Favorite musician(s)

I am first and foremost a song lover. Chords (the importance of which is not taken seriously enough by many songwriters imo. Listen to the changes in "God Only Knows" by Brian Wilson, and "What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted" by William Weatherspoon, Paul Riser, and James Dean. Glorious!), a melody (or three, if it's a fugue), harmonies, counterpoint if you're really good. For a song to be heard, you usually need some instruments to play it, A cappella being the exception. Different musicians approach the playing of a song in different ways; some view the song as merely the platform from which they express themselves via their particular instrument. Others play their instrument in service to the song itself (and/or the singer and other musicans), their talent at that assessed by how much the song benefits from their playing of it. I am a fan of the latter approach.

The players I like most can be described as "lyrical"---their parts sound like an integral element of the song---it would not be the same song without them. These type players are highly valued by the best songwriters, producers, and singers, and by other musicians who also play via that approach. Rick Hall, owner of the infamous Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, said the members of the studio's house band---The Swampers---all thought like and played as if they were producers. Exactly! When a great song is played by these type musicians, backing a good singer, the results are magical.

My favorite players are guys like Jerry Douglas (dobro), a member of Alison Krauss' Union Station and a first-call Nashville studio player. Ry Cooder and Richard Thompson, master guitarists of course. There are plenty of others, but that's enough outta me. Anyone who wants to add to my short list, may I request we keep it to lyrical/musical players, not "hotshots"? They already get all the attention (and chicks ;-) .

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I think David Rawlings falls squarely into this camp, so very complimentary in adding to the essence of a distinctive voice (his guitar) to Gillian Welch.  In the rock guitar genre I always felt like Mike Campbell contributed in a similar (albeit more subtle) way with Tom petty's band.
Agree 100%, t_e_p. Great choices! Another kindred spirit is Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris' guitarist, bandleader, and harmony singer. He's also a solo artist with a bunch of great albums.
For a non-musician…as myself......

Robert Cray
Blake Mills
Nels Cline
Colin Meloy

I reserve the right to contribute in the future..

Yeesh...talk about an open ended solicitation!

Already some good "nominations". Dozens more to come, probably.

Want to jump on @slaw ’s mention of Nels Cline. I don’t care much for his work with The Nels Cline Singers or Julian Lange BUT if he only played one solo and not another lick ever again, his solo in One Wing is all you need to hear. Tried to find a live non-concert version I’d seen but could not. This track off the album will have to do. That solo begins at 1:52 here...


If One Wing didn’t convince, try his lengthier solo-ing in Impossible Germany from Sky Blue Sky (though I prefer the stripped down minimalist sensibility of that in One Wing).

Thanks to Pokey77 for turning me on to Nels in what seems an improbable role in Wilco given Nels’ prior and on-going work in jazz.

I’ll leave one more (for now)...
Can’t pass up an opportunity to mention Neil Finn as a fantastically gifted song-writer who is blessed as few are with the gift of melody.

Taking a tip from Slaw, I too reserve the right to future contributions.

@ghosthouse ,

For not wanting to take my opinion seriously…………

There was several  paragraphs in similar interest?

Neil Finn, Wow! Actually he was chosen to front the latest version of Fleetwood Mac.
Crowded House were one of the bright lights of the late 80's and 90's, weren't they? Like Squeeze were in the late 70's and 80's. It's a damn shame drummer Paul Hester couldn't hold on until just a little longer.
Neil Finn indeed...Great songwriter. I miss Paul Hester too, but his passing inspired yet another wonderful Crowded House disc, Time on Earth. 
You mean your "The more gifted artist thread"? I really did take it seriously and gave some thought to it, coming p with a couple of "in-earnest" entries that would warrant some discussion (I thought). Gotta say, the Fleetwood Mac gig has me questioning Neil’s judgement a bit (but not FWM’s!). Their good judgement on Mike Cambell too.

I agree with you. Two bands that showed it’s possible to elevate "the popular song" above the mass market cash for dreck formula. Add XTC to make it a trifecta (even if all not contemporaries). I remember the shock and sadness reading the news about PH. The sadness remains. Check out the cover art for CH’s first. A kind of eery foreshadowing, perhaps. Never the less, don’t overlook some great CH albums made after Paul’s death. Time on Earth in particular is excellent (as good as any of their others). NF’s solo output and albums with brother Tim are worth listening too as well. More great melody and arrangements.

Not to dominate the conversation, but one more to add:

Andy Summers (post-POLICE).

