Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank you Shawn Lane

In 1994 Shawn Lane and Jonas Hellborg first collaborated and recorded the album 'Abstract Logic'. It wouldn't be until 2004 that I would be in a used CD store in Blacksburg Virginia, thumbing through prospective purchases, and would decide to take a risk on this guitar player I had vaguely heard about.

The owner of my local music store in Richmond, Virginia said Shawn Lane was his favorite guitar player. He was a drummer that I respected, and that got me curious. I had played guitar for 30 years, considered myself an informed fusion-head, but I didn't know this Shawn Lane guy. The guys at the music store had gone to see Shawn at one of his later concerts in Northern Virginia, and told the story of getting there early to meet Shawn personally, only to walk in on him while he hurriedly tried to conceal a joint he was smoking. Who was this reclusive genius?

Driving down the road last week, listening to the track 'Serpents and Pigs', it occurred to me that the guitar solo on this song was a perfect microcosm of my own discovery of Shawn. In 2004 I had bought the CD on a whim, begun the drive out of Blacksburg, and was listening to 'Serpents and Pigs', the first track. Fairly conventional music as fusion goes, I thought. Solid playing, maybe a little too much delay and reverb, but decent. OK, here comes the guitar solo. Hellborg buckles down to a simple driving bass line, and Shawn begins building what seems to be a pretty standard southern rock guitar response. Tasty and well done, but standard. That pentatonic mode that is all too familiar to me, a curse of my own playing. Then at the 2:15 point, my brain is hijacked. A single note outside of the pentatonic mode transforms the song and takes me to India. There it is, something new I haven't heard before. Then suddenly the pattern is effortlessly accelerated to twice the speed. Amazing. Completely clean and accurate. The solo completes with blazing quadruplets up the guitar neck. I was hooked.

Having since listened to as much of Shawn's music as I can find, what I've discovered is that yes, the speed and ability of this guitarist is astounding, but Shawn's sense of melody and his note selection is the best I've heard of any guitarist in fusion. Listen to 'Deep Umbra' off of Michael Shrieve's 'Two Doors' CD. The guitar solo is sublime, perfect. Shawn always had something to say, something fresh and different from all the other guitar cliche that is out there. Thank you Shawn Lane.

Buy Shawn's music here:

The Lane family's official website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

jonas,,you can play with the gods. but it sure is too bad you're energy wasn't in quim to help our man shawn quit smoking.---lucichristifer---