intensity and taper it off and build it
up, depending on how you work your
volume knob. It’s really an exciting way
to express yourself. So electric guitar, for
me, has the raunch and the beauty that
more openly reflects the range of emotions I want to get when I’m singing and
playing. It’s much more expressive to me.
And that’s what keeps me going back.
The solos on your new rendition
of the Dylan tune “Standing in the
Doorway” have that same lyrical quality—they sound like someone crying.
Yeah, and then to have pedal steel behind
me. I rarely get to do that. Greg Leisz is
one of my heroes, and to be playing with
Bill Frisell and those guys was such an
honor. One of the great things about slide
guitar is that I found I could go to Cuba
and play with musicians there, and then I
went to Mali, Africa, where the blues was
born, and within a day I was playing with
those musicians—because it doesn’t matter
whether you know all the chords if you
know your way around with a slide. It’s
such a monophonic instrument: You can
sit in with the Chieftains on slide as well
as you can Cuban and African music.
When your own lungs literally run out of
air, you can take the slide guitar and add
that other voice.
a break since my parents passed away. In
10 years, I had been on the road or recording pretty nonstop or going through my
brother’s terrible illness and passing, so I
needed to take a break and step back. In the
past, “taking a break” really meant writing
songs and looking for new material. But I
had been doing that basically since 1970
without a real break. Sometimes you need
to clear the deck and let the field go fallow
and not think every time you’re playing a
song, “Is this something I want to record?”
Sometimes you just have to live.
Yeah! I got to listen to other kinds of music.
I went to a lot of shows and didn’t sit in—
didn’t even tell [the performers] I was there. I
love doing yoga, and I love hiking and biking.
For somebody who’s on the road all the time,
just being home is really the vacation you
want to have. So I got to balance some of the
other aspects of my life and be with my family and friends and really enjoy some time at
home, watching what fours seasons look like
changing in a row from the same place.
You cut three tracks with Frisell.
Did you have him in mind originally
or was that something you and Joe
Henry [who produced four Slipstream
songs] decided together?
Joe first suggested we work with Bill.
When we were getting to know each
other on the phone, we were talking
about mutual friends and people we love,
and I was complimenting him on his
Scar record. I love Bill’s playing on that,
so he said maybe we should get Bill in
on the sessions.
Slipstream is your first release in seven
years, and around 2009 you decided
to take some time off. What was that
like for you after working for so many
We did a two-year tour after [2005’s]
Souls Alike, and then a year before the Taj
Mahal tour my brother was diagnosed
with a second brain tumor and I took a
break to care for him. I hadn’t really had