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spencer bohren - tempered steel

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Tempered Steel (2013)

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Order Spencer Bohren's new all-lapsteel album today!

“My relationship with the lapsteel guitar is unlike anything else in my life. It speaks both to me and through me, as if it had a mind of its own. When I play it in concert, people are often deeply moved, and every night someone asks, “Which CD has the most lapsteel?” At last, here is the definitive answer to that question. Every song on this recording is performed on the lapsteel guitar. It’s a slippery ride, so fasten your seatbelt!”

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Product Description

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First played for me by Totta Näslund while I was touring Sweden with Totta & Hot ‘n’ Tots, Ring Them Bells rekindled my fascination with Bob Dylan’s otherworldly poetic gift. I love playing this song on lapsteel.

Who among us has never experienced financial duress? The late, truly great Judy Roderick, one of my all-time favorite singers and human beings, detailed the artist’s life from the perspective of her pocketbook in Money Blues.

My friend Reinhard Finke, who is also my record producer and studio engineer, encouraged me to write a quasi-classical instrumental without chords. The result is Suite Steel, a piece unlike anything I’ve written before.

Until the 1920s, prisoners in Texas were often leased out for punishing work in the cane fields along the Brazos, the longest river in the state. No More Cane on the Brazos is a prisoners’ lament describing the deplorable working conditions and the strength required to survive them.

When classical singer Karen Clift first sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah for me, I was transfixed. I knew I had to play these beautiful chords on the lapsteel, close my eyes and let the melody carry me away.

With Wayfaring Stranger I pay my respects to musical traditions that have inspired and sustained my entire adult life. The lapsteel enables me to stretch musical boundaries at the same time. Hail to the Folk Process.

Just for fun, I painted a picture of life in a corner of America that remains, well, a lot like it used to be. Loosely inspired by a session with stellar songwriter Chris Smither, Down in Central Tennessee introduces you to everybody in town.

Blind Willie McTell’s Broke Down Engine has been in my repertoire since I was eighteen years old, but it never sounded like this before. This version makes a good case for the lapsteel as a primal blues instrument.

The influence of 19th Century American songsmith Stephen Foster is impossible to overstate. My version of Hard Times strives to maintain the stoic singing style of the Civil War era, set against lilting steel guitar harmonies.

Originally conceived as a vehicle to sing some of the wonderfully quirky names of landmarks from the deep south, Bobby Jo turned into a thinly-disguised love song for Marilyn, my sympatico traveling companion and love of my life.

Spencer Bohren, 2010 (bmi)

I began exploring the seductive melody of Just Like a Woman, playing it for Marilyn while she made dinner, and I fell in love with its delicate contours. Dylan’s perfect, soulful vocal on the original is the only one the world will ever need, so I play it as an instrumental. You already know the words anyway.

Tempered Steel . . . OMG!!! From beginning to end I would not change one thing!
Steve Bush – Salida, Colorado

All I can say is WOW. I love this record. Best ever.
Dale Bohren – Casper, Wyoming

YES, YES, YES, I love the way you deliver Judy’s Money Blues. So much power and yet melancholy on the lapsteel. It’s a timely tune, too, ain’t it? Spencer , I guess we can now say that you “own” Money Blues.” WOW!
Lee Oprea / Judy Roderick’s Sister – Sardinia, New York

I marvel at how perfectly the lapsteel compliments the deeply sensual texture of your voice.
Gabrielle Silva – Boulder, Colorado

Beautiful from start to finish, including the package.
Bob Cataliotti / Smithsonian Folkways – Baltimore, Maryland

Sublime. Nice work!
Tom Garnsey / Vootie Productions – Bozeman, Montana

Nothin’ better than having a Sunday morning religious Tempered Steel experience!! Thanks . . . Bonnie and I almost cried during the Dylan tunes and certainly Cohen’s Hallelujah. Thanks for this.
Art Tipaldi, editor, Blues Review Magazine – Wilbraham, Massachusetts

