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.
Catching up on a bunch of new releases. The variety and personality of modern guitarists continues to astound me, from Mary Halvorson’s angular smears to Xander Taylor’s Indian excursions. Ambitious well executed all. Stay safe and VOTE!
It is looking like summer festival season will not be virus-free. Most, if not all have been cancelled. Fortunately, you can count on Guitar Moderne to supply virtual festivals like this to enjoy in the air-conditioned, porta-potty and germ-free comfort of your home. This is a long one, but hey, what else have you got to do?
With the Xmas season fast approaching, this Swiss label could provide one-stop shopping for all the modern guitar records you need to please fellow fans or yourself. This small label offers over 250 recordings, many of which feature pioneers (Fred Frith, Elliot Sharp) and current stars (Mary Halvorson, Kurt Rosenwinkel) of modern guitar. It is also a great place to discover new players from Europe (Dominic Landolt, Vojko Huter).