Pedal steel guitarists operate on another level. In addition to coordinating two hands, they must operate pitch-changing pedals with one foot, a volume pedal with the other, and levers with their knees. They also might be operating over 12 strings, with octaves that are nowhere near each other. To all that, Susan Alcorn adds tunings that are unusual even for pedal steel, and a propensity, not just for music that is outside the usual country fare, but outside in general. She is one of the rare steel players who is exploring the unique potential of the instrument beyond the normal roots and pop boundaries. Her latest record, Perdernal [Relative Pitch], made my top 10 list for 2020. On it she is joined by guitarist Mary Halvorson and violinist Mark Feldman, two other players who push the limits of their instruments. We talk about Pedernal, as well as The Heart Sutra, a record of her compositions arranged by Janel Leppin, on which she doesn’t appear. Even if you don’t play pedal steel you will enjoy this conversation.
Pedernal Night in Gdansk
Susan Alcorn & Mary Halvorson – at The Stone, NYC – August 7 2016
The Quarantine Concerts – Susan Alcorn – April 29, 2020
Susan Alcorn Quintet-Set Closer-1/11/2020 New York City Northeast Rising Sun from Pedernal.
Nels Cline, Susan Alcorn, Chris Corsano – at The Stone, NYC – August 27 2016