmer
Little Green Bottle
State of Arkansas
Well Well Well
Revenge Will Come
Brothers Under The Bridge
Oud Instrumental
Bouzouki Instrumental
He Would Have Loved You More Than Eva Braun
Bon Temps Rouler
Quarter of a Man
Waimanalo Blues
Mercury Blues

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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