Tempered Steel sounds fantastic! Totally blew me away. You must be the Chet Atkins of the lapsteel. The record shimmers from start to finish. Your playing is superb throughout. Sweet!!! The choice of material is perfect. I really like all of your new originals. They fit perfectly with the rest of the songs. The production is flawless. Django’s design work is beautiful. I think this record is going to be a hit. Congratulations!!! It’s a tough choice, bit I think my favorite track is “Just Like a Woman.” Absolutely beautiful.
JAB Wilson, musician – Destin, Florida

Wow . . . I just got my copy of Tempered Steel . . . Amazing, simply amazing. The CD takes one on a trip indeed.
UTU, Music Lover – Niagara, Ontario, Canada

I’m really into the CD! Your version of No More Cane on the Brazos is a knockout! Of course, I love Judy’s song.
Bob Cataliotti / Smithsonian Folkways – Baltimore, Maryland

Wonderful – Artful in every way. I love the first lap steel notes on the album, the choice of material, and most of all the writing in the “roadmap.” Thanks for all you two do to make the world a better place, and here’s another milestone in that offering.
Bonnie Carol, musician – Nederland, Colorado

I am half-way through. Wow!
Robert Eustis – New Orleans, Louisiana

Tempered Steel is going to play nonstop for quite a while methinks.
Mihail Kennedy – Billings, Montana

I am absolutely thrilled with Tempered Steel! It’s a truly wonderful album. Thank you for the endless hours of inspiration and listening to come.
Pete Musgrove – Robinsonville, New Jersey

Great Job, man. Love the Dylan Tunes. Well done son.
Grant Stebbins – Great Falls, Montana

Your new CD did not disappoint. The only problem was I had a hard time getting past Hallelujah. I must have listened to it five or six times, each a little louder than the time before. I love that song and your version is one of the finest I have ever heard.
Len Poirier – Martinville, Virginia

I’m so glad, Spencer, that you are on this earth making such beautiful music, and that we are here to listen to it. I can now enjoy Hallelujah on demand, although Hard Times may be demanded often too, and Ring Them Bells, and, and, and . . . Well done!
Jacky Wright, Arts Presenter – Thermopolis, Wyoming

Oh man Spence! This new cd is SO beautiful! Ya Hoo! I am so happy and lucky to be privy to your art! THANK YOU ! It really is appropriate here on this Irish Island! Patricia
Wickering Schoonbeck

1 review for Tempered Steel (2013)

  1. :

    Wake up on a Sunday morning and sit for a few minutes at the feet of Spencer Bohren. From the opening sacred tones on his lap steel, Bohren once again has set his artistic bar high. Wether he covers a well-known tune or writes his own, Bohren centers everything through the lyrical lens of his lap steel guitar. Offering the perfect musical foil for voice and mood, the combination of sliding steel and finger-picked lapsteel reverberates in both unfamiliar and comforting phrases.

    In Bohren’s hands, Bob Dylan’s 1989 “Ring Them Bells” opens the record as both a church choir’s meditative offering and a timely anthem in our desperate world. Here and throughout the record, Bohren expertly mixes full chordal with precise single note accents. By the end, his treble picks and vibrato replicates the ringing church bells called for in the refrain.

    The same can be said of Bohren’s almost classical approach to “Suite Steel.” It’s a nearly five minute meditation where single notes reverberate as Bohren gently vibrates his steel slide for textures. For me, the final point in the trinity is Bohren’s stunning interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s stirring “Hallelujah.” Unlike “Suite Steel,” here Bohren relies on the tones created by his massive, cathedral chording.

    Now take a breath and give a listen to the record’s other highlights. “Money Blues” shows off another side of the lap steel Here Bohren sings as his lap steel notes go hand in hand with his vocal inflections. The traditional “No More Cane on the Brazos,” a prison chant from early in the 20th century, Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times,” as relevant today as it was in the 19th century, Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Engine,” and Bohren’s haunting instrumental take on the folk song “Wayfaring stranger” provide Bohren the vehicle to adapt these six strings to whatever the time or genre. By ending instrumentally with Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman,” Bohren ends as he began, by elevating the folk poet of a generation into the realm of the sacred. I may have found my new church.”

    -Art Tipaldi

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