Joe Goldmark – Blue Steel
Lo Ball Records
13 songs time-41:41
From the looks of the CD cover with Joe sitting at a pedal steel guitar while wearing a cowboy hat, one would think that this would be a country record. Heck, one look at the cover and I’m thinking Junior Brown.
One would be incorrect except for one song and a few flourishes here and there. The songs here are a mixture of originals and covers taken from various genres where the steel guitar is one of the main instruments.
San Francisco based Joe Goldmark isn’t from the flashy school of steel players like the legendary Speedy West. Joe doesn’t go in for bomb dive runs or startling effects. He plays mainly melody and clever riffs, and at times very enticing ones at that. He enlisted two very good vocalists for this project plus a competent cadre of musicians.
The original instrumental “Night Flight” serves as the kickoff for the CD. It’s quite nice with guitarist Gary Potterton serving as Joe’s foil. Former Hoodoo Rhythm Devils vocalist Glen Walters takes on Rufus Thomas’s “All Night Worker”. His gruff enough voice is the right tool for the job. A risqué song in the Rhythm & Blues tradition. Dallis Craft lends her beautiful voice to Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison’s “A Love So Beautiful”. Joe lays down a pretty pedal steel melody.
Joe has a knack for creating really enchanting melodies, as on his original instrumental “Ginger Ale”. Glen Walters returns for Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Wobble”. Joe’s playing gets a bit country here. “Warm Rain” is another Goldmark penned instrumental. Gee this guy sure has a way with melodies. “Howlin” Wind” by Graham Parker is the title track from his first album. It’s toned down some here via another splendid vocal by Dallis Craft.
An unusual instrumental cover song is Bob Marley’s “Natty Dread”. A pedal steel cover of a reggae song, that’s something you don’t hear everyday Bert. Gary Potterton provides perfect counterpoint to Joe’s playing. It reminds of the country instrumental duo of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant. The only country song here is a cover of Lefty Frizell’s “Look What Thoughts Will Do” sung by none other than Dallis Craft.
The Goldmark instrumental “Tacky Tango” includes some nifty guitar work from Gary Potterton, much as he does over the course of this album. Jeff Ervin’s sax and Henry Salvia’s Hammond organ don’t hurt one bit either. “Beautician Blues” a B.B. King-Jules Taub song that I’m not familiar with is rewarded with another fine Glenn Walters vocal performance.
Jim Campilongo plays guitar on a lovely instrumental that he wrote, “I Want To Be With You”. The proceedings wrap up with a version of “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road”, a song popularized by Elvis Presley, although I’m familiar with Nick Lowe’s version. The inimitable Dallis Craft works her magic once again.
On paper the prospect of mainly non-country songs by a pedal steel guitarist sounds like a mismatch, but in reality it is a master stroke. These melodies and vocals woven together with such artistic talent make for one heck of a listen. Broaden your musical horizons and check this one out.