Standing Next To A Mountain


It takes a lot to blow me away musically these days. Not that there isn’t a lot of great new music around and hungry, up and coming guitarists, musicians and singers who make it, but when I heard there was a new CD from Norwegian guitarist Steinar Gregertsen—in fact, a 2009 album tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix—I sat up and wiped the mist from my eyes. Jimi was the Jesus Christ of the electric guitar world and although there’s millions of great guitarists in the world, no one touches Jimi's brilliance even 40 years after his tragic mortal demise. Mixing the finest elements from Jimi’s world of rock, psychedelia, blues, jazz-fusion and soul music, Steinar has recorded possibly the greatest tribute album ever to the music of Jimi Hendrix. I had the honor to review Steinar’s 2006 album Southern Moon Northern Lights while I was reviews editor with 20th Century Guitar mag. As great as that album is, Steinar’s Hendrix tribute is simply stunning and I’m sure Jimi is smiling down at the excellent work on this CD. Steinar’s forte is instrumental rock but his work on Lap Steel guitar, slide guitar, bass and vocals just carries this baby over the finish line with grace. Steinar gets backup from top players like drummer Tom Rudi Torjussen, vocalists Claudia Scott and Marianne Rodvelt, fellow guitarists Tom Principato and Espen Larsen and more. Steinar also takes the lead vocal slot on the lead off cover of “I Don’t Live Today” while the instrumentals—for instance the other-worldly cover of “Drifting”—just sends spine-tingling shivers throughout my entire body. With so much to like and admire here, Jimi Hendrix fans are urged to pick up on this brilliant tribute album from Steinar & company.


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Musical Background

My first musical instrument was an old beat up alto saxophone I bought from a buddy when I was 11 years old, and I played in the school’s marching band for a couple years. My love for the blues and rock of the early 70's soon made me want to play guitar though, and in ’72 I got my first electric guitar.

My first real band experience was playing bass in a cover band in ’74, those were my first paid gigs, playing places I was too young to be allowed in as a 15 year old kid.

The rest of the 70's and 80's were spent playing in various bands with varying degrees of success, participated on my first nationwide record release as guitarist/composer in ’81 plus several local D.I.Y. releases through the 80's.

In the early 90's I started working a lot as a freelance guitarist, both in studios and live with various projects and artists, and also got seriously into home recording. I’ve also written and produced music for ballets, multimedia projects, a TV series, plus some jingles/commercials...(not my favorite gig, but the money is good.)

Got my first lap steel in ’99, but didn’t get really serious about it until ’03 when I bought my first Weissenborn style guitar. That was it, I was hooked, and there was no turning back. The vocal qualities of the lap steel allowed me to go places I’d never been before...not even on bottleneck slide. It’s a truly addictive instrument, and must be one of the healthiest addictions you can have!

New CD

After releasing my first solo CD, Southern Moon Northern Lights in ’06, I wanted to take whatever time I needed before starting working on a new project, the last thing I wanted to do was to make a “SMNL Part ll”. Always been a huge admirer of Hendrix, and slowly the idea of making an album with my interpretations of his music took shape, and I recorded the first sketches in early ‘08. I have always included some Hendrix songs live, and also done quite a few “Hendrix shows”, but with this album I was determined to keep the focus on Hendrix the songwriter, and not Hendrix – the guitar genius.

There’s so many layers in his music and it works on so many levels, I often feel that his great song writing has been totally overshadowed by his guitar genius. I chose the title Standing Next To A Mountain simply because that’s how I felt working on his songs.

Unlike on “SMNL”, where I played all instruments myself, I decided to include several local musicians on this album, saving the guitar and bass work for myself (plus some vocals). I was also fortunate enough to have Claudia Scott, who’s a well known Americana / roots artist in Scandinavia, add beautiful vocals on two tracks, and guitar ace Tom Principato added some great guitar solos to one of the tracks while he was over here for some gigs.

Most of the tracks were recorded in my studio, with the exception of the drums which were recorded in the drummer’s studio, and Claudia’s vocals which were recorded in an Oslo studio.

