DAN LAMBERT
The Double Drum Trio
(Coordinate Records)

 

It’s great to hear an acoustic guitarist who so clearly has such a fondness for the rock edge. That’s the story with the 2010 CD from El Paso based guitarist Dan Lambert entitled The Double Drum Trio. Already creating a stir in the guitar world, Lambert is joined by multi-percussionists Ricardo Amaya and Erik Hickerson. Lambert turns in a fine performance on acoustic guitars as well as more exotic Middle Eastern instruments like sarod, oud and ruan. Perhaps the coolest thing here is just how well the double drum sound embellishes Lambert’s moods and guitar tracks. Not only is it derivative of the acoustic guitar genre but Lambert isn’t afraid to bring in shades of World Music, rock, New Age, jazz and surf-rock. Even though mainly acoustic and very easy on the ears in general, some tracks feature an electric guitar sound in an astoundingly simulating way. In fact, the lead off track “Wadi A Go-Go” is like a surf music possessed Leo Kottke and Ralph Towner jamming with The Ventures. The CD is superbly recorded and the artwork kind of captures that bizarre early ‘60s vibe when Martin Denny, The Ventures and John Fahey were all in their prime. Amazing beyond words, follow The Double Drum Trio down to Lambertland. www.DanLambertGuitar.com

mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAN LAMBERT



mwe3: How long have you been recording and playing guitar? Where did you grow up and how did that impact your early musical upbringing and influences?

DL: I was always fascinated with music, collecting records, catching music shows on TV, hearing live acts, but I didn’t start playing until landing at the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL in the early ‘70s. The place was a hotbed for great players, all different styles, plus there were all the traveling acts that came through. REO Speedwagon with Gary Richrath was a local bar band, Mike Murphy’s One Eyed Jacks, Slink Rand, Duke Tomato. Dan Fogelberg was in my freshman Geology class!

I fell in with a group of players who’d been around, knew what they were doing, and who took me under their wing. They turned me on to the Allman Bros...I am eternally grateful for that. Duane’s improvisational flair has been an inspiration ever since. Tom Biagi and William F. Hill were two guitar players that passed through that group of players the couple years that I was with them, good local cats to learn from.

I also started backing up a singer named Mike Miles in a folk music duo. On a playing trip with him to Carbondale, IL an agent took me aside and played me Norman Blake’s Home In Sulphur Springs album. All that music from one guitar. I was hooked! I’ve had a big time love affair with acoustic guitar ever since. The whole U of I experience was like going to Music 101 through your doctoral thesis, only I was doing it in the clubs and coffeehouses up and down the state. It was the best musical upbringing someone interested in rock-jazz-blues-world-folk could have.

mwe3: How about where you are living nowadays and what do you like about where you live now?

DL: My wife and I have been in El Paso since 1976. Between Las Cruces and El Paso there’s a good scene here for solos, duos, trios. I also travel the length and breadth of New Mexico, so we get around. You have to be versatile as far as doing some gigs solo, using a duo for a bigger sound—guitar and percussion or guitar and bass—and even putting together bigger ensembles for the gigs that call for it. There are a bunch of good players around here to call on.

Some of the places I’ve played at for 10 years plus!

El Paso’s a bit off the beaten path, so you have to work on keeping in the pipeline. The internet makes it a little easier to stay on top of things. On and off I travel to play, I used to hit the college circuit pretty heavy and got sent around by different arts groups to all sorts of funky places. The local scene has been such a good place for us the last decade that I’ve gotten a little spoiled. Releasing the new CD should get me off my ass, traveling more, getting the music out there.

mwe3: Can you remember your first guitars and these days what do you look for sound wise in a guitar?

DL: A cheapy 15 dollar acoustic that the neck broke off - I screwed it back on. That was my first. The first good one was a Les Paul Custom at the U of I - $300 bucks, all the money in the world at the time. I had a little mahogany Gibson LG-O that I liked, and graduated to a J-45 eventually. I’ve gone through just about every guitar under the sun.

I was out there playing, traveling a bunch and I’d find all sorts of great buys. I’d fix them up, play them and sell them. It turned into a tidy little business. I’d find Danelectro amp-in-case Silvertones for $50 and turn around and sell them for $100. I thought I was making a fortune! This would have been late ‘70s through the ‘80s and even into the 90s. However, I had to make the decision, was I a player or a dealer? Playing won out.

All through those years I had a lot of great sounding guitars, but I never liked their necks – too tiny. I wanted a big steel string sound with a classical width neck. I was doing a lot of repair work and rebuilding basket cases at the time, so I modified some guitars, an old ’52 Martin 000-28 that looked like a box of kindling when I first found it. I made a nice wide neck for it. I did the same to an old Gibson basket case from the 1930s. I used those guitars for years. I recorded a solo guitar album, The Blue Hand, back in 2000 with them. They’re pictured on the CD. They were great sounding and fun to play, but a little fragile. I still have both of them.

