• Signed Copy of Jimmy Herrings Debut Solo CD, Lifeboat
Humble and self-effacing, without a trace of attitude or ego, Jimmy Herring's demeanor nearly belies his status as one of the most acclaimed guitarists of his generation. Plying his skills in contexts ranging from classically song-driven rock to technically demanding jazz fusion, Herring's playing combines a restless, jazz-inspired improvisational zeal with the immediacy and intensity of his rock'n'roll roots. His formidable chops, combined with his thoughtful and unassuming personality, have made him much sought-after, a musician's musican. Now, after over thirty years in the game and stints with such beloved outfits as Widespread Panic, the Dead, Phil Lesh and Friends, the Other Ones, Project Z, the Allman Brothers, Col. Bruce Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz is Dead, and others, Herring is finally releasing his first solo album, Lifeboat, via Abstract Logix Records on October 21, 2008. "
All the signs kept pointing in the direction of 'C'mon, make your own record,'" Herring says, smiling. "I gotta admit," he adds, thinking about his long-standing sideman status, "it's so much easier working for someone else! When it's your gig, you have to be there for every session, you gotta work out the logistics of getting everyone's schedules together, and you have to keep everyone on track. You wind up either being the hero or the villain - and usually a little of both…but I had the time and I had some tunes - it was that simple."
Despite his illustrious list of past collaborators, Herring wisely avoided the super-session trap for Lifeboat, opting instead to focus on a core band featuring his longtime cohorts Jeff Sipe (drums), Oteil Burbridge (bass), Kofi Burbridge (piano, flute), and Matt Slocum (clavinet, piano, organ), along with special guest appearances by slide guitar master Derek Trucks on two tracks and maverick jazz saxophonist Greg Osby on five. "Jeff and Oteil and me," Herring reflects, "…we've always done crazy stuff together - live, without a net kind of stuff. But this time I really wanted to do an album about the songs - even though it's jazz-oriented and all instrumental, it's still about the songs. The melodies are the focus of the album, not people playing fast all the time."
As a result, Lifeboat is eminently listenable, while remaining surprising and stimulating. By turns fiery and introspective, the album is composed of six Herring originals, two contributions from Kofi Burbridge, Wayne Shorter's "Lost," and an unexpected interpretation of the overture from the Disney film The Jungle Book. Herring was able to capture the Jungle Book's evocative allure by cleverly and carefully dividing the orchestral elements of the original between several guitars, Kofi Burbridge's flute, and Greg Osby's saxophones. "That's a really passionate piece of music," says Herring, "and I'd been captivated by it since I was a kid. For twenty years I've talked about recording it…"
While Herring is justifiable proud of the forethought and consideration that went into Lifeboat, he is equally quick to point out the happy accidents that influenced the sound of the record. "To me the sleeper tune of the whole record is 'Grey Day,'" he says. "When we recorded it, I didn't put any lead on it yet. The chord changes are pretty hairy, and I had to practice playing over them. So at the end of a twelve-hour session, I asked the engineer to plug my guitar in, direct to the board, just so I could practice playing over the track. I made one pass through it, and the engineer said 'Do you want to hear it?' I didn't know he even recorded it, and I just knew it was going to suck. He played it back and I was frozen…I thought it was one of the best things I'd ever done. I did two more passes, and we took the best parts from each pass for the record. I didn't let them put on any EQ or anything - I loved that fragile, vulnerable sound we got by going direct."