Guitar Heroes 3 “Ry Cooder Suite”
Here’s my “Ry Cooder Suite” which I recorded on my “Guitar Heroes” vol 3 CD“
These were a series of CD’s that I recorded with guest guitar players and Dom Turner was the guest guitar hero on this one and there’s a bit of a story behind it…
From the time I first came across and heard Ry Cooder’s music I was entranced.
I wanted to play the guitar so that I could have the same effect on people that Ry Cooder’s playing had on me.
The first recording of Ry’s that I heard was “Showtime” which was a live album that he recorded with some Mexican musicians including the gun accordion player “Flaco Jimenez” and also Pat Rizo who had played with “Sly & The Family Stone”.
It was music the like I’d never heard before but for me the highlight was Ry’s slide guitar playing.
His solo on ” At The Dark End Of The Street” was a real gem.
At one point, however, the band left the stage and Ry Played “Jesus On The Mainline” an old blue’s standard with no backing, just his guitar and his voice.
Ry’s improvised slide guitar solos are powerful and astonishing when we consider that he was playing all on his own.
Listening to Ry Cooder’s music I learnt so much and had enormous enjoyment and I wanted to celebrate that experience with my own “Ry Cooder Suite”.
Learning Slide From A Few Australian Legends
In my youth I really wanted to learn to play slide guitar.
I came across the Arlon Roth Slide Guitar book and worked through it thoroughly which set me off to a good start.
Once I felt that I was playing well enough to play in front of people I looked for opportunities.
Someone told me about a Folk Club that would let people to get up and play so I went along and got to play a short set of slide guitar tunes.
After my little set said some complimentary things about my slide playing, I was motivated to develop my slide playing further and maybe find a good teacher.
Someone that night told me that I might like Gypsy Dave Smith and that he was a really good slide guitar player.
They said that he played at the Gary Owen Hotel Balmain Rd Leichhardt…I knew that pub, it was my grandfather’s favourite watering hole!
I caught Dave’s first set, it was very impressive so I introduced myself during his break and in the course of our conversation I asked if he taught.
He said that he wasn’t really a teacher but that I could come to his place and he’d show me some stuff and help me as best he could.
I did go to his home about 5 or 6 times, it wasn’t like structured lessons, we’d talk, listen to music, he’d play for me and I’d pick his brain.
Dave suggested that the best way to learn from him was to go to his gigs and watch him play.
At one of his gigs I met Dom Turner who was also learning from Dave.
We struck up a friendship and Dom invited me to his place so we could jam and play.
We had a lot in common, we liked the same guitar players like Ry Cooder.
Dom had a Chicago style blues band that played regularly around Balmain and he was kind enough to let me get up and play with his band.
Dom went on to form “The Backsliders” and which is now one of top festival acts in Australia.
It’s a trio with Rob Hirst, from Midnight Oil, on drums and these days a rotation of the best blues harp players, Jim Conway was their guy for years, and Dom Turner on guitar, vocals and the main songwriter.
Of course with Dom the band would feature slide guitar.
On one occasion when I was at Gypsy Dave’s place I noticed that he had the latest “Moving Pictures” album “Days Of Innocence” which featured the song ” What About Me”.
It seemed a little unusual that Dave would have that album in his collection, it was quite unlike the music that Dave played.
I commented on the album and Dave told me that Moving Pictures was his brother’s band.
Alex Smith the singer with that big voice is Dave’s brother.
Those were really exciting days, there was so much going on.
Dave was involved in quite a few musical situations and one was a duo that he had with the great slide guitarist Kirk Lorange and that duo was really good – they played some interesting stuff!
Kirk was the go to session player for slide.
All the slide guitar you may of heard on jingles and ads on tv and the radio was Kirk…
He played with quite a few of the big names like Richard Clapton (listen to Kirk on “Best Years Of Our Lives”).
Kirk told me that he thought his best recorded performance was on “Hot Town” by Jon English.
Kirk’s main band was “Chasin The Train” with 3 of the musicians from Moving Pictures, Ian Lees on bass, Mark Meyer on drums and Kevin Bennett on vocals and guitar.
They played a lot of “Little Feat” song which showcased Kirk’s slide playing.
Because Gypsy Dave played with Kirk he was able to show some of Kirk’s songs and licks.
Unpacking My “Ry Cooder Suite”
I used the title “Ry Cooder Suite” because it’s actually three tunes in one, so it’s a suite of songs.
The 1st is one of my instrumental compositions I called “Paris Hilton” which was inspired by Ry’s slide playing on the soundtrack for the movie “Paris Texas” (my title is a reference to the Hilton Hotel in Paris in case you were wondering.
Ry Cooder would always make any movie that he played on something really special.
He did the soundtrack for “Southern Comfort” and also “Crossroads” where he shared the slide parts with Arlon Roth.
The 2nd tune is “Vigilante Man” which was written by Woody Guthrie and recorded by Ry on his “Into The Purple Valley” album, it currently stands as one of Ry’s best performances.
His was unaccompanied but I wanted backing for my version so I could give my guest guitar hero, Dom Turner, a ‘groove and a feel’ and that he stretch out with his slide playing but Dom’s playing here is absolutely first rate.
I carry the vocals and also play the slide guitar until Dom comes in with the first solo.
I do the 2nd solo but I drop the slide for it.
Then as we go into the 3rd and final tune “Rhythm Express” which again is my composition I wanted ‘duelling guitars’ so Dom and I trade licks, kind of like a tennis match.
I had a ball doing this! (Pun not intended!)