Joe Goldmark Reviews

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Pedal Steel fans: Read the following for reviews of:
"Blue Steel" LOBALL #11
"The Wham Of That Steel Man!" LOBALL #10
"Seducing the 60s" LOBALL #9
"Strong Like Bull...But Sensitive Like Squirrel" HMG #3014
"All Hat - No Cattle" HMG #3009
"Steelin' the Beatles" LoBall CD #8
"All Over The Road" LoBall CD #6
"The International Steel Guitar And Dobro Discography Publication - 7th Edition"

"Blue Steel" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

Guitar Player
Steelin' The Blues
Joe Goldmark Explores the Bluesy Side of Country on "Blue Steel"

Despite its designation as a guitar, the pedal steel is about as foreign to most 6-stringers as advanced quantum physics. And although the instrument's tangy twangs and gooey glissandos are mainly associated with traditional country and Hawaiian music, in the hands of a virtuoso like Joe Goldmark the pedal steel is capable of traversing multiple genres. "I love the sound of the traditional steel guitar, but really enjoy putting it in non-country contexts," Goldmark explains. "I think rock audiences who might shy away from conventional country would find a lot of things to connect with in my music."

This seems a reasonable assumption considering Goldmark's past albums have included his take on Beatles tunes and other '60s pop gems, and his latest release Blue Steel [Lo-Ball Records] finds him putting the pedals to tunes by Rufus Thomas, Graham Parker, Bob Marley, and B.B. King—alongside his own blues and surf-inspired instrumentals. "I always keep my ears open for tunes that might work well with steel guitar and add them to a running list," says Goldmark. "When I make a new album, I'll go back over the list and see what'll work with the music I'm writing. I look for the kinds of tunes that are under-represented in country rock and try to do unconventional things with them. This album features guest vocalists Glenn Walters and Dallis Craft and I often had them reverse genders by having Dallis sing a traditionally male song and vice versa. I have really eclectic tastes in music, and I don't like boundaries."

During the '90s, Goldmark recorded three acclaimed albums as a member of Jim Campilongo's 10 Gallon Cats, and Campilongo makes a cameo on Blue Steel, writing and playing lead guitar on "I Want to Be with You Forever." In his co-collaborator Goldmark sees a kindred artistic spirit: "Jim combines some amazing qualities in his playing that nobody else really has. There are all these time-honored country elements and a Roy Buchanan approach, but he's playing in rock and jazz contexts and taking it to whole new levels."

Originally a cellist, Goldmark gravitated to bass in high school and tracked some of the bass parts on Blue Steel himself. It was after seeing Jerry Garcia with New Riders of the Purple Sage that he bought his first pedal steel and dedicated himself to it exclusively. Goldmark's current instrument is a custom ZumSteel made by legendary builder Bruce Zumsteg, which he plugs straight into a late-'70s solid-state amp Webb amp.

For curious guitarists looking to explore the pedal-steel world, Goldmark offers a basic primer: "The main neck on a pedal steel is the one in E9 tuning (B, D, E, F#, G#, B, E, G#, D#, F# low to high). This gives you the signature I-IV switch you hear on most commercial country songs. Single-neck instruments in this tuning are a good place for beginners to start. The other neck is in C6 tuning (C, F, A, C, E, G, A, C, E, D low to high) and is capable of more bluesy swing sounds. It's what I'm using for my solos on ‘Beautician Blues' and ‘The Wobble.' The tunings are just half the story, though, because there are the pedals and knee levers that bend notes analogous to the way you bend strings on a guitar."

"Playing steel requires a different technique than playing guitar, and it's important not to shirk the effort of learning correctly. Because it involves the right-hand thumb, index, and, middle fingers, some guitarists think they can pick with their fingers alone, but I really recommend using thumb-and fingerpicks to get the sharpest clearest tone. You'll also need to master a technique called pick blocking, where you use the back of your palm to dampen the strings after they're played. When done right, it creates these up and down movements with the whole hand."

"As for the left hand, most slides and bars are almost four inches long, almost an inch in diameter, and fairly heavy since more weight means more tone and less buzz. They're smooth and rounded and require some skill to learn how to hold effectively. Unlike slides for guitar, a pedal-steel slide moves top to bottom across the strings as well as up and down them. The left hand follows where the right hand picks and the tip of your bar-hand finger extends past the end of the bar slightly so the strings are muted beyond where the top of the bar is. Like in the guitar kingdom, there are different ways to approach vibrato. You can rock the bar on its axis for subtle tonal variation or quickly move it back and forth, for a more dramatic pitch fluctuation."

Beyond just mastering the basic techniques Goldmark says becoming an effective pedal-steel player is also about learning to fit in with an ensemble. "It's wise to know the give and take standard for playing with other instruments in country music," he explains. "For example, whoever takes the intro usually lays out during the verse fills. Whoever didn't play in the verse usually takes the solo. It's delineated so that no two solo instruments are ever playing at the same time unless you've worked out a twin line in advance. It's okay to comp behind other soloists but you don't want to overshadow them. Spend time learning the traditions of the instrument, and once you've done that, you'll be in a good position to do your own thing."

- Vinnie DeMasi
Rocking Magpie
Sublime Pedal-Steel Playing Links an Eclectic Concoction of Songs.

As regular readers will already know, we have very eclectic musical tastes here at RMHQ and, YES we listen to absolutely everything we review and only review what we like...your eyes would water if you saw the box of un-reviewed albums that goes to Oxfam every Quarter. Which brings me to this disc by SF Pedal-Steel player Joe Goldmark. First of all the album cover initially caught my attention, but when I flipped it over to look at the track list my eyes nearly popped out of my head...several of the titles looked familiar, but as sure as 'God makes little green apples' weren't Country Songs; and looking back at Joe in his Stetson and Nudie suit, they must be mustn't they? they ain't, or at least not all of them are as Joe takes us on a musical merry-go-round with his wonderful pedal-steel playing at the heart of a bunch of songs as eclectic as anything we've heard here for years.