Finally my wife convinced me to bite the bullet and have someone custom make me a guitar. I’d been eyeing the Pimentels’ work from Albuquerque. In 2002 I made the pilgrimage to their shop and sat down with Rick, he’s the one who makes the steel strings. It was the smartest thing I’ve ever done - actually, marrying Rachelle back in 1974 was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. The Pimentels even tell me, “Dan, you’re always welcome at the shop, if you bring her along!”

As an aside, being married to an artist all these years, there are a lot of similarities in our fields. We inspire each other, talk through problems, and we’ve both met with success, although along very different paths. So there’s no jealousy or competition, we’re there to help.

mwe3: What guitars did you record The Double Drum Trio CD with?

DL: Back to the guitar, I’ve been using that Pimentel for pushing 10 years now, a couple thousand gigs I bet. I used it on the new CD, as well as a guitar made by Bill Farmer from El Paso. I use the Farmer on one tune on The Double Drum Trio CD. The Pimentel’s the main one, the versatile one, the road hog. It’s big and woody, and dry like the desert. I’m about ready to talk to them about another one. Robert Pimentel has built me an electric nylon string guitar that I use for some of the quieter gigs, or for a change of pace.

mwe3: What strings do you use and do you also play electric guitar?

DL: On the CD a few tunes might sound like an electric, but it’s my Pimentel through an amp. I play electric a little bit around the house, when I’m teaching or when I’m trying to figure out an electric tune off a record, or even for the occasional gig. 99.9% of what I do is acoustic however.

I set my acoustics up so they’re easy to play, phosphour bronze strings with a .011 on top, any brand seems to do, I haven’t fallen in love with one brand or the other yet.

mwe3: How about amps or effects used on the new album?

DL: Live I use a Crate Gunnison acoustic guitar amp, it’s another road hog. It sits next to me elevated up on a chair so all the knobs, the notch filter, everything is right at my fingertips. I also keep a Raagini Electronic Tanpura from India sitting on the amp. It’s the drone you hear on a few tunes on the CD. We use it for the more World Beat sounding pieces, or whenever I want a nice drone happening. Since I’ve been playing sarod, oud, ruan and now sitar at gigs, we’ve been using the drone more and more. You can hear the sarod, oud and ruan on the CD.

mwe3: Can you say something about the other musicians recording with you on the Double Drum Trio CD and how about players you work with live and what did you set out to achieve on the Double Drum Trio album?

DL: Ricardo Amaya and Erik Hickerson, both excellent percussionists, play with me on the CD. I do a lot of gigs, and can easily wear out players, so I have a whole slew of them from the El Paso – Las Cruces area that I draw from—percussionists, bass players, other guitar players, singers, violin, flute, cello, you name it. I like mixing things up, it keeps me from getting stale and it makes it interesting for the audience.

Recording the CD sort of fell into my lap. We were at a gig and Tony Rancich, the owner of Sonic Ranch in Tornillo outside of El Paso, was there. He took me aside and said, “You guys gotta record, people have to hear this!” I thought yeah, yeah, yeah, salesman’s schtick, he just wants us to record at his place. I’m a salesman myself. Again my wife intervened, she told me to get my butt out there and check out the place. I did. It was great.

Ricardo and Eric and myself hunkered down for two days there. We did it all live, a few takes of each tune to work out the arrangements, lots of improvising. I could write a book about the experience. The studio is out in the middle of miles of pecan groves along the Rio Grande southeast of El Paso, in what they call the Lower Valley. It was the best setting, get up in the morning early, take a long bike ride under the shade of the pecan trees, eat, record. We stayed overnight out at the ranch. Normally recording is a pain, a lot of fussy work, I’d rather be out playing for an audience. Recording The Double Drum Trio CD at Sonic Ranch was the best. It’s a special place.

mwe3: What guitarists and musical styles had the biggest impact on you and can you hear your influences in the music? For instance, the first song on the Double Drum Trio album “Wadi A Go Go” sounds like Leo Kottke jamming with the Ventures!

DL: I’ve listened to a zillion players, all with something to offer. The ones who have really made their mark on my playing are Duane Allman, Jerry Hahn, Clarence White, Baden Powell, and Erkan Ogur. Now there’s a mixed bag for you! And don’t forget Amjad Ali Khan and Ali Akbar Khan on sarod. I’ve missed important ones I’m sure, but that’s a start.

mwe3: How do you feel about cross-pollinating musical genres and how do you think that comes out in your music? For instance, New Age guitar with World Beat can lead to some amazing different sounds. What are some of the wildest guitar sounds you’ve ever heard?

DL: I love it all - oud players, African kora players, koto from Japan, pipa and ruan from China, of course veena, sarod, and sitar from India, besides all the guitar players. And what about the classic John Coltrane quartet with McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison, or Keith Jarrett’s “Standards” trio with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. There is so much music to pick up on, and I can’t help but try to interject whatever I hear from any instrument in my playing. It’s all out there, I just have to be creative enough to fit it in.

Here’s a story – My wife and I lived in Kent, Ohio for the first two years we were married, 1974 – 1976, while she was in grad school. There was a strong traditional music scene happening at the time, old time music especially. I learned a lot about the beauty of traditional fiddle tunes, where the different ones came from, different regional styles, on and on. However, they were pretty strict about “keeping within the tradition” to the point that it tended to suck the life out of the music.

