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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Lindley Puts Together an Eclectic Victory of Strings

July 08, 1996|JOHN ROOS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — David Lindley's tastes in fashion couldn't be more obvious nor more specific. Delving yet again into his bottomless wardrobe of garish '70s synthetic fabrics, the multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire appeared Saturday at the Coach House outfitted in a brown, gold and black polyester shirt, red slacks and white dress shoes--quite the combination with his down-the-back curly hair and graying mutton chops.

His musical tastes? That's another story.

Lindley's canvas has always been larger than most of his contemporaries, and in his collaborations in recent years with Jordanian American percussionist Hani Naser, the boundaries--if any--are even harder to spot as he shares his enthusiasm for cultures and musical styles that span the globe.

The pair's soulful and generous 2-hour, 15-minute concert was laced with wit, charm and a dry sense of humor. It felt like a guided tour (albeit by a slightly warped guide) that coursed through the streets of Tijuana to the Hawaiian Islands to the faraway lands of Madagascar and the Middle East.

Just watching Lindley move effortlessly from one stringed instrument to the next was an education in itself. Lindley, who probably could coax melodious sounds out of a pair of shoe strings, played seven stringed instruments in all, including acoustic, electric and Hawaiian guitars, the bouzouki, saz, oud and cumbash, the latter being kind of a Turkish banjo played with a bow.

Hand drummer Naser's contributions were as essential to the overall sound as any of Lindley's strings.

Using the Middle Eastern dumbeki and goblet-shaped tombek, Naser was equally impressive whether offering rumbling, tumbling rhythms or tapping gently to accent Lindley's leads.

The duo was especially dazzling during Bob Dylan and Danny O'Keefe's "Well Well Well," a foreboding song of economic despair. As a meditative-looking Naser rocked in his chair, eyes closed, Lindley sat there sawing on the cumbash, producing distinctively jagged, piercing tones. Capturing the song's cautious spirit, Lindley sang in that nasal voice of his: "Take care of your body, like you care for your soul / Make sure you don't step into a hole."

Equally riveting was J.J. Cale's "Tijuana," where Lindley infused a Middle Eastern sensibility into a tale of migrants fleeing for the border. Lindley's fretwork--beautifully evocative yet spooky soloing on the Hawaiian slide guitar--added just the right spice to the tragically romanticized mood.

*

Like blues singer-guitarist John Hammond, Lindley is primarily an interpreter of others' songs who adds his own voice and style in the process.

Perhaps his most distinctive--and twisted--cover was his bizarre take on "The Meat Man," a bawdy old R&B tune that has long been a favorite of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Lindley gave an apt description of his version while introducing it: "This is a gothic, darker version than on the [Jerry Lee] 8-track tape, and it scared my daughter to death."

Yet as always, Lindley balanced his oddball sense of humor with songs that reflect his very real social concerns. Selections including his set-opening "Cottonmill Blues" and the Depression-era standard "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?" emphasized universal and still-relevant struggles of the disadvantaged against economic woes.

Describing his discussions with demoralized locals during a recent tour stop in Hawaii, Lindley offered the Liko Martin-Thor Wold ballad "Waimanalo Blues (Nanakuli Blues)," which focused on the cultural devastation that corporate greed has wreaked upon some parts of those islands.

Among the concert's other highlights were the shimmering tones and bouncy melodies that propelled the Madagascarian instrumental "Afindrafindrao"; John Hiatt's disturbing tale of plutonium pollution, "Do You Want My Job?"; and a rousing, newly revised version of Friz Fuller's "Tiki Torches at Twilight," which ended a splendid set on a wacky, upbeat note.

Newport Beach guitarist Tom Long opened the concert with an amazing set of solo acoustic folk and blues. Equipped with a droll sense of humor and excellent traditional and original material--such as the remarkable "The Train Divides at Amiens"--he traverses a wide-ranging musical landscape.

From hillbilly music to Irish jigs to his set-closing cover of blues legend Skip James' 1930s "I'm So Glad," Long played it all with a compelling edge.

Not nearly ready for a venue such as the Coach House, second-billed Sacred Mirrors aims for a lofty perch with idealistic songs examining freedom, love and the nature of existence.

But the Brea-based duo of acoustic guitarists-singers Ron Pane and Chris Churn fell prey to affectation and overblown harmonizing during their brief set of underdeveloped anthems.

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