Opening track the instrumental Night Flight is a Goldmark original and sounds like the Shadows playing in a Nashville Nightclub on a stormy Winter's night with Joe guesting behind Hank B the boys, and the result is quite spectacular. WOAH! After that track I certainly wasn't expecting it to be followed by the Rufus Thomas dance classic All Night Worker with Glenn Walker supplying a delightful Soulful delivery then Dallis Craft turning Roy Orbison's A Love So Beautiful into slow burning Country-Soul ballad of epic proportions. Bizarrely a pedal-steel as lead instrument in both situations works perfectly well; who'd have thought it?

Back to basics, Joe Goldmark's own instrumentals are worth the entry fee alone, with Ginger Ale and Tacky Tango sounding like they are just waiting for some enterprising TV Producer to pick them up as theme tunes; but it's Joe's selection of cover versions that makes this album stand out. Perhaps finding Lefty Frizzell's Look What Thoughts Will Do here isn't a huge surprise; but hearing Dallis Craft doing her best Patsy Cline impression is; and the last time I heard The Wobble it was an early James Hunter album and was R&B at it's rawest yet this version with Glenn Walters again on vocals sounds R&B; but that pedal-steel from Goldmark really steals the show, no matter how hard Gary Potterton tries on his electric guitar.

Then, there are the two songs that initially caught my attention...Bob Marley's Natty Dread becomes unrecognisable as a Hawaiian nightclub tango (or something!) but lovely none the less; and then there is one of my favourite ever songs, and it's a brave man who takes on a Graham Parker song; especially Howlin' Wind...but somehow this version, with Ms Dallis Craft crooning her little heart out is easily my favourite track on an album chock full of precious gems.

I wish I had the vocabulary to really describe BLUE STEEL, as the sum total probably outweighs the individual tracks, with Joe Goldmark's sublime pedal-steel playing being the golden thread that links everything together in a very clever manner indeed; making this a very special package indeed.
Blues and Rhythm Magazine - UK
Stellar pedal steel guitarist, Joe Goldmark, played guitar in Tucson, Arizona area garage bands as a teenager and bass with San Francisco soul bands in the 60's but got bit by the pedal steel bug after watching Jerry Garcia perform with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, a countrified offshoot of the Grateful Dead. Performing around the Bay Area in a variety of settings, Goldmark started recording in 1980 with Blue Steel his tenth solo project to date. It boasts a number of his crafty instrumental originals (picks are 'Night Flight', a sparkling 'Ginger Ale' and a particularly adventurous take on Bob Marley's 'Natty Dread') sprinkled alongside a diversified mix of honky-tonk country, blues and roots music worthy of the album's title. He also managed to enlist a preeminent crew of Bay Area musicians including Big Beat drummer Paul Revelli, marvelously instinctual guitarist and recording engineer Garth Webber (on a bristling cover of Rufus Thomas' 'All Night Worker') and ace keyboardist Henry Salvia as well as expressive vocalist Glenn Walters (ex-Hoodoo Rhythm Devils) and tuneful chanteuse Dallis Craft--who share the set's seven vocal numbers. Picks among these encompass saxophone-emboldened versions of both Jimmy McCracklin's dancer 'The Wobble' and B.B. King's vintage 'Beautician Blues' on Walter's part with Craft soulfully shining on a reworking of Dallas Frazier's philosophical 'True Love Travels On a Gravel Road" and a Roy Orbison-informed 'A Love So Beautiful'. The great VIVID SOUND! album cover is a clever take-off on the old Starday LP by the pioneering Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith called Blue Guitar, with Goldmark wearing an appropriately blue jacket from the late, talented steeler Buddy Charleton, formerly a member of Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours. Goldmark is also a partner in greatest record store in the world, San Francisco's Amoeba Records, and if you want to see what your old blues albums are worth check out his fascinating website at Twang!

--Gary von Tersch

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"The Wham Of That Steel Man!" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

Good New Music
Joe Goldmark is the keeper of the instrumental pedal steel guitar flame. On his last album, 2007's "Seducing the '60s," he branched out by including guest vocalists on half the songs. Now, for his ninth solo album (he also was a member of Jim Campilongo and the 10 Gallon Cats as well as the Twangbangers), he branches out further with a double album - a vocal disc and an instrumental disc.

The vocal disc features Keta Bill. "I've known Keta for about 20 years," Goldmark told Good New Music by e-mail. "She's (music critic) Joel Selvin's ex-wife. She was in ('80s Ramp;&B big band) the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra and (ZPMO's later incarnation) Big Bang Beat. . I wanted a rock-and-roll singer rather than a jazz or country singer for this album. (Guitarist) Gary Potterton and I supply the country sounds."

As on prior outings, Goldmark displays his penchant for covering classic rock numbers. On the vocal disc, he covers Creedence Clearwater Revival, Buffalo Springfield, Bobby Fuller, the Beach Boys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Blind Faith, among others. He also throws in tracks of more recent vintage by Jeff Buckley, Teenage Fanclub and Dr. Dog.

The lion's share of the instrumental disc, by comparison, is made up of Goldmark originals. The rest is covers of the Beatles, Dmitri Tiomkin, Burt Bacharach, and Dave and Ansel Collins.

Goldmark's résumé explains his impressive musical taste - he's an avid record collector with a website containing an LP label guide, LP price guides and an album cover gallery. He's also a partner in San Francisco record shop Amoeba Music.

For a change of pace, he plays lap steel on "Long As I Can See the Light" and Dobro on "Can't Find My Way Home." Supporting musicians add fiddle to "Caroline No," "Glass Beach" and "Tsunami," and horns to "Long As I Can See the Light," "Guns of Navarone" and Goldmark originals "The Ska's the Limit" and "Zanzibar."