I never saw the point, I always thought that you brought whatever you could to the table, that you let your personality shine through. I learned that from listening to Duane, but not just him. Listen to the great fiddler Clark Kessinger, especially the recordings with Gene Meade on guitar. Meade goes wild with the backup, it really injects energy into the rhythm.

There’s a classic album, Coltrane Plays The Blues. Every guitar player should learn every tune and solo. Trane could be as gut-bucket or as modern as he wanted, all in the same tune, and it all had that unmistakable sound.

My brother-in-law had a girlfriend, Connie Koralik, who played with The Rosehip String Band, an early Flying Fish Records act. They were our heroes, Rachelle and I went to tons of their gigs. I remember a folk nazi in Ohio giving me grief about them when their first record came out—it was folkie stuff, but with a definite individual stamp to it. Right then I realized a couple things, number one – quality is not apparent to everybody and, number two - people can get downright ugly when you start shaking the foundations of their known world.

To me it’s always been, the more the merrier. When I’m teaching and a younger person tells me, ‘I don’t like that kind of music’ I always say, ‘You’re a little too young to be so narrow-minded, aren’t you?’

Lately I’ve been listening to violin players, and reading about violins, the great historic ones. I picked up an album entitled The Glory of Cremona—six Strads, five Guarneri del Gesus, two Amatis, a Bergonzi and a da Salo played with piano accompaniment. It’s a fascinating release, hearing this great player, Ruggiero Ricci play all these old violins, the history of each being written up in the liner notes. It’s the most money I’ve ever spent on a record album, but well worth it. There’s a goal to shoot for, getting that perfect tone quality that one of those violins is producing, only on guitar. Makes me want to start all over, this time as a classical violinist. Imagine having a gorgeous-sounding 300 year old violin right under your nose, and you’re bringing the best out of it.

About those wild guitar sounds, how about Robert Nighthawk on that Live On Maxwell Street LP, the song “Goin’ Down To Eli’s”.

mwe3: You recently traveled to London. What was that like and do you have family roots there? Were you influenced by the music from England?

DL: Our family roots are scattered all over the place, Corsica, the Baltics, Scotland (Buchanan), you name it. Lambert was an adopted name somewhere along the way, so that throws another wrench in the works.

The London gigs were set up by a friend, Amrit Sond, a great solo fingerstyle player, real unique. We had a blast for several days, plus my wife has a metalsmith friend who lives on the South Downs, so we spent time there hiking around, walking along the coast. The UK is such a great place for walking, the Lake District, Scotland, to a desert rat like me, the countryside is like another planet!

I learned a whole lot about Scottish music during some previous trips when we’d rented a car and traveled around the country. We discovered bands like Runrig, and saw what an achingly beautiful place Scotland is, how the weather can come on in a second, and learned about the often dark, violent history.

mwe3: Can you say something about your guitar building career?

DL: As far as building guitars, along the way I had to make a choice, build em’ or play em’. I certainly have an appreciation for the luthier’s craft. I’ve done a lot of repair work over the years, and still do some, but I play more than ever, and there’s only so much time in the day.

mwe3: Do you have any interests of hobbies outside of music?

DL: My wife and I both love being outdoors, we’ve just returned from a hiking/camping trip to Flaming Gorge, the Uintas mountains and Dinosaur National Monument. We get up into the mountains in Cloudcroft, NM as often as we can.

I write a lot also, lately for What’s Up, an El Paso entertainment magazine. Some of it’s music oriented, like a monthly column, The Final Note, on making a living in the biz. I also do profiles of artists and writers, especially when they have something new out. I like the challenge and I like keeping my writing chops up. A well-composed line is universal, whether it’s a piece of writing or an inspiring melody.

And I’m a big reader, always have been.

mwe3: Also can you say something about some of your very early work being rereleased on the Wayfaring Strangers CD? How did that come about and do you have any other music planned to come out from the archives, live or any other releases planned:

DL: The Double Drum Trio is the ninth release under my own name, going back to the late 70s. Numero Records out of Chicago got in touch about putting together a solo fingerstyle guitar compilation featuring independent artists from the ‘70s and ‘80s. I fit right in. They used the tune “Charleytown” off my first LP.

I’d actually like to do a best of from the first four releases out on LP, which aren’t available on CD. The fifth through eighth albums are all out on CD. We’ll get around to the reissue of the first ones sometime, although right now I’m having too much fun working up new stuff.

mwe3: What other things do you have coming up later this year?

DL: We’ll just be playing our usual 3-4-5 gigs/week. The Double Drum Trio did the music for a video, “Watercourse”. I played ruan on it and Ricardo played water percussion. Erik was along with us on that one too. It’s part of a larger art show, “Common Language” done by my wife, metalsmith Rachelle Thiewes and painter Suzi Davidoff.

I also wrote the text for the book accompanying the show.

I love to practice, and with all those exotic instruments, I have no problem filling up the day working out new pieces. In fact, I need to get back to my sitar.


Thanks to Dan Lambert @ www.DanLambertGuitar.com






 

 
   
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