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On paper, it sounds like an album you'd love to hate: former folkie, once a rock & roller with Kaleidoscope, now revered Los Angeles sessionman joins third-world bandwagon with solo record of reggae and Mexican stylings. Instead, El Rayo-X is as bright and out of the blue as its titlewhich, in David Lindley's translation, is sort of a cross between X-ray vision and the mark of Zorro. But then, the man you've watched onstage with Jackson Browne for years (half the time wondering how he kept his overgrown elf locks out of his multi-instrumental… Read More
strings) has always seemed more phenomenon than sideman. Other studio heavies might offer a trademark sound, but Lindley added magic: the ?? fiddle in the Youngblood ?? ness, Darkness," the twin?? dolin on Rod Stewart's Atlantic Crossing.
The El Rayo-X is something of a potluck supper. It includes reggae tre??ments of both Nash?? ("Bye Bye Love") and Moto?? ?? ("Don't Look Back?? ("El Rayo-X") and Cajun ?? ("Petit Fleur"), and R&B from proto-rock & roll ("Mercury Blues") to funky King Curtis ("Your Old Lady"). Plus contemporary tunes by Bob "Frizz" Fuller that encourage Lindley's own Carib-Mex medicine show. Thing is, all this diversity speaks with a single, eloquent voice. Astonishing thing is that it's not just because Lindley spent a year and a half with a vocal coach, though his stylized, flexible near falsetto is an unexpected treat.
What holds David Lindley's multiplicity of sources and strings together is the Bounce: the elastic lilt that so many reggae, funk, Cajun, Latin and polka styles have in common. Indeed, the Bounce may be the sound of the beat remembering that dancers need time to bend their knees. But to Lindley, it's more than that. As an accompanist, his usual job is deciding which holes require filling and when to leave well enough alone. So the Bounce, with its crucial pauses and sneak attacks, must come naturally to an ear that hears the spaces between notes as vividly as the notes themselves.
Maybe the Bounce is a way of getting from one string to the next, so that you land a little after the beat and leave a spin behind you. Whatever it is, it's certainly an attack with implications: of teasing restraint, of winking over your shoulder, of savoring and letting go. Though Lindley's exuberant eclecticism resembles Ry Cooder's, and though he can match Cooder tone for pear-shaped tone, El Rayo-X has none of the solemn resonance (where each note is played to last a century) that makes Cooder's later LPs such lifeless monuments to good taste.
David Lindley keeps moving, preferring hit-and-run notes to sustained ones, even on slide guitar. And his light touch isn't confined to his fingers. From the wry regrets of a lounge Lothario who gets seduced himself ("She Took Off My Romeos") to the almost ethereal version of Smokey Robinson's "Don't Look Back" (which, unlike P?? Tosh's, preserves the sweet?? ?? and polish of the original