Best song on the album: "Sexy Sadie," featuring John McFee (Clover, the Doobie Brothers) on slide guitar.


Sanity Music
The WHAM of Joe Goldmark!

Joe Goldmark has a unique vision for the steel guitar. He started recording in 1980, has nine albums, featuring rock, pop, soul and world music played on this "country" instrument. He's successfully adapted many melodic and fun songs to the pleasing sound of the pedal steel guitar, as well as penning many originals. Joe blends an eclectic mix of tunes and styles into a truly Americana, country rock shake. Disc one features rocking vocals by Keta Bill, a San Francisco veteran of the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra, Big Bang Beat, and many other local projects. Disc two showcases Joe's playing and composing.Vocal favorites on one side, fun instrumentals on the other! Keta's Side: Long As I Can See The Light, On The Way Home, Let Her Dance, Caroline No, I Don't Want Control Of You, Beware Of Darkness, Most Likely You Go Your Way, Lover, You Should've Come Over , We'll Meet Again, Ain't It Strange, Can't Find My Way Home; Joe's Side:, The High Road, Palomino, The Ska's The Limit, Riptide Rock, Sexy Sadie, Zanzibar, Glass Beach, Guns Of Navarone, Any Day Now, Dede's Delight, Pasta Puttanesca, Double Barrel Tsunami.
The WHAM of Joe Goldmark!

Joe Goldmark is a monument to San Francisco steel every bit as much as the Golden Gate Bridge and Sutro Tower. His approach to the steel guitar is as eclectic as The City itself, leaning heavily towards sixties rock, soul and psychedelia, and straight ahead to vintage C&W and honky tonk. This latest release unleashes Goldmark's considerable talents over the course of two full-length CDs.

On the first CD, Goldmark features guest vocalist and local legend Keta Bill. Goldmark's steely licks are complemented by Ms. Bill's bluesy delivery of finely-selected covers, ranging from John Fogerty's "Long As I Can See the Light" to George Harrison's "Beware of Darkness" and lots of tasty deep cuts in between. Their haunting take on Brian Wilson's "Caroline No" is particularly compelling.

On the second CD, it's all Goldmark and his trusty sidemen on instrumental covers as well as Goldmark originals. Production and sound quality are excellent throughout - bass and drums kick deep and hard, and Goldmark's steel guitar rings clear like a bell. A personal favorite is "Riptide Rock," Goldmark's rip-rocking ode to his longstanding residency at The Riptide in San Francisco, where he holds court with his crack combo The Seducers. If you're ever in town, head west as far as you can go just short of the Pacific Ocean and check 'em out.

Goldmark has a rich and deep back catalog well worth exploring. If you're new to his music, there's no better place to start than right here. Catch The WHAM of That Steel Man, you won't be disappointed!


San Francisco Chronicle
Joe Goldmark knows that the idea of putting out a two-CD set of new material in this day and age is kind of crazy. After all, as a partner in Amoeba Music, he spends most of his waking hours in one of San Francisco's last standing record stores. The thing is, the veteran musician - who is considered one of the Bay Area's pre-eminent pedal steel guitar players - isn't especially concerned about the marketing potential for his latest album, "The Wham of That Steel Man!"

To Goldmark, making music isn't about shifting units. "I do these albums to please myself," he said recently in a back room of the Haight Street store. "I had all this material, so I thought, why not do a double album?"

It's really that simple. Besides, he had a pretty good reason to stretch and split the new album, his seventh official release, down the middle: Half of it is made up of his usual steel guitar instrumentals, most of which are original compositions. The other half features accompaniment from singer Keta Bill, a fixture on the San Francisco club scene for decades who tops Goldmark's wily country-rock covers with her powerhouse voice. "I made a conscious choice to work with a rock 'n' roll singer this time," he said.

Since putting out his first CD, "All Over the Road," in 1994 on his own Lo-Ball Records, Goldmark has made it his mission to keep the pedal steel guitar - a tabletop instrument played with a metal bar and a set of foot pedals and knee levers - relevant outside of Nashville.

On "The Wham of That Steel Man!" (the title and cover art honor blues-rocker Lonnie Mack's "The Wham of That Memphis Man!"), he uses the instrument to reboot songs such as the Beach Boys' "Caroline, No," Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over" and the Beatles' "Sexy Sadie."

Backed by a band that includes keyboardist Henry Salvia and the Stax-style rhythm section of bassist Mac Cridlin and drummer Paul Revell, Goldmark gives the music a deft touch that makes it sound, if not totally contemporary, then at least in tune with the outlaw spirit of country-rock greats the 62-year-old musician grew up on, such as the Flying Burrito Brothers and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

"It's not modern, in that all the instruments are honest," Goldmark said. "It's not Radiohead. It's not Madonna, thank God. It's music to me."

Who can blame him for not getting enough of that?

--Aidin Vaziri

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"Seducing the 60s" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

Roots & Rhythm
13 tracks, 41 min., recommended

Pedal steel wizard Joe Goldmark used to be a member of the almost-legendary Twangbangers (that included guitar hero Redd Volkaert) and since leaving that ensemble has released five albums of pedal steel goodness, including the amusingly titled "Strong Like A Bull...But Sensitive Like A Squirrel." This time he sets his time machine for the 1960s and countrifies some classics, including The Who's /The Kids Are Alright/, the Beach Boys' /Darlin'/, The Beatles' /I Feel Fine/, and The Tremeloes' (by way of the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens) /Here Comes My Baby/. The Gram Parson's penned /Hickory Wind/ (a hit for The Byrds) seems like a natural and is, but the real gem of the album is Neil Young's /Helpless/ (featuring guest vocals by Brandi Shearer), which melts in your heart and not in your ears--or something like that. Shearer also does respectably well on the Brenda Holloway classic /Every Little Bit Hurts/. Other hired help includes guitarist John McFee (ex-Clover--the band that backed Elvis Costello on his first album!-- ex-Doobie Bros., ex-Southern Pacific), and, on backing vocals, the talented Dave Gleason, whose Midnight, California album is required listening for all country music fans. Gary Claxton and Bart Davenport also share vocal duties.

