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The Improbable David Lindley


Flip Scipio (with Brian Cullman)

A conversation with David Lindley could veer from discussing the merits of Greek Armenian Oud makers to the art of longbow making, or the advantages of using a specific sharpening stone; David's musical ability and multi faceted persona was like that. Everything everywhere all at once. Yet very precise and very specific.

A multi-instrumentalist who played Banjo, Fiddle, Mandolin, Oud, Bouzouki, Saz, electric and acoustic Guitars, Chumbush, David Perry Lindley was quoted as saying that he forgot how many instruments he could actually play. He was most famous for his electric lap steel playing, inspired by Freddie Roulette, considered the first player to bring lap steel into the blues. And once it got in the door, it never wanted to leave.

David's steel playing could be wild and driving, yet also so plaintive and yearning that it could make grown men weep. His signature sound, his way of listening deep inside of a song and commenting on it from within, graced and elevated records by Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby and Graham Nash, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Leonard Cohen and Linda Ronstadt.

His list of musical accomplishments and collaborators could fill the Los Angeles phonebook. But it was with Jackson Browne and Ry Cooder that Lindley had the most remarkable rapport and continuing musical conversations. The recordings of David with these artists speak of an astonishing ability to add taste, restraint and virtuosity in equal measure.

Whatever he played, he played with soul.

As plaintive and emotional as his work with Jackson Browne could be, adding gravity and depth to his songs of regret and longing, he was equally at home with the reggae-infused party music he loved so much and played with his 1980’s band El-Rayo X. It was music played with the top down and the wind blowing free.

Often dressed in a garish assortment of thrift store polyester and fried egg colored shoes, his brilliant flamenco influenced guitar playing on an unusual assortment of pawn shop guitars drop kicked me through the goal posts of a brand new musical universe. He singlehandedly defined my identity as a listener and as an aficionado of the possible, the improbable, the cool and the unknowable, and he inspired more people than I could mention, whether they be players, instrument makers or fashionistas.

He’ll be missed everywhere.

Flip Scipio was a friend of David Lindley's and built & repaired instruments for him for many years. He also repairs, restores & rebuilds guitars for Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Paul Simon, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney, among others. Brian Cullman is the Journal's West Village Editor.

Brian's El Rayo X Playlist

Mercury Blues : David Lindley & El Rayo X

She Took Off My Romeos : David Lindley & El Rayo X

Jesus On The Mainline : David Lindley & Ry Cooder

It’s Going To Work Out Fine : David Lindley & Ry Cooder

These Days : Jackson Browne & David Lindley (live)

Something Fine : Jackson Browne & David Lindley

Everywhere I Go : Bonnie Raitt & David Lindley

The Crow On The Cradle : Jackson Browne, Graham Nash & David Lindley (live)

Hana : David Lindley & Henry Kaiser w/Tarika Sammy

I Fought The Law :: David Lindley & Henry Kaiser

Rag Bag ::: David Lindley

Call It A Loan : David Lindley & Jackson Browne