this monday at the hideout

I met Linda Gail Lewis when we were working for the same promoter in Sweden some years back. The promoter was a good guy but the work was grueling. His artists were housed in a large warehouse on the industrial outskirts of a little paper-mill town, a barbed-wire-enclosed metal shed that also housed a couple acres of music gear, tour buses of various sizes, and some mice. The best aspect of staying there was meeting the people in the adjoining rooms. You'd stumble in at 2AM and bump into some ghostly figure from the 1970s on your way to the whiskey cabinet. The hallways were heavy with physical fatigue, thwarted ambition, and musical skill in genres that were perpetually marginal or simply outmoded. Boogie-woogie shouters, decrepit pub rock reptiles, Texas bluesmen, English guitarists, myself.

The most magnetic person I connected with there was Linda. I'm a fan of her and her amazing family and I felt at home instantly, hanging with her and her daughter Annie. Linda invited me to sing and play on a record she was making at a nifty little studio down the road from the shed. The song was a simple country duet, and the players were working one at a time with headphones, over the rhythm track. Linda sat at a digital keyboard in the control room just behind the console. I was sitting on a couch with Billy Bremner and Annie, watching her overdub her solo. Her playing put you in mind of a cottonfield with a candelabra in it. It was rooted in a strange and soul-bruising and bygone place -- 1940s Louisiana -- and it wasn't very fancy, but it was spruced up with the sort of timefeel and intuitive touches that could only come from a happy, good-humored heart. To use an overused word: authentic. She closed her solo with an aggressively Lewisian glissando which swung her whole frame, as her hand moved from right to left across the keyboard, around on the bench and facing Billy and me. With the record button still lit, she laughed at us and her and her solo. I was hooked!

I played a guitar break on that tune and put on a vocal, I think it was a baritone. The lyrics were handwritten by Linda in blue pen, in neat cursive, on Best Western stationery. I think she wrote it the night before. Leaving the session, I put it in my guitar case, where it sits still, although my dog chewed it up a little one time back when she was a puppy. In the few years to follow I got a couple more chances to record and to work live with Linda Gail, and her cheery temperament and Southern courtesies elevated the circumstances each time. On my last swing through Sweden, which was two years ago and three years into my friendship with LGL, I started to get the idea of producing a record on her, and I pitched it initially through Annie. I was so happy when Linda accepted, and I got to work putting the pieces into place at once. Tomorrow is the first session on our record, and when we're done, we're all (Linda, Annie, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Alex Hall) popping over to the Hideout to blast out some rock-and-roll.

One thing I like about Linda's shows and that I think you should know is that they're unscripted. She shouts a title, you watch where her left hand hits the root of the opening chord, and away you go. It's not wizardry, but it's really fun (when everyone knows the same repertoire and how to work off the cuff).