--J C

San Francisco Chronicle
S. F. Chronicle 4.0 ReviewWith San Francisco not having a particularly happening country and western scene, being the town's top pedal steel guitarist has been a somewhat lonely job for Joe Goldmark. But he has developed his own niche with a series of self-produced solo albums as the king of the steel guitar pop instrumental. It's a somewhat arcane genre, but he's got it to himself. On his latest album, Goldmark practices the instrument's more conventional role as accompanist to a couple of fine vocalists, Bart Davenport and Brandi Shearer, but it is still the instrumentals, such as his ebullient rendering of the Beach Boys' "Darlin'," that really make the set.

--Joel Selvin

Hicks With Sticks News #186, March 29, 2007
Joe Goldmark is one of the Bay Area's most prolific recording artists with five of his own CDs and appearances with Jim Campilongo and the 10-Gallon Hats, Mental Revenge and sessions, sessions everywhere.

His latest, Seducing the '60s, takes us back to a time when the music, like really meant somethin', man. The CD kicks off with Neil Young's "Helpless" then ticks through other '60s gems like The Tremeloes' " Here Comes My Baby," Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Steely Dan's "Dirty Work," The Who's "The Kids Are Alright," Motown singer Brenda Holloway's "Every Little Bit Hurts" and Gram Parson's "Hickory Wind." The song selection, uniting as it does many facets of the musically rich 1960's, forms the CD's bedrock. Covering the '60s is tough. So many have done it, that it's easy to slip from honoring the '60s into milking them, a trap that Joe Goldmark sidesteps nicely.

Vocal variety is another aspect of the CD's depth. Two are Mental Revenge tracks that Goldmark laid down with Gary Wayne Claxton during the '90s. Brandi Shearer, who's a singer-songwriter these days, gets torchy on two tracks, and Bart Davenport, bluesman from The Loved Ones sings lead on three tracks. Even the background vocals are loaded with Bay Area tunesmiths Dave Gleason, Mike Therioux, Pat Johnson and Garth Webber.

A wealth of '60s styles and vocal styles combine to make this perhaps Goldmark's best CD yet.
Fans of rockin' pedal steel guitar can follow several routes if they're jonesing for discs with that quicksilver sound in a progressive mode:
  • Albums by country-rock artists who hire session players, e.g. Rick Nelson (Tom Brumley), Michael Nesmith (Red Rhodes) and Stephen Stills (Al Perkins).

  • Albums by country-rock groups with full-time steelers, like the Flying Burrito Brothers (Sneaky Pete Kleinow, RIP); Poco (Rusty Young); New Riders of the Purple Sage (Buddy Cage); Commander Cody (Bobby Black); and Pure Prairie League (John David Call).

  • Instrumental steel guitar albums containing a percentage of rock songs. This is a dying genre, begun in the '60s and '70s by virtuosos like Buddy Emmons and Pete Drake, with few practitioners left ... Goldmark being one of them.
Goldmark has been putting out such records since the late '70s (eight, to be exact - he would have put more out if he hadn't taken a sabbatical from the studio between 1982 and 1994). Over the years, the San Franciscan's releases have included songs by Elvis Costello, Steely Dan, Edgar Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Elton John, the Beatles (an entire album!), the Grateful Dead, the Band, the Byrds, Bob Seger and Blind Faith.

And it's not just the artists he covers but also the songs, which often wouldn't be thought of as easily adaptable to the instrument - like "Darlin' " from the Beach Boys' "Wild Honey." Other highlights include "The Kids Are Alright," featuring John McFee on second pedal steel; the Lovin' Spoonful's "Six O'Clock"; Brenda Holloway's early Motown track "Every Little Bit Hurts"; and the Tremeloes hit "Here Comes My Baby," written by Cat Stevens.

On "Seducing," Goldmark branches out from his usual modus operandi by using vocalists for half the numbers. But whether it's a person or the pedal steel guitar singing, he's still the king of pedal steel instrumental rock.

--Peter Hund - Short Takes
Joe Goldmark – Seducing the 60s (Lo Ball) One of the few pedal steel stylists to emerge in recent years, Joe Goldmark keeps good company playing with Dallas Wayne and is a member of the hillbilly collective the Twangbangers (featuring Wayne, Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert). Seducing the 60s recalls a time when steel players such as Bud Isaacs and Buddy Emmons produced albums of their own out of the shadow of the artist they usually play behind. Here Goldmark takes 13 songs from the 1960s and records them mainly with pedal steel in place of the vocals (there are a songs that feature lead singing by Brandi Shearer, Bart Davenport and Gary Claxton).

Songs include Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," the Beatle's "I Feel Fine," Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" and Gram Parson's "Hickory Wind." The pedal steel is a very expressive instrument and lends itself to the part of lead vocalist, especially in the capable hands of an artist like Goldmark.


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"Strong Like Bull...But Sensitive Like Squirrel" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

S. F. Weekly - August, 2001
Steel Away

Thanks to Joe Goldmark, the pedal steel guitar isn't just for country anymore.

The pedal steel guitar is an ungainly, baffling instrument -- a complicated gadget with two necks, strings that bend like saltwater taffy, and a confounding number of distortion pedals and knee levers. The table-shaped contraption, which is played with a metal bar while sitting down, has been driving musicians mad ever since hillbilly jazzmen adapted it from the Hawaiian slack-key guitar back in the '30s.

Like his chosen instrument, Joe Goldmark is an atypical performer. A fixture on the Bay Area country scene since the late '70s, Goldmark has brought the pedal steel great renown, while challenging fans to look outside of the instrument's normal country confines.

