Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hey Let's Check Out Some Of My Favorite Pedal Steel Tunes


This beautiful weather has me thinking outside the cubicle (then again, when I'm at work, pretty anything has me fantasizing about elsewhere) again, all my fantasies lately have had soundtracks that involve pedal steel guitar.  I'm craving my Joel Paterson Trio CD, which is fucking amazing, you guys.  It got me to thinking about an entry from this blog's previous incarnation, which is posted below.

I don't listen to too much alt-country music anymore, but I was pretty steeped in it while I was at college. Still, I think my love for the sound of the pedal steel guitar predated that "phase" and continues to this day. It is a dynamic, evocative instrument. I thought I'd share a few of my favorite tunes that showcase cool pedal steelparts. These particular songs are the ones that always have made me pause and listen. As usual, this list is by no means comprehensive and is in no particular order. 


  • "Christine's Song (Devil In Disguise)" - Flying Burrito Bros. I love the aggressive pedal steel on this tune; I like even more that it is featured prominently in the mix.

  • "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", "One Hundred Years From Now" - The Byrds. "Sweetheart of the Rodeo", the album on which these tunes appeared, will always be one of my favorite albums. It was hard to pick just two great pedal steel songs from "Sweetheart". The bummer is that I can always hear the voice of the crotchety guitar tech at my hometown music store lamenting about Sneaky Pete Klienow's "over playing". I guess because I can see his point. But like Keith Moon's "over drumming", it doesn't stop me from loving his playing anyway.

  • "Sweethearts" - Camper Van Beethoven. Although the exceptional songwriting is the star of this tune, the pedal steel is a close second. It adds a mournful, lonely tone to this song, which is probably one of my favorite songs of all time in any genre. But that's a different blog entry for a different time. . .

  • "Jessie" - Paw. I heard this song for the first time in a friend's car outside the dorm in which I lived in college. When it came on the radio, he said "have you heard this?" When I remarked that I hadn't, he blared it as loud as his radio would go. So this tune is plugging along and I'm thinking that this band is an excellent Metallica clone. Then out of nowhere, some dude rips into a pedal steel solo instead of the usual two handed finger rolls one would expect. I laughed until a cried - it was totally out of place for that style of music; yet it fit in perfectly with the song. I highly recommend this tune for a nice little surprise.

  • "Service and Repair" - Calexico. The pedal steel part perfectly conveys the alienation and loneliness this song's lyrics are expressing. Just beautiful.

  • "Warm Storm" - Giant Sand. This song downshifts from a rock song into a dreamlike state leaden with shimmering pedal steel guitar. This song single handedly got me into the wonderful desert world of Giant Sand. They also showcase and exceptional pedal steel solo on the tune "Seldom Matters", so check out that one too.

  • "Dash 7" - Wilco. Cool pedal steel characterizations of an airplane, but not in the way Steve Vai or Ed Van Halen do airplane noises with their whammy bars. Strong lyrics, stripped down sound, that "shimmering pedal steel guitar" again.

  • "Oh Father" - Madonna. My junior high friend Dan was into this tune. I was surprised that I too ended up liking it after he played it for me. What I didn't notice at all (until Dan pointed it out to me) is the pedal steel part, which has to fight with the full blown orchestration of this song to be heard. There's nothing technically difficult or unique about the pedal steel part, it just sounds good.

  • "You Woke Up My Neighborhood" - Billy Bragg. The pedal steel part in this song kinda weaves around everything else and prevents the song from sounding too spastic. With the drums shuffling a long, this becomes a pretty decent highway tune.

  • "Kerosene" - The Bottle Rockets. Like the Madonna tune, there is nothing ejaculatory or "hot roddish" about this playing; it just adds a nice sound to an otherwise nondescript song.

  • "Mental Floss For The Globe" - Urban Dance Squad. You remember Urban Dance Squad - they had that minor league hit with the tune "Deeper Shade Of Soul". Great tune, great album, underrated band. The pedal steel part in "Mental Floss For The Globe" is probably less than 8 seconds; but like "Jessie", it catches you totally off guard. It is jubuliant and whacky. Enjoy it because it goes quickly.

  • Misc. other pedal steel parts worth mentioning: The solo in "Torn and Frayed" by the Rolling Stones; "Grindstone" "Anodyne" and "Fatal Wound" by Uncle Tupelo; "You're My Home" by Billy Joel (go ahead and laugh)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent choices- especially Camper Van! I recommend listening to Built to Spill's Time Trap from Keep it Like a Secret. Fantastic album all around- but I think you would enjoy the pedal steel parts!

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