Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shawn Lane

Shawn Lane was one year younger than me. When I was 15, I was just learning how to play the guitar, struggling to get my fingers to go to the right place and to get my right hand to work with my left hand. At the same time, Shawn was playing lead guitar for Black Oak Arkansas. Child prodigy? I would think so.

Back in the 70's, a young guitarist with advanced skills was rare. And Shawn did not stop there. He was an accomplished piano player, drummer and song writer.

Shawn studied piano and cello when he was four years old. He started playing guitar at eight. He started his professional music career at 12 and 14 he was hired to play for Black Oak Arkansas. Video available on YouTube shows Shawn playing at age 16 as BOA was in the end of their career and playing a hybrid of rock and fusion jazz.

Shawn left the music world briefly to pursue academic studies. He was known for reading multiple books in a day. A few years later he started up his career again, forming a band called The Willys, who became the house band at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. While there he caught the attention of many musicians, and did sessions with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash on the Highwayman 2 release.

I had read about Shawn in the guitar magazines during the 80's, but had yet to actually hear him play. He was the type of person who wanted to do things is own way, and did not seem to care about achieving stardom. In 1992 he wrote, recorded and played all the instruments on Powers of Ten, and was named by Guitar Player Magazine in 1992 as Best New Talent. Interestingly, he made second place in Keyboard Magazines list of best keyboardists. He toured with the Powers of Ten album, did instructional videos and taught music in a number of European Conservatories.


In 1994 he started collaborating with bassist Jonas Hellborg, releasing several albums. They toured with drummer Jeff Sipe, with many of their concerts being totally improvised. It was well known that Shawn did not practice much. The three recorded Temporal Analogues of Paradise and Time Is the Enemy during this time.


In 1999 Shawn and Jonas worked with V. Selvaganesh,and moved their music into a kind of South Indian fusion. Shawn became well known in India and made many trips there.

Shawn had health problems in 2001, and took a break from performing. Unfortunately, his comeback to music was cut short as he passed away September 26, 2003 following lung surgery.

I have listened to songs off of Powers of Ten and an amazed of the versatility Shawn had. He could play faster than anyone, as evidence on Get You Back and turn all that off to play the emotional Eqpilogue For Lisa, dedicated to his late sister.

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