Goldmark first attracted notice with steel guitar enthusiasts, releasing three solo records that altered the way his small audience viewed his mutant guitar. For the general populace, Goldmark remained less known -- although he added steel licks to albums by roots artists such as Taj Mahal, Mike Bloomfield, and Maria Muldaur and rockers like the Mermen, David Byrne, and the Mr. T Experience. Throughout the peaks and valleys of his lengthy career, Goldmark has continued to show a versatility that leaves players and fans shaking their heads in disbelief. His new album, Strong Like Bull ... But Sensitive Like Squirrel!, may be his most fluid release yet, a collection of winsome tunes that underscores the hidden connections between country and Memphis soul.

Goldmark's introduction to country music came through the back door. Growing up in Arizona he was exposed to only Top 40 pop and drippy Nashville country. After his folks moved to the Bay Area in the late '60s, the teenager found himself plopped in the middle of the booming country rock scene. Through roots- oriented longhair bands like the Grateful Dead and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Goldmark found himself drawn to country material -- especially after catching Sneaky Pete Kleinow play with the Flying Burrito Brothers.

"Sneaky Pete was a real visionary and trendsetter," Goldmark recalls from his San Francisco office. "He was unique. Even to this day nobody uses his tunings or his effects like he did. He also wasn't stuck in country and didn't care what style of music he was playing."

Smitten with the steel guitar, Goldmark worked his way back through the instrument's history, haunting used record stores for hard-core honky-tonk artists of the '50s like Carl Smith, Ray Price, and Webb Pierce. Soon, he learned to appreciate legendary pop and Nashville pedal steel players such as Bud Isaacs, Jimmy Day, and Buddy Emmons.

Over time Goldmark began performing live, initially with straight country cover bands and then with alternative acts such as the Texas Chainsaw Band and Billy C. Farlow. He worked full time on the flourishing hippie-billy circuit, a scene supported by venues such as Bernie's, the Sweetwater, and the Townhouse and free-form radio stations like KSAN and KFAT. After mastering his instrument Goldmark self-released three albums between 1979 and 1981 that broke through the countrified confines of pedal steel playing. He also toured with Peter Rowan's group, the Free Mexican Air Force, and reveled in Northern California's retro-country boom.

Gradually, though, the gigs tapered off, as the audience for old-style country dwindled and the hippies migrated north or acquired Beemers and beepers. Music became more of a pastime for Goldmark, as his energies turned toward day jobs and a newfound domestic life with his wife, Kathi Kamen Goldmark. Still, throughout the '80s, Goldmark kept up his chops by playing in groups like Osage, Mental Revenge, and the Ray Price Club, as well as by picking up occasional studio work.

In 1994 Goldmark took stock of the new altcountry scene and realized that no one else had filled the niche he'd created decades before. He returned to the studio to cut one of his most brilliant solo albums, the ambitious and aptly titled All Over the Road, a collection of covers of songs by Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Nelson Riddle, and several obscure R&B artists from the early '60s. Heartened by the response to the record, Goldmark reissued material from his older albums and renewed his determination to expand the stylistic horizons of his favorite musical instrument. Oakland's HighTone Records offered to help, despite the slim possibility that its owners would ever make a dime putting out pedal steel country-soul instrumental albums.

"HighTone is all over the place; they just put out music that they like," Goldmark explains. "[Label co-owner] Larry [Sloven] heard my Steelin' the Beatles album and loved it. He called me up and said, "Hey, what are you up to? Want to put out another album?'"

Goldmark's first HighTone release, 1999's All Hat -- No Cattle, included steelified versions of African, Caribbean, and Mexican music, along with covers of the Byrds and the Grateful Dead. The record was typical of Goldmark's wide-ranging style.

"My niche is that I put the steel into a different vein," he says. "I try to use all the stuff that makes the steel beautiful and special or schmaltzy or whatever. ... I put that into an R&B context, into concise, hooky, moving songs. I make these albums to please myself -- I get into a good groove and then lay in this beautiful steel guitar on top of it."

Since 1995 Goldmark has also been a mainstay of Jim Campilongo's Ten Gallon Cats, an eclectic local ensemble devoted to stretching the boundaries of instrumental music. During that time, Goldmark has seen the decline of the instrument he loves, especially in Nashville, where Top 40 country's assembly line has been slowly pruning the steel out of its albums since the late '50s. Although the instrument defined the Nashville sound in the postwar era, producers began looking for ways to appeal to a wider audience. One method was to tone down identifiably "hick" instruments such as the fiddle and pedal steel.

"Country music has a real love-hate relationship with the steel guitar," Goldmark says. "Bandleaders love to have a steel guitar because it adds so much to the music. But when they get to the studio, their producers are always trying to eliminate it because it sounds too corny or too twangy. There are always revivals -- some artist is strong enough to say, "Hey, I've gotta have this,' and then people love it. It'll make a comeback for a while, and the studios [will] try to weed it out again."

If it seems like Goldmark brings an encyclopedic knowledge to his work, it may be because he actually did "write the book" on pedal steel music. Goldmark's self-published International Steel Guitar Discography purports to document every steel guitar instrumental ever recorded. Now in its eighth edition, the Discography has become the bible for steel guitar fanatics. Goldmark has considered computerizing the list or posting it online, but these days he finds he has less time to sink into this quixotic project. Why? Because he's too busy stocking records.

Throughout the early '90s Goldmark was co-owner of the Upper Haight's Escape From New York Pizza shop. As a local merchant with pro-music sympathies, Goldmark was drafted by Amoeba Music to help unruffle the feathers of NIMBY activists who worried about the new branch's possible impact on the neighborhood. Goldmark helped set up meetings with merchants and community groups like the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, attempting to downplay concerns over traffic congestion and parking hassles. One thing led to another, and Goldmark found himself a manager and co-owner of Amoeba S.F. -- with music as his full-time gig once again.

