Mixed Tape #5 Jeff Lang


I first met Mr. Lang at the Port Fairy Folk Festival while on tour in Australia. I became an instant fan. His unique style (both bottle neck and lap) blew me away. I was lucky enough to catch two of his sets at the festival. The first was a full blown electric set that sent the crowd into a frenzy. The second was a captivating acoustic set that mesmerized 3000 plus people for well over an hour. Jeff was kind enough to have me up for a few numbers in the acoustic set. Needless to say, it was the highlight of my tour. For those of you unfamiliar with his playing, here’s a short bio from the ABC/Universal website.

“Australian-based musician Jeff Lang has earned worldwide acclaim as a virtuosic guitarist, a dynamic songwriter and a startlingly unique live         performer. With a back catalog of 14 studio albums, Jeff has been featured at major festivals, pubs, clubs, arts centers and venues internationally for the past decade. Blending rock, roots, folk, blues, ballads, instrumentals, improvisation and a devastatingly high level of musicality, Jeff Lang is a singularly unique performer in our world. Throughout his career, Jeff has been showered with achievements and awards – the most outstanding would be his seven ARIA award nominations, as well as his three wins in 2002, 2010 and 2012. It’s been widely acknowledged that Jeff Lang is an extraordinarily individual musician. What enhances his unique nature is his steadfast adherence to a prolific and diverse musical palette and output. A songwriter, a collaborator, a guitar virtuoso and a stunning lyricist, Jeff Lang crafts songs as novellas – rich with depth and vision, yet with an open breathe for individual interpretation.”

It’s no wonder that just about every Aussie guitar player I met named Jeff as one of their influences. He’s collaborated on recordings with Chris Whitley, Bob Brozman and Mamadou Diabate to name a few (all worth checking out). Jeff’s new album,  I LIVE IN MY HEAD A LOT THESE DAYS was released earlier this year. Make sure to check out the tour page on his website to find out when he is playing in your part of the world.


“Boy it’s tough whittling the list down to something manageable and succinct! Some of the folks who I love are going to have to be left out, so I encourage anyone to check out the slide playing of Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Kerryn Tolhurst, Jerry Douglas, Sol Hoopi, Johnny Dickinson, Aubrey Ghent, Derek Trucks, etc etc etc…  I might also mention that in addition to slide guitarists some of the sounds that have directly influenced my slide playing have been other instruments like the Ulliean Pipes (Check out “The Pipering of Willie Clancy”), trumpet (Miles Davis “Kind Of Blue” and “Bitches Brew” in particular) and of course great singers (Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke).

But anyway, I’ve included a few folks who influenced me early on in my playing, some who have had an effect down the line, and a couple who are contemporaries of mine who I reckon are the biz. Hope you enjoy the sounds!



“Ry Cooder was amongst the earliest music I can remember hearing in the house. My dad would play “Chicken Skin Music” and “Paradise and Lunch” and it was my first exposure to slide guitar playing along with Leo Kottke’s “6 & 12 string guitar” album.

He’s got such a funky feel with his rhythm playing and then when he starts with the bottleneck it really does take up from where the voice leaves off and ‘sings’. His vibrato is killer, likewise his tone, the whole box and dice.”



“I adore David Lindley’s electric lap steel playing – his tone is just the best – but when I heard this solo acoustic song on his “El Rayo Live” EP it really opened up some doors for me. I hadn’t heard anyone on acoustic lap steel play this way, with the bass being held down underneath the treble runs on top. And his right hand is amazing. He keeps that groove going so strong. His tone on acoustic steel guitar with a magnetic pickup in the soundhole really influenced me too. He’s probably my chief influence on lap slide.”




“Debashish is to my ears the most technically advanced lap slide player on the planet. His command of his instrument is without peer, but it’s all incredibly soulful and deeply musical, not merely ‘flash for flash-sake’. Watching him play is always a reality check!”




“I first heard of David Tronzo in a copy of Guitar Player magazine sometime in the late-eighties or early-nineties. Here’s a guy who started out being influenced by Duane Allman but instead of aping him he veered off into his own whole trip – playing high-level jazz on electric bottleneck. He really doesn’t sound like anyone else around. There’s a couple of Tronzo Trio albums worth hunting down: one called “Roots” and the other is a live album called “Yo-Hey” and there’s some seriously out-there stuff on them. He plays with a paper cup at times to get a sort of steel drum-like timbre and when he lets fly with the bottleneck it is as if John Coltrane is blowing through his guitar. Listen to the way he de- and re-constructs this Duke Ellington tune. He’s amazing.”




“Kelly Joe Phelps is one guy who really expanded on the way a singer can self-accompany with lap slide. I just love how his guitar and voice dance around each other in such an effortless way, and his touch and tone are just beautiful. He’s not played lap-style for a bunch of years now, but he’s lately been playing bottleneck on a National and it’s every bit as wonderful. We’re lucky to have people like him around to hear.”




“Matt Walker is from my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. I love his approach on electric lap steel – it’s as if where others might have tried to eradicate certain sounds – buzzes, rattles and so on – Matt has embraced them and made them part of his musical voice. Matt Walker and Ashley Davies were playing as a bluesy guitar-and-drums duo well before it became a trendy thing to do and as you can hear in this clip, they build up quite a head of steam. It’s a big sound for two people, especially when one of them is playing such a tiny little plank of wood! He’s quite free and improvisational with his playing too, which gives it a great gnarly edge.”


Photo Credit: Ursula Wall http://www.ursulasweeklywanders.com/