Calgary Bluesfest (2008)
Call it the indescribable "wow." It's that quintessential moment for anyone involved in music, when out of the blue a talented new artist stops you dead in your tracks, and there is the need to retrieve your jaw from the floor. So it was when Canadian icon and musical renaissance man Randy Bachman crossed paths with Calgary teenager Lindsay Ell.
"I was on tour and a friend passed along a CD with Lindsay's demos. When we listened for the first time, our reaction was, "we've put in the wrong CD. This is Chet Atkins -- not a 15 year old girl. Then my band and I were assured that it was Lindsay Ell playing a complex Tommy Emmanuel piece."
Already a seasoned performer, Lindsay Ell had been touring Alberta with her father , playing many styles of music. Yet as remarkable as her guitar playing was, it was her vocals and songs that convinced Bachman that she was someone very special. He became a mentor, producer and friend to the family.
"I want to be respected as a guitar player," says Ell purposefully, citing her influences like Eric Clapton, Pat Metheny, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Bonnie Raitt.
Ell's off to a spectacular start.
No stranger to the stage, the 18 year old who comes from Calgary, Alberta, Canada has been performing since she can remember and honing her guitar chops at as many guitar pulls as she could attend with her dad. While Lindsay's background has been in folk and country music with a focus on instrumental musicianship, her work with songwriting partner Bachman has lead her in a more pop direction. The songs they have collaborated on ring with that gold-plated catchiness that put Bachman on the top of the charts numerous times throughout his career. He took Lindsay on as a protege, introducing her to a whole new world of guitardom.
"Being in the studio with Randy, and watching him play guitar was such an incredible experience. As Randy showed me various blues and jazz styles of playing, I became very passionate about the genres. These influences really helped me focus on the kind of artist I wanted to me."
The result of Bachman's tutelage, Ell's upcoming debut is a wonderfully diverse mix of pop, blues and jazz all held together by her sweet voice and subtle-yet-deft playing. It's a combination that's worked well for John Mayer, and it's no accident that there are similarities between the two.
"It was when I discovered how good a guitar player John Mayer was that he became a huge influence to me. Watching him playing with Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton, it's just really inspiring to see a young kid - because he started when he was 19 years old - carry this guitar image."
It should be mentioned that Ell's guitar world isn't one of reckless Steve Vai - style shredding. Her playing is always framed in simple, pristine pop songs like "Girl On The Moon," a dreamy, ships-passing-in-the-night romantic tale anyone can understand. "It's the kind of song that tells a story that most can relate to," says Ell, simply.
Ell's favourite song, "Consider This," is a far brassier, bluesier number. "It's about a relationship where a girl is ready to leave a guy and she lays it on the line by telling him to " 'Consider this.this is the situation. You're going to be a lonely, broken hearted man when I get through with you , ' " Ell says. " It's really an edgy song."
"Sacrifice" is a smooth jazz number with a deft picking solo and "Seize The Moment" displays an entirely different, spiky rock playing style.
All in all, Ell's debut album makes for an unexpectedly dynamic package.there's something there for everyone. Several who have heard the tracks have commented that it's hard to pick the best two or three tunes, because many stand out.
"I've continually heard the comment, 'she plays guitar like a guy.' It's just a stereotype, right? Girls play chords and guys play the lead parts. I want to break away from that," she says with resolve. "I want to be something different."