"[Amoeba's] made me aware of a lot of ambient and electronica and hip hop [and] metal and punk -- stuff that I was never exposed to before," Goldmark says. "As you get older, you really lose touch with all that unless you work with kids -- being in a music store now, I'm really aware of new music."

One of the biggest surprises for Goldmark was finding out that the pedal steel had made its way into the electronica scene. Co-workers introduced him to albums like BJ Cole and Luke Vibert's Stop the Panic, which blended steel guitars with lush, ambient mixes. Even with his wide-ranging sensibilities Goldmark isn't sure he'll tackle the techno scene anytime soon.

"It's not a style that moves me, which is why I don't do it," he says. "I might do something on the fringe of it, but I wouldn't put out a whole album of it."

Instead, Goldmark has immersed himself in the music of his childhood -- old soul, the Mussel Shoals-style R&B that once shared AM radio space with surf and acid rock. While many may be puzzled by the connection between country and blues, Goldmark sees himself in the crossover tradition of Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, and Charlie Rich.

"Country and soul music both like to tell a story, to explore the sadder side of life, rather than rock 'n' roll, which is more kid-oriented -- who's got the bitchin'est car or the cutest girl? And be it black or white, they sing with soul and try to tell you about the reality of life." As an instrumentalist, Goldmark selects songs that are expressive and moving. "First of all, I look for a good melody, one that will work well on the steel guitar. I also like to do songs that are a little obscure, like these days I'm really into gospel music. So I recorded "Walk Around Heaven,' which is a beautiful song by Shirley Caesar and the Caravans." Strong Like Bull also includes covers of Otis Redding, Nick Lowe, and other Goldmark faves -- recognizable numbers made exotic by his intricately layered, madly baroque pedal steel.

After three decades in the local music scene, Joe Goldmark has the financial independence and stability to make exactly the kind of records he wants and to pursue music just for fun. But as a grizzled veteran, he knows better than to underestimate the value of a good day job and a sense of perspective.

"Fame and fortune has its costs. Everybody wants to make it big, and yet people don't take into account the incredible sacrifices -- personally and artistically -- that entails," he cautions. "If you have to play five nights a week and take gigs that you don't like, you get so you resent it. And if you have to live poor for your music, it becomes a real tough thing as you get older."

--Lawrence Kay

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"All Hat - No Cattle" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering - June, 1999
San Francisco instrumentalist Joe Goldmark is a rare remaining champion of pedal-steel-guitar music, a flourishing subgenre of country music in the 1960s and '70s when virtuosos such as Buddy Emmons and Pete Drake carved out a niche by steel-coating the hits of the day. Goldmark keeps the tradition alive via his own recordings and by publishing a remarkably thorough steel-guitar discography. [This new CD] is a treat for anyone who likes to hear those strings stretched out over tasty tunes. Here Goldmark and three different sets of sidemen (including the superb all-instrumental ensemble Jim Campilongo & the 10 Gallon Cats) tackle everything from Don Gibson's country weeper "Sweet Dreams" to Fastball's 1998 alternative hit "The Way" to Bob Seger's "Her Strut," tossing in some nifty originals to fill the gaps. It's enough to steel your heart anyway.

--Steven Stolder

Hightone Newsletter - May, 1999
All Hat - No Cattle is Joe Goldmark's debut release for HighTone's HMG label. An all-instrumental album, it showcases his unique pedal steel guitar interpretations of songs ranging far beyond the instrument's ordinary twangy country territory. Among the unexpected musical styles he explores are Mexican ("Sabor A Mi"), Caribbean ("Rico's Lament"), and African ("Highlife" and "Skokiaan"). He also applies the pedal steel to a host of American musical forms, including soul ("Hey Girl"), rock ("Her Strut"), alternative ("The Way"), country ("Sweet Dreams"), and psychedelic ("China Cat Sunflower" and "Eight Miles High").

Goldmark has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1967, and he has played in local bands for over twenty years, including stints with Billy C. Farlow's Band (former Commander Cody lead singer), The Texas Chainsaw Band, and most recently, Jim Campilongo and the Ten Gallon Cats. He has also recorded or toured with Mike Bloomfield, David Byrne, Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, Taj Mahal, and Maria Muldaur. Goldmark is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to his instrument's history, having written and published the "International Steel Guitar Discography," an ongoing compendium of every steel guitar instrumental ever recorded. He is also an avid record collector with a part ownership in Amoeba Music, located on San Francisco's historic Haight Street.

Goldmark's enthusiasm for recordings has impelled him to make several of his own albums, though he laments his status as one of precious few "steelers" to do so. "I'm pretty much the only person who's doing what I'm doing, recording pop/rock instrumental albums centered around the steel guitar," he observes. "I did three vinyl albums in the very early 1980's, one after another, in the space of about four years. And then I stopped making them, since I had business interests and I wasn't playing as much. And then in the 90's I got back into playing, and I started recording again because no one had filled the void. I did all these pop and soul albums with pedal steel, and I figured that somebody would take up the mantle and think 'hey, that's a good idea.' But nobody did. It was pretty surprising to me.

"There are a couple of other guys, like Sneaky Pete, who's played with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Linda Ronstadt, and he's very good at playing what I would call rock steel guitar. And there's David Lindley, who played with Jackson Browne. But they don't do individual albums focusing on the pedal steel."

Goldmark cites Buddy Emmons, Tom Brumley, JD Maness, and Sneaky Pete as his primary musical inspirations. "I originally played the bass guitar. I got into the steel in the early 1970's when country-rock was real popular...bands like the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Commander Cody, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, and Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band. They all used steel guitar.