I am truly happy with how it turned out, and forever grateful to all the musicians who participated with great playing and helped make this album what it is. I believe I managed to keep the focus where I wanted it to be and treated Jimi’s music with respect, while at the same time having an open mind regarding the arrangements and not falling into the trap of “covering” Hendrix.

Favorite Guitars

My main lap steel is a modified Asher EH Junior that I love dearly. They’re solid as a rock, sustains like crazy with a full rich tone, relatively cheap, and the Ashers are wonderful people to deal with. It has a Duncan Seth Lover humbucker in the bridge position and a GFS Dream-90 in the neck position, plus I use 250K pots. I prefer them over 500K pots with almost all pickups, even though I know it’s “wrong”.

My Weissenborn style guitar is a Lazy River. A Weissenborn is an acoustic hollow neck lap steel and the first instrument designed purely for Hawaiian playing...a great handmade instrument by Rance White at a relatively comfortable cost with a spruce top and walnut back and sides.

Some years ago I started putting together my own electric guitars, using parts from a variety of brands, and my main guitars today is a honey blond Tele with a USA Fender Alder body, Mighty Mite neck, and T-90 pickups (that’s P-90s in Tele size) from Vintage Vibe Guitars, and a sea foam green Strat with Mighty Mite Swamp Ash body, Mighty Mite neck and another set of P-90s from Vintage Vibe Guitars.

After playing regular Strats for years and years I’ve found that I prefer two-pickup guitars with a fatter tone than regular single-coils, without going all the way into Les Paul/twin humbucker territory, so Strat/Tele style guitars with two P-90s has become my favorites.

My bass is a fretless Fender Jazz Bass, and my main acoustic is a plain Seagull Folk sized guitar. It has a very focused tone and is a dream to record.

I use D’Addario 010s and 011s for my electrics, Martin SP 012s on acoustic, and my lap steels start at 015.

Don’t use many effects live... A George Dennis wah/volume (on the CD I used a modded Cry Baby for wah), Cmatmods SignaDrive and Black Plague overdrives, and a Cmatmods Deeelay delay. That’s basically it….

When I record I plug my pedalboard into a POD XT, set to a Twin Reverb, and use the Cmatmods pedals for overdrive and warming up the clean tones. Live I use a 30W Peavey Delta Blues with a 15” speaker, but plan to replace it with a Chambers Amplification Signature combo soon.

Musical Influences

For most people, the music that hits you in your teens stays with you for the rest of your life. You hopefully develop more advanced tastes and expand your musical horizons, but there’s something special about that first musical love.

In my case it was a combination of Hendrix obviously, and much of the whole hippie/Woodstock thing, the British blues explosion of the late 60's which led me to discover the genuine American blues and soul music, and the early 70's hard rock of bands like Purple, Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc.

My main slide/steel influences are without a doubt Ry Cooder and David Lindley, I discovered both in the mid ‘70s and blame them both for my obsession with the slide and steel guitar.

In the late 70's I had a love affair with Indian music after getting a sitar through a friend traveling in India and, though I never studied it seriously, I like to imagine that some of it still comes through in my playing. The lap steel and Weissenborn are excellent instruments for that kind of phrasing.

These days it’s hard to single out one particular influence, but Jeff Beck keeps amazing me. At the age of 66 he’s still fresh and adventurous, still taking chances and exploring new territories, much unlike the rest of his generation of guitar heroes. When I first heard “Where Were You” from Guitar Shop I almost stopped breathing for the 3+ minutes the song lasts, afraid it would crash to pieces if I made a sound.

Upcoming Plans

Whenever I make plans something entirely different tends to fall out of the sky and grab my interest. Lately I’ve been thinking about doing a mainly acoustic album, trying to cut to the core of the music with as spare instrumentation as possible. So that probably means my next one will be a heavy metal album!

These days I mostly gig locally, making a small but steady income from teaching 20+ guitar students a week in my studio. Never been too fond of touring, and actually prefer the role of a side man for other artists when I do, but who knows... I’ve got a killer live band these days and we’ve done some great gigs with more on the horizon.

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