on Square Market
A conversation with LJ about his new album
I Only Want To Be With You
Angela (Theme from Taxi)
Won't Get Fooled Again
Dock Of The Bay
I Won't Last A Day Without You
bonus live track: Love At First Sight
Where did the title ‘Fingerboard Road’ come from?
“Driving through Staten Island en route to JFK, I’ve long noticed the sign for the Fingerboard Road exit. It strikes me as an apt metaphor for my 50-year journey on six strings.”
Are any of the songs original compositions?
“There are three. The title tune, ‘Fingerboard Road’ was started in Yokohama, Japan, evolved in Prague and was added to on road trips around the US. The ragtime-style harks back to some of my teenage folk guitar aspirations.
‘Without Annette’ is the theme music I composed for a stage play written by my wife and co-producer, Hope. The show is set in an acting improv workshop and combines scripted and improvised performance. The title is a reference to improvisers working ‘without a net.’
There’s also a live bonus track of my composition ‘Love At First Sight’, which first appeared on the album Guitarist in 2004’”
How does the improvisational space fit with your structured arrangements?
“As a lead guitarist, I’ve improvised within jazz, rock and blues. I like to jam! With solo guitar, it’s complicated, as there’s no one else providing the harmonic support.
As a consequence, I have to make choices that keep the groove cooking, but still leave me with some finger room.
My choice to alter the guitar’s tuning allowed me to expand my musical vocabulary, but it also somewhat limited me for improvising, compared with my earlier standard tuning playing. Now I’ve become sufficiently comfortable with DADGAD tuning, for example, that I can stretch out more than I used to.
Talk about your selection of ‘cover’ tunes?
“They encompass a spectrum, from those that have a deep personal resonance, to others that are representative of particular styles or musical eras, mostly 1960s and ‘70s,
the period when I ‘came of age.’
Of the personal ones, ‘Go Now’ was essentially my audition piece for Wings, when I played it with Denny Laine on a UK TV show in 1977.
‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’ is an homage of the immense songwriting talent of Paul Williams, with whom I’ve often collaborated over the years.
Steely Dan’s ‘Peg’ blends a jazz vocabulary with a blues/rock sensibility, while Bob James’ ‘Angela’, which was used as the theme to the TV show Taxi, brings an evocative melodic arc to a smooth groove.
‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ represents a particular era of late ‘60‘s/early ‘70s British rock. Pete Townshend is one of the all-time great rhythm guitarists.
I debuted this version with him in the audience…
A trip to Savannah, Georgia, inspired this arrangement of ‘Georgia On My Mind.’ It was not, however, written for the state, but instead for composer Hoagy Carmichael’s sister, Georgia.
Otis Redding was a native of Georgia. His ‘(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay’, written with Steve Cropper, was his first posthumous #1 record.
I’ve taken the original open E guitar tuning and revoiced the song in DADGAD tuning.
‘I Only Want To Be With You’ was big hit for Dusty Springfield in 1964. It represents the sound of the British pop music that paralleled The Beatles’ career
, as does Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, on the US side of the pond.
‘Without You’ written by the Badfinger team of Pete Ham and Tom Evans and famously covered by Harry Nilsson, is a quintessential melodic rock pop song. There’s a tragic element to it both lyrically and in the context of the untimely passings of all three of them. I do it in CGDGAD tuning, unlike the rest of the tunes which are in DADGAD.”
There’s a live bonus track – where and when was it recorded?
“I play every year at 'The Theatre At Washington' in Virginia. It has no sound system, so the stage sound is the guitar itself. Most of the concerts have been skillfully recorded by Medford Camby. I have a sizeable archive of his recordings at the venue and this one is from 2005.”
Any info for the gearheads?
Track one was recorded with a 2013 Martin custom shop OMC18LJ in mahogany with a Swiss ‘moon’-spruce top. Everything else was played on the #1 prototype of the
2004 Martin OMC28LJ Adirondack-topped Brazilian rosewood limited edition signature series. Both guitars are strung with Martin LJ’s Choice signature Retro strings,