"I love all kinds of music, not just country music. And I feel that the steel is a beautiful, melodic instrument, not just a novelty, and that it works very well in other contexts besides country. Before this album, I did a record of all Beatles tunes. And I've done Hendrix tunes and Steely Dan tunes. It's just a matter of picking a tune that seems to work with steel--a song that's melodic."

And 'melodic,' for Goldmark, is the key word. A few of the songs on All Hat - No Cattle were already instrumentals, but most are adapted versions of songs that originally had lyrics. The key to the adaptation process, he says, is choosing a song in which the steel naturally and gracefully replaces the lead vocal. "In general, I try to pick tunes where the words are not the most important thing. There are lots of songs out there where you can hardly understand the lyrics, but you still love the song. Or music from other countries, where you love the song even though you have no idea what the vocalist is saying. Those are the songs that I go after, where the melody, rather than the lyrics, carries it. That's what I mean by melodic."

--by Lindsey Westbrook

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"Steelin' the Beatles" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

Guitar Player - July, 1997
Joe Goldmark
Steelin' the Beatles
Michael Perlowin
Stravinsky: Firebird Suite

Two unlikely pleasures from peddle steel guitarists who lead their instrument far from the C&W corral. Joe Goldmark's Steelin' (available from Lo-Ball, 2259 14th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94116) delivers good-natured instrumental renditions of a dozen Beatles faves, faithfully reproducing the rhythm arrangements but replacing the vocals and guitar hooks with fluid steel. The results are often hilarious but the record is no joke--Goldmark, a member of country-jazz ace Jim Carnpliongo's Ten Gallon Cats, is a heavy player with gorgeous tone, a fertile imagination and a great rock-swing feel.

While Goldmark recontextualizes the pedal steel's country idioms, Perlowin jettisons them altogether for a jaw-dropping recital of works by Stravinsky, Debussy, Bartok and others. Pedal steel Shostakovich may seem, far-fetched, but Perlowin renders the music vath great insight and extraordinary faithfullness to the original scores. While the pedal steers inevitable portamentos occasionally sound odd in this repertoire, Perlowin's glides have an eerie, disembodied quality, reminiscent of early electronic Instruments like the Theremin and Ondes Marteneot. His E-Bowed take on Debussy's to Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is one of the most transendentally gorgeous guitar transcriptions I've ever heard, while his mega-overdubbed rendition of the Firebird Suite rivals the and audacity of Kazuhito Yamashita's notorious solo guitar version. Here Perlowin pulls out all the stops, using elaborate signal processing, Les Paul-style tape-speed tricks and a small army of stringed instruments to evoke the riotous orchestral color of Stravinsky's original. A must-hear recording from a brilliant maverick Newport Classic (11 Willow St., Ste. #4, Newport, RI 02840).


San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook- POP CDS IN BRIEF
Local pedal steel guitarist Joe Goldmark has an extraordinary talent for picking out melodies, note for note; this time out he slips and slides around the Beatles in a 12-song tribute. Goldmark also uses lap steel, EBow, dobro and wah-wah to create an unearthly George Harrison guitar effect on some of the carefully chosen tracks, as on "Awaiting on You All," plucked from Harrison's solo recording of "All Things Must Pass." The mournful "I'm Only Sleeping" sounds as if it could be floating through the breeze at a Hawaiian luau. And the Beatles' instrumental, "Flying," sounds more natural here than it did on "Magical Mystery Tour." Goldmark's stellar fellow players add to the album's mastery. It's essential for any Beatles collector or fan of the traditional stringed instrument.

- Denise Sullivan

San Francisco Bay Guardian - Grooves, May 21, 1997
-- joined by more than a dozen collaborators in various configurations on guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards -- works magic with the riffs that Lennon-McCartney (and in one post-Beatles case, George Harrison) built into almost infuriatingly catchy songs. His pitch-bending pedal steel, E-bow, wah-wah, Dobro, and lap steel guitars prove deliciously compatible with the melodies of "Day Tripper," "I'm Only Sleeping," "She's a Woman," "Penny Lane," "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window," "I Will," "Baby's in Black," and more.

Beyond the pale of commercial country or rock radio, these two lyric-less albums nonetheless speak volumes about the pleasures of (almost) popular music.

-- Derk Richardson

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"All Over The Road" by Joe Goldmark   Sound Files & Ordering

