Acoustic Guitar Music NEWS FLASH!!! Singer-Songwriter/Multi-Instrumentalist Unveils One-Man-Band ROCK Record on the INTIMATE AUDIO label (CLICK for more Info)
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Who D.A.T.? Music Home Recording Multi-Instrumentalists

In praise of my favorite multi-instrumentalists

NEWS FLASH!!! Singer-Songwriter/Multi-Instrumentalist Unveils One-Man-Band ROCK Record on the INTIMATE AUDIO label:

Yep! It finally exists. After four years of slow boiling... Unbelievable! Please check out my brand-new “full band” album of original compositions, MANNERISMS MAGNIFIED (now available through, iTunes and AMAZON.COM), featuring me performing all the instruments (voices, guitar, bass, real acoustic drums, piano, accordion, and mandolin). I also produced, arranged, engineered, and did all the artwork/illustrations—intimate audio AND visual, lol! (Details can be seen in my YouTube: ALBUM PREVIEW/documentary.) I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For comedy relief, and to further illustrate my own "multi-instrumentalist" madness, I *just* uploaded a "drumming" video (shown directly to the left of here) with documentary-style text, handwritten drum charts/transcriptions, and actual "live" clips of me practicing drums for parts of FOUR songs from MANNERISMS MAGNIFIED, filmed a few weeks before drum recording began. (The actual album has TWELVE songs, FYI; I only filmed a tiny part of the drum recording process--and the footage I have is pretty lo-fi!)! Please check it out! (YouTube: Drum Recording/Practice Video.)

Meanwhile, want to read up on other MULTI-INSTRUMENTALISTS who “throw down” in the “intimate audio” tradition? Check out this new section of the site that praises some of my favorite "one-man bands" (Jon Brion, Jason Falkner, Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Joseph Arthur, Sufjan Stevens, Jim Noir, John Frusciante, Ben Kweller, Mike Keneally, Todd Rundgren, etc.), and chronicles other “one-man band” recordings (from Ben Folds, Ben Harper, and Stevie Wonder, to Prince, the Foo Fighters, and Phil Collins). These guys pretty much played and sang EVERY SINGLE NOTE that you hear in these particular records. In some cases, the artist's themselves also ran the recording gear and handled production duties—the epitome of the "one-man band." Needless to say, these are all rad records no musical library should be without! Dig it!!!

Silas Loder, by Greg Wells

This is the record that started it all--at least for me! It's the first album I knew of that was ROCK, where every instrument was played by one guy. Cool thing: I actually auditioned to be part of this touring band. I learned half of the songs in two days. (Or maybe all of them, I forget.). Greg Wells (who wrote, played, and sang everything on this disc) was SO TOTALLY COOL, I couldn't believe it. At the time, he had just finished a long stint with k.d. lang as her drummer. I went and played with all these guys... and brought only a guitar (Tom Anderson Strat) with a Floyd Rose.... and found they were tuning down a half step lower than the record to play live. OOPS! So, they had to tune back up, lol. I recall he was a little under the weather that particular day, so so he only played guitar (no vocals) while we all jammed. I think we played three or four songs. I remember him coming up to me in the middle of a song, while I was soloing, and saying "Try playing like Wes!" AWESOME! The name of the band (Silas Loder) was taken after his grandfather's name, I remember he said. Anyways, it was a blast. But, sadly, I didn't get the gig. BUT Greg Wells was SO COOL, he actually called me directly to tell me they decided to go with "XXXX" (my memory was that it was Yogi, but this was in 1995), and so nice--I actually didn't take it personally ;-) I never forgot that.

So, I always thought I'd try to do a record like this someday. This disc planted that seed. Over the years, I started noticing Greg Wells' name as a co-writer on major stuff--first one was an Aerosmith song, I think. Recently, I see he produced Mika.... and now, of course, Katy Perry... Adam Lambert.... The list goes on. Total MONSTER musician. And an inspiration. Check this disc out, if you can find it.

