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His Guitar Is Close to His Heart: And it makes a great bib when you're eating cat food sandwiches.

His Aim Is True

Whether it's playing every freakin' instrument in the known world, singing about man boobs, or archery, David Lindley's talent knows no bounds

By Cindy Campo

If you happen to have been shooting arrows at the archery tournament held south of Santa Cruz last week, you might have been surprised to see David Lindley plucking yew. Not that the SoCal music legend and former leader of El Rayo-X isn't known for being unpredictable and even maybe a tad eccentric--his unique fashion sense, for example, is famous for taking "mismatched" to a whole new level--but, still, he's not necessarily the kind of guy you expect to be busting out, Legolas-style.

But Lindley says he enjoys the discipline of the sport, and practices every chance he gets, though last week's event was "only OK."

"It was an equipment problem," says Lindley. "I changed arrows and had to get used to all kinds of things."

Kind of like when he has to adjust to a new instrument?

"Exactly. Especially one with a different kind of strings."

Lindley would know plenty about that--his reputation for collecting and playing innumerable instruments of all types is unrivaled in rock. And he has a particular penchant for string instruments. You can check some of them out in the fold-out sleeve of his new CD with percussionist Wally Ingram--who performs with him at the Catalyst Feb. 8--Twango Bango III.

Among the instruments on display, including the bouzouki, Hawaiian guitar, saz and chumbush, David says the Turkish oud currently attracts him the most. If you've listened to his music, you've probably noticed a predominance of steel strings, beautifully rendered through a variety of internationally diverse instruments. But Lindley's oud has nylon strings and no frets.

"In order to play Middle Eastern music," he says, "no frets is an advantage, because the microtones are so exact and the scale is so short." When he was a child, Lindley says, his father kept a record collection that included several oud players.

Middle Eastern music is of course only one of the several styles Lindley performs--rock, reggae, bluegrass, blues and his own odd brand of folk have also been recurring genres over his more than three decades of performing and recording--but David Lindley fretless is an invigorating concept. The final track on Twango Bango III, "Meti's Reel," is a splendorous instrumental featuring the oud that just may unleash the whirling dervish hidden within you.

I Scare Myself

Early in his career, Lindley was best known for his work with artists like Dylan, David Crosby, Ry Cooder, Warren Zevon and especially his 10 years in Jackson Browne's band in the '70s. These days, he has most often chosen to work with Ingram.

"It's the approach we take, sounds like four people," says Lindley of their collaboration. "Scares me sometimes."

This mysterious multiplicity is apparent even in Lamar Sorrento's painting on the cover of Twango Bango III, which depicts a David-with-many-arms in deific postures, each arm playing a different instrument. Next to him is Ingram, who appears to have branches instead of arms.

Lindley produces his music independently of any record company, so a large portion of his income is made on his own.

"No huge corporate monster to be fed," he says. "Just me and Joanie [his wife] and two cats."

Lindley's fans know that he is also a very personable and interactive performer. At one show a few years ago in Santa Rosa, where he was supposedly to play with Hani Naser (with whom he has made two amazing live bootleg CDs), he found himself alone but completely unruffled. When someone in the front row asked, "Where's Hani?" Lindley replied, "I don't know, but he sure as shit ain't here," and proceeded to sit down with all his instruments within arm's reach and awe the crowd with a stellar one-man show.

Besides his talent as a multi-instrumentalist, Lindley is also known for being a damn funny guy, which occasionally leads him to wander into topics that "people don't like to talk about." You might think, for instance, that the second track on Twango, "When a Man Gets Boobs," is a song about transsexualism, but in fact it's a hilarious little ditty about the eventual results of junk food intake.

It may make people uncomfortable, Lindley says, but "I got guys come up to me after a show with that knowing look, cause they got 'em, too."

David Lindley and Wally Ingram perform a sit-down show Friday, Feb. 7, at 9:30pm at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; $16 adv/$18 door; 831.423.1336.

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From the February 5-11, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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