Rock & Rap Confidential/Sept-Oct, 1994
"The legendary Kosher Kowboy, king of psychedelic steel illuminates 'Free Ride,' 'Third Stone From the Sun,' 'Peaches en Regalia,' and, best of all, Earth, Wind & Fire's 'Fantasy.' In the grand Teisco del Rey spirit."
Relix Magazine
"Slightly more out in left field is All Over The Road (Lo-Ball), an album of pedal steel guitar instrumentals by Joe Goldmark. As the title suggests, Goldmark is literally all over the place musically. There's interesting and imaginative pedal steel-led versions of Quicksilver's 'Edward, The Mad Shirt Grinder,' Zappa's 'Peaches En Regalia,' Hendrix's 'Third Stone From The Sun' and Steely Dan's 'The Fez.' Goldmark also shines on several of his originals, most notably the country-meets-soul of 'Flash Flood.' But more than anything, Goldmark shows the scope and versatility of the pedal steel guitar in a rock setting."
CG, Guitar Player
"Hendrix, Steely Dan, Zappa, and Earth, Wind & Fire times performed on pedal steel? Goldmark proves that the instrument is suited for much more than country music on this collection of instrumental covers and originals. Refined and somewhat restrained, Goldmark's performance lacks the over-the-top excitement that has made Buddy Emmons and Ralph Mooney legendary However, his emphasis on melody instead of chops makes this a highly listenable effort. Goldmark also compiles the International Steel Guitar Discography, a must for fans of steel guitar instrumentals."
Blue Suede News June, 1995
"Joe Goldmark is also 'All Over The Road' musically, on his new steel guitar instrumental album. In fact he actually does do Zappa's 'Peaches En Regalia', Hendrix's 'Third Stone From The Sun', Elton John's 'Country Comfort', Nelson Riddle's 'Theme From Route 66', and a couple from Steely Dan - 'Pearl Of The Quarter' (with a New Orleans feel, of course), and 'The Fez'. And there are a variety of originals and other remakes from other composers. Swell music, and a nice cartoon cover. I'm definately of the school of belief that the pedal steel (and the banjo, too, at least until Bela Fleck came along) has not been fully explored in its musical potential. So kudos to those who are expanding its horizons, including Joe Goldmark. Another winner!"
Neva Chonin, SF Bay Guardian
"Ah, the tuneful twang of the pedal steel guitar. It hits you right smack in that visceral no-man's-land separating heartache from heartburn. Joe Goldmark, a regular on the Bay Area country/western circuit, knows that place well. And on his aptly titled selfreleased CD, All Over the Road, he takes you there - via a colorfully circuitous route - with a collection of rock and pop classics interpreted, pedal-steel style. Imagine Hendrix's 'Third Stone from the Sun' reworked as psychedelic honky-tonk, or Frank Zappa's 'Peaches en Regalia' performed by an improvisational avant-hillbilly. Bet you thought it couldn't be done! There are some originals here, too, like the funky 'Sideways Boogaloo' and my fave, 'Flash Flood,' an exercise in deft dip-and-slide plucking and frisky percussion. Makes you wanna swing your partner right off the planet. Some folks take the high road, others the low, but Joe Goldmark just makes his own damn road. Ride it, cowboy."
Mike Gross, The Pedal Steel Newsletter, Jan/Feb 1995
"Joe Goldmark is a very talented and progressive Steel Guitar player from San Francisco, California. Recently, Joe issued a fine new LoBall album containing sixteen songs. The album is available in both CD and cassette format. 'All Over The Road' - The Pedal Excursions Of Joe Goldmark (Lo-Ball Records) In this contemporary, high energy steel guitar album, Joe interprets items on the steel that most folk would not even associate with steel music. The result is perfection and many steps further for one instrument. Joe is ably assisted by Mac Cridlin on bass and many other fine musicians. It was produced by Joe with assistance from Mac and guitarist Garth Webber. Joe opens the album with a soul oriented 'Sideways Boogaloo' and then interprets the late Jimi Hendrix's 'Third Stone From The Sun'. 'Edward' is a song done by Quicksilver Messenger Service and 'Pearl Of The Quarter' and 'The Fez' were made popular by Steely Dan. 'Peaches En Regalia' is a tune associated with the late Frank Zappa and 'Free Ride' is borrowed from the Edgar Winter Group. Elton John is represented by 'Country Comfort', New Orleans sax great Lee Allen is remembered with his composition, 'Chuggin' and Earth Wind and Fire with 'Fantasy'. The Travelers are remembered with 'Spanish Moon' and Todd Rundgren is also remembered with 'Couldn't I Just Tell You'. Joe's original compositions include 'Flash Flood' and 'Rush Hour'. The seldom interpreted 'Theme From Route 66' brings back memories of the old TV show in classic fashion. Joe closes out this project with 'Pedal To The Metal'."
Mike Perlowin, Steel Guitar World Magazine, 1995
"Great news. After a 13 year hiatus, Joe Goldmark, the world's premier rock and roll pedal steel guitarist, has returned to the recording studios to present us with another hour's worth of his music. For those who have not heard his previous recordings, you've got a real treat coming. Those of you who are already familiar with Goldmark's work will know what to expect: two and sometimes three steels interweaving with each other, often 'All Over The Road' with different effects; dynamic, exciting rhythms; and occasionally a screaming fuzz so intense it makes your very bones shake, rattle, and roll. Actually, this new recording sounds exactly like the older ones. With the exception of his (use) of the E-bow, Goldmark hasn't changed his style or ideas at all. Instead we have his unique hard rocking approach to a fresh set of tunes. And what a set of tunes they are. There is not a single song on the set that has ever been recorded by another steel guitarist. Besides his own original compositions, the material comes from such sources as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Elton John, Todd Rundgren, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Edgar Winter Group, Earth Wind and Fire, and, just for good measure Nelson Riddle. The closest thing to country music is Elton John's 'Country Comfort.' Almost everything else, with the exception of Nelson Riddle's theme from the old 'Route 66' TV show, is straight ahead rock. I don't mean soft rock or country versions of pop hits like some recent steel guitar tapes. I mean throbbing, pulsating, screaming, driving, over-the-edge, in your face, out of control (almost), fuzzed out, hard, heavy, ass-kicking rock and roll . The best analogy I can make would be to say that Joe Goldmark is to traditional E9 country players like Buddy Emmons and Jimmy Day what the new breed of hard rocking singers like Travis Tritt and Hank Jr. are to guys like Roy Acuff and Ray Price. Those of you who only want to hear traditional E9 country style steel guitar playing, probably won't care for this recording, but for those who enjoy music, country or otherwise, that has some drive (in this case overdrive) to it, this tape will blow you away. One last point. Goldmark has been very generous with us. This recording contains just about an hour of music- twice the amount of the usual steel guitar tape. Mae West once said 'Too much of a good thing is.....WONDERFUL.' She must have been talking about this recording."

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Book The International Steel Guitar & Dobro Discography- 8th Edition by Joe Goldmark

Mike Gross, The Pedal Steel Newsletter, Jan/Feb 1995
"In the seventh edition of this must publication for Steel Guitar music collectors, Joe Goldmark has gone beyond all expectations. First those interested in the Dobro will be thrilled with Holland's Sytze Hempenius addition to Joe's work. Joe has updated and corrected previous versions of the Discography to give this current edition a truly professional appearance. The material also has additional cross references including a listing of steel players with groups, bands and band leaders. In all, there are two hundred twenty seven