Meaningless, by Jon Brion

This album is a major fave for me. Jon Brion is featured playing guitar (among other things) on scads of albums (some I actually got to transcribe for Guitar World--Wallflowers' "The Difference." I recall wondering, "Who is this awesome guitar player?"), but this is the songwriter/film composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist's only solo CD--a disc of hook-heavy, spine-tingling, and unpredictably perfect pop/rock songs, which also happens to be a fine example of modern Beatles-style (and other flavored) guitar layering. For one example, check out the interplay of axes in "Hook, Line and Sinker." And there are all sorts of weirded-out, double-tracked, hard-panned, "buzzing" guitar leads on other tracks. Unique stuff, with a myriad of acoustic and electric instruments used throughout. He played everything on it, I believe, except some drums were played by Jim Keltner. I'd read the liner notes and tell you, but the disc's been in my car for the last five years. Ain't taking it out! I love it.

For the sake of total "intimate audio" randomness, my first favorite song on this disc was "I Believe She's Lying." Here's a RAW lo-fi (boombox recording) of me playing/singing it literally moments after I sorta figured it out on guitar.

I also gotta add that, if you're ever in Los Angeles, and you feel the need to have your skull melted, you GOTTA go to Jon Brion's (usually) weekly show at Cafe Largo on Fridays. I've seen it six or so times. No setlist. He plays all the instruments himself--looping a real drum kit, then keys, then bass, then guitar and voice "live" over the whole thing. Or he'll just improvise at the piano. Or do ANY song by request (I requested "Welcome Back Kotter" once, and he even did that!), but in the style of some seemingly unrelated band (Beach Boys version of a Nirvana song, Tom Waits version of Radiohead, etc.). I've seen him spontaneously do ALL of the Who's Tommy at one set. CRAZY! And he's FUNNY AS L too. You will NEVER be the same afterwards (at least if you're a musician), I promise you!

Can You Still Feel?, by Jason Falkner

This guy rules! And he used to be in the GRAYS and JELLYFISH (both of which Jon Brion was also involved with). He composed, played, and sang everything on this (some he even tracked and mixed himself). This disc was also produced by Nigel Godrich, who you may know from his rad work with Radiohead. I like all of this, but some of my favorite songs are "Holiday" (chorus RULES!), "I Already Know" (the heavy parts kick arse!), "See You Again," and "Goodnight Sweet Night" (the outro is beautiful).

X.O., by Elliott Smith

From Elliott Smith's fourth solo album and major-label debut, XO, brings narrative detail and a wide range of emotion to an indie meld of '60s-style rock and folk-pop. Whether in the broken stateliness of "Waltz #2 (XO)," the Sgt. Pepper tribute of "Baby Britain," or the explosions of "Amity" and "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands," Smith's melodic and arrangement senses give his vulnerable vocals and brilliant wordcraft the maximum effectiveness. XO is a watershed in singer/songwriter rock. --Rickey Wright


The Creek Drank the Cradle, by Iron & Wine

From Iron & Wine is Sam Beam, a back-porch Florida singer-songwriter whose sad little songs pack a helluva wallop. Beam's immediately likable tunes paint such clear pictures that songs like "Southern Anthem" and "Muddy Hymnal" are more akin to short stories by Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor than to your average pop ditty. Recorded in his living room on a vintage four-track, The Creek Drank the Cradle co-stars cassette hiss, ambient room sound, and Beam himself. A stripped-down, one-man band, Beam contributes delicious Delta-flavored slide guitar, passable banjo, and deliriously beautiful harmonizing. Beam isn't just a songwriter the equal of Will Oldham and Leonard Cohen (really--and it'll be a surprise if folks don't immediately start covering him), the boy can sing. His melt-in-your-head-but-not-in-your-ears voice is instantly recognizable and will certainly please fans of Nick Drake, Lou Barlow, and Elliott Smith. --Mike McGonigal

Tower of Love, by Jim Noir

From Imagine a jukebox stacked with the hits of ELO, Super Furry Animals, Pepper-era Beatles, The Beta Band, The Beach Boys, early Pink Floyd, and Supertramp. Now imagine blowing that jukebox up and making a record from the exploded fragments. That's what this debut sounds like. Over the past year, Noir has emerged as one of the most promising new talents on the UK scene. He released a string of brilliant EPs from his Manchester home since late 2004, which are compiled here along with a couple new tunes exclusive to this release.

