Recommendation #3: Shawn Lane

Born 21 Mars 1963, Memphis TN, Shawn Lane started his musical journey playing cello and piano age 4 then switched to guitar at age 8. Progressing very fast he was playing professionally in clubs and making recordings at 12. He had developed such a reputation by the time he was 14 that he got an audition and then the gig with Black Oak Arkansas. 4 years of Stadium tours sharing the bills with the likes of Ted Nugent, the Outlaws, Cheap Trick, Blue Öyster Cult, REO Speedwagon and others followed.

At 18 burnt out from touring, he quit Black Oak, got married and settled down to intensely study music for two years. During this time he played no gigs at all but was totally immersed in books and records.

After this extended vacation he started playing with various bands round the south. Between 86-89 he headed his own band the Willy’s, a sort of half cover half Shawn Lane original music band. This band had a stint as the house band a the legendary Peabody Hotel in Memphis. During this time people like Kirk Hammet, George Lynch and other rock stars staying at the hotel while on tour, caught Shawn in the act and were subsequently destroyed adding to the legend of the Memphis Monster.

During these years Lane also did sessions and concerts with people like Larry Raspberry, Mark Lindsay, Robert Duval, Jimi Jamison (Survivor), Rap: DC Talk (Christian Rap), Al Kapone (Gangsta Rap), Joe Walsh, Sam and Dave, Tony Joe White, Alex Chilton.

In 1989 SL was asked to play on the Highwaymen 2 record Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. His work on this record led to him being signed to Warner Bros. for a solo deal.

He spent the following two years writing and recording what would become “Powers of Ten”. He also recorded two instructional videos and made a US-tour to support “Powers Of Ten” in 92. In 1993-94 SL produced records for other artists and was involved in teaching and developing curriculum’s for conservatories in Europe.

By the end of 1994 SL teamed up with bassist Jonas Hellborg. The two have since then recorded four albums, Abstract Logic [DEM 035] (with Kofi Baker on drums), Michael Shrieve’s “Two Doors” [CMP Records],Temporal Analogues of Paradise [DEM 036], Time is the Enemy [Bardo 037] and toured throughout Europe, Asia and the US.

Shawn Lane was awarded Best New Talent in Guitar Player Magazine 1992 and placed 2nd in the best Keyboard Player category in Keyboard Player Magazine the same year.

I first heard about Shawn Lane years ago from a couple of friends of mine that were obsessed with “shred guitar players.” I didn’t pay  him much mind at the time because more often than not, I was nauseated by the music these guys showed me. For some reason, I started checking him out on youtube a couple of years ago and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. To describe Shawn Lane’s style as merely “shredding” is a grave injustice. In fact, he has very little in common with the stringent neo-classical stylists who seem to dominate the genre. Upon further investigation, the listener will instantly recognize that Mr. Lane had a penchant for strong  blues and fusion aesthetics. His music has more common with Allan Holdsworth than someone like, say, Michael Angelo Bation. Like many so-called “shredders”, Lane has amazing technique and dexterity but what separates him from the pack is his clear understanding of complex harmonies.

Shawn Lane’s most experimental work can be heard on the project he created with Jeff Sipe (Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams) and Jonas Hellborg. This Exploratory group put out 2 official releases, Zen House and Temporal Analogues of Paradise.

Unfortunetly, Shawn’s Lane’s life was cut short too soon due to illness…

Information about his death from his WIKI:

Lane had psoriasis his whole life and also suffered from psoriatic arthritis from the age of about 13. This did not impair his playing but caused difficulty walking, and required treatment with steroids which seriously affected Shawn’s weight so much that he weighed over 300 pounds in the years before his death (though Shawn was slim in his youth). He also smoked constantly. On September 26, 2003, Shawn died in a hospital in Memphis, shortly after being told that he would have to remain on medical oxygen the rest of his life. He is interred in the Memorial Park Cemetery, Memphis.

Here are 3 of my favorite Shawn Lane videos:

With Jonas Hellborg, Selvaganesh, Vikku Vinayakram, Umashankar and U. Shrinivas:

Performance of “Little Wing”:

From a clinic at GIT:

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