A number of well-recorded, diverse and interesting albums. Nothing like the commercial success of Sting but SO WHAT. A favorite from those: Earth + Sky.

Track 9 - Red Stiletto

Thanks for providing the soap box :-)

I also appreciate your "deeper dive" posts that connect the dots in contemporary popular music.  

OK, one more thing about Crowded House and I'll shut up. Temple of Low Men is a timeless masterpiece, and I still listen to it frequently.

I'm done.

Ha...was typing while you posted mentioning "Time On Earth".  Agree whole-heartedly.  Silent House is a grammy-deserving song except that would do a disservice to it!  I also agree with your assessment of Temple of Low Men.  A great and often over-looked CH.1 album, kind of existing in the shadows of their first and Woodface.  Now I'll shut up 
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One word.....Joni.

(close but no banana second to SRV, The Gadd, Jaco, Wayne Shorter, Merle, Robert DeLeo, Dwight, Scott LaFaro, Donald Fagan, Donald Hugh Henley, Duane Allman, Bill Evans, Ann Wilson, Roy Orbison, and God Rest His Soul The GREAT Glen Campbell...)

Oh yeah plus those old dead white dudes Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and I'll B. Bach....
Robin Williamson and Mike Heron of The Incredible String Band! Check out: The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Wee Tam, Big Huge! Three superb recordings from this late 60's British folk duo!
I usually refer to ths as "playing in service to the song".  The opposite idea is wrapping a song around your playing.  Clapton is a good example of the former, Jimi (in my far from universal opinion) the latter.

Some guys who shine for me in this regard:

Glenn Tillbrook (Squeeze)
Todd Rundgren
George Harrison
Terry Kath
David Hidalgo (Los Lobos)
Richard Lloyd (Television, many others)
Robert Quine (Bowie, many others)
Greg Leisz
Buddy Emmons



In the vein of backing musicians, Nils Lofgren with Crazy Horse and E Street Band comes to mind. 
Some great musical artists nominated. Marty, we’re musical brothers! George Harrison is SO under-rated. When the style of guitar playing considered hip by musicians became pretty-much purely blues-based (the Yardbirds For Your Love album being a prime reason, but also Mike Bloomfield in The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Clapton in first---after his time in The Yardbirds, though we didn’t know it then; he was not credited on the For You Love album cover---John Mayall’s band and then Cream, and finally Hendrix, who really put the nails in the coffin. Marty, I don’t care for his playing either, or his tone), George’s style of musical accompaniment became passe’. Players were now judged on their abilities at playing a solo, not playing a song. But George’s part in the middle of "Nowhere Man" is exquisite! Fantastic tone (dig the compression!), too. (it’s very reminiscent of James Burton’s solo in Ricky Nelson’s "Young World", which I bought on a 7" 45 in 1962). It’s my all-time favorite guitar "break"---not a solo separate from the song, but a guitar part that is a musical line in the song, replacing the lead vocal heard in the verses and choruses. THAT’S the kind of playing I’m talking about. Robbie Robertson plays that way in The Band; musical lines played on guitar (or piano; The Band’s Richard Manuel plays that way as well. And Garth Hudson’s organ playing is utterly unique---NO ONE else plays like him!) that are part of the song itself. Though more of a true solo than a guitar "break", Ry Cooder’s playing between verses in John Hiatt’s "Lipstick Sunset" is unbelievably great---a masterpiece!---Eric.

One thing about the influences musicians bring to the music they make is that, if a player and the band he is in (assuming he's not a solo artist) becomes very popular, he can actually change the course, the direction, that Popular music takes. When the more Blues-based bands of the mid-60's began their ascent, they did just that. Rock 'n' Roll music had become very devoid of much of a Blues influence by the time The Yardbirds and their ilk reintroduced it in 1964-5 and onward. It was putting hardcore Blues into Rock 'n' Roll that turned it into the Rock music we have known ever since.

Clapton was at the forefront of that change in the direction the music took, so it was really significant that when George Harrison played him The Band's Music From Big Pink in the middle of 1968, the rug was pulled out from under him. In The Last Waltz, Eric says: "Music had been moving in the wrong direction for a long time. When I heard Music From Big Pink I thought, someone has finally gotten it right" (I'm paraphrasing). He immediately disbanded Cream (the biggest band in the world!) and went to West Saugerties, NY to, he intended, join The Band. That of course didn't happen, but he did take their cue and started making a different kind of music.