Ben Kweller, by Ben Kweller

From On his first eponymous effort, Ben Kweller sounds wise beyond his years--and younger than ever. Some songs come on mature and understated, like "Nothing Happening," others surge with youthful enthusiasm, like "I Gotta Move." Then again, Kweller is at that midway point between 20 and 30. His lyrics trod the same fine line between young and not-so-young. Rhyming "losing control" with "rock and roll" ("I Don't Know Why") seems pretty facile, but then he busts out with the infinitely more original, "I'm-a just a penny on the train track / Waitin' for my judgment day / Come on baby girl let me see those legs / 'For I get flattened away" ("Penny on the Train Tracks"). It takes dexterity to combine humor and longing without letting both sides down. Repetitive, if heartfelt ballad "Thirteen" messes with the momentum, but Ben Kweller is yet another winner from the man of the same name. His fourth full-length concludes with "This is War," in which the music-mad scientist splices the garage-rock rhythms of the White Stripes with the pop smarts of the Raconteurs... and the Monkees (specifically "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone"). Has Kweller been listening to Jack White lately? Or did he just discover Nuggets? Either way, here's hoping he keeps it up as the tambourine-fueled rocker is one of his best. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt, by John Frusciante

From Out of print in the U.S.! 1995 solo debut album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist. Seemingly two different projects on one release, the album features 12 listed tracks (Niandra Ladies) plus an additional 13 unlisted cuts (Usually Just A T-Shirt). Warner.

Arc of a Diver, by Steve Winwood

From He wasn't Little Stevie, the 16-year-old phenom who set mid- '60s London blazing with his Ray Charles-like vocals, anymore. He was a half-forgotten ex-member of some of rock's most progressive (Traffic) and vilified (Blind Faith) bands, and he was considering leaving show business while recording this--his second album--alone and without a backup band. Arc of a Diver reflects a resigned-to-fate mood. It boasts a synth-heavy, dub-like ambience, with dirge-y tracks like "Spanish Dancer" and the wistful single "While You See a Chance" all but zoning out of your speakers. The fates were kind, though. Recording the single, Winwood inadvertently erased the drum intro. This spacey alteration, together with his catchiest tune since "Paper Sun," catapulted the song onto the charts. In a few years he would be among the top-selling vocalists in the world. His mood was lighter. He could afford to hire engineers that didn't make mistakes. --Don Harrison

Nonkertompf, by Mike Keneally

From Mike's seventh album, "Nonkertompf," is an instrumental effort featuring Keneally playing everything, including guitars, keyboards, drums, sax, a stool and about a dozen other devices. It's a 74-minute stream-of-consciousness flight-of-fancy that takes the listener on an unparallelled sonic journey. Countless styles and moods are explored and seamlessly sewn together, always with extraordinary musical precision, rich orchestrational sense and a very big heart.

Both Sides, by Phil Collins

"This batch of songs crept up behind me during the last few months of '92 and the first half of '93. I improvised, recorded, improvised again, added, recorded some more and in all had a great time. For the first time ever I played all the instruments. It was during this time that I realised that the real fun to be had was actually in my little 72 track demo room."--Phil Collins

Foo Fighters, by Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl wrote all the songs and played all the instruments (except guitar on X-Static, played by Greg Dulli) on Foo Fighters, released 1995.

For You, by Prince

From Prince Rogers Nelson was one of the most critically and commercially successful solo musicians of the 20th Century, thanks to his impressive technical proficiency and a spell of outrageous creativity in the 1980s. In a career spanning almost 30 years, he has released almost 30 studio or soundtrack albums, all of which were entirely written, arranged, performed and produced by Prince himself. His back catalogue of singles is similarly impressive - with 19 Top 10 hits in the US (including five No.1s), and 17 in the UK, his work has achieved massive commercial success while still being revered by music critics. Commonly known just by his first name, Prince also attracted notoriety in 1993 for changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol as a result of a dispute with his label. Born in 1958 in Minneapolis, Prince developed a passion for funk and rock pioneers such as Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix, and learned to play over 20 different instruments. His first records, For You in 1978 and Prince the following year, were only minor successes, but 1980's Dirty Mind was a gold-seller and is regarded as his first great album - its synth-led funk and risquŽ themes breaking established boundaries.

Something/Anything?, by Todd Rundgren

From This double record from 1972 remains the definitive collection of Rundgren's long career. With Rundgren acting as a one-man-band for three-quarters of the session, it was also his bid for a Ph.D. from the college of musical knowledge. He deserved the degree for simply writing the lead-off track, "I Saw the Light," a melodic pop-rock gem that remains Rundgren's greatest hit. Rundgren excels at Beatles-esque pop-rock ("Couldn't I Just Tell You," "Wolfman Jack") and Philadelphia-styled soul ballads ("It Wouldn't Have Made Any Difference," "Hello, It's Me"). He also sticks his toe into heavy metal ("Black Maria"), jazz-rock fusion ("Breathless"), and cerebral pop ("The Night the Carousel Burnt Down"). Like most double albums, there's fat on the play-list, but the best of Something/Anything gave credence to Rundgren's boast of being a wizard and a true star. --John Milward

Oar, by Skip Spence

From The only solo album from this former Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape cult hero is something of a legend. Cut in four days all by himself, it bombed upon its release in 1969. Nevertheless, Spence's legend has led to devotion from such fans as Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Beck, and R.E.M.. Oar features quiet, stark folk; odd turns of phrase; old-timey shuffles; playful swing; and pretty melodies croaked out from Spence's hoarse voice. Generally, the mood is blissed out, with the occasional apocalyptic dread ("Cripple Creek," "Books of Moses") and dissociated narratives ("Margaret-Tiger Rug," "Lawrence of Euphoria") that came naturally to the poor soul who spent time in psychiatric institutions prior to his death at age 52. This Sundazed reissue includes new liner notes, plus 10 additional tracks, including five previously unissued recordings. --Jason Gross

Flamenco A Go-Go, by Steve Stevens

Steve Stevens wrote every song and played all the instruments on this record; he produced and engineered the album himself.

Cruel and Gentle Things, by Charlie Sexton

This is singer-songwriter Charlie Sexton's fourth solo CD—a collection of songs written and recorded at his home. He played all the instruments on most of these tracks.

Schizophonic, by Nuno Bettencourt

After Extreme called it quits, Nuno Bettencourt laid down tracks for his first solo record, Schizophonic, playing all the instruments on the 1997 release (A&M).

Fear of Pop, by Ben Folds

Ben Folds released this in 1998, which features him playing most of the instruments. Sounds more Beastie Boys than you'd imagine "Ben Folds." Someone'e been bakin'!

Into the Sun, by Sean Lennon

From If you took the artist's name off this record, you'd still be charmed by its dazzling eclecticism and sunny, low-key spirit. But given the weight of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's musical legacy, son Sean's achievement seems all the more impressive. Into the Sun finds the young Lennon working in a wide variety of styles, from the suave bossa nova of the title track and the Beach Boys-fashioned "Queue" to the trippy psychedelia of "Spaceship" and the funky jazz instrumental "Photosynthesis." "Home" offers crunching power chords, while "Part One of the Cowboy Trilogy" is a hokey country send up in the style of his dad's band's "Rocky Raccoon." Holding everything together is Lennon's voice, which is reedy and sometimes a little unwieldy, but as open and honest as his lyrics, many of which are inspired by his girlfriend, Cibo Matto keyboardist Yuka Honda (who co-produced the record). For someone with so much to live up to, Lennon more than acquits himself with this fine debut. --Daniel Durchhol


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