Thursday, February 4, 2010

Giant Sand, Rainer Ptacek - Inner Flame (A Rainer Ptacek Tribute,1997)

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The most striking credit on this tribute to Tucson’s Rainer Ptacek reads “Executive Producers: Robert Plant and Howe Gelb.” That Led Zep’s preening pretty boy and Giant Sand’s desert visionary should find common bond in the musical inspiration of Rainer attests to a gravitational pull far stronger than the artist’s name recognition. It is likely that most who purchase The Inner Flame for its stellar lineup of Plant and Jimmy Page, PJ Harvey, Emmylou Harris, Giant Sand and others will be hearing Rainer’s music, maybe even his name, for the first time.Though patterned after the Sweet Relief fund-raisers for Victoria Williams and Vic Chesnutt — both of whom appear here — Rainer’s bluesy mysticism and elemental imagery casts the contributions of even the familiar artists in fresh light. The impetus for the project came from Rainer’s brain tumor, for which treatment and bills remain, though the cancer is apparently in remission. Most of the tracks feature the tonal shadings of Rainer’s National steel guitar; a couple of others find Giant Sand serving as house band. But the unifying principle is the organic suggestiveness of his material, an introspective, spiritualized brand of blues that is more a feeling than a form.On the album-opening title track, Rainer asks “How’s your inner flame/Does it still burn a lot/Do you complain when it’s too hot?” On the closing “Powder Keg”, his lyric promises, “If your life gets too dark/Call me and I’ll be the spark.” Throughout the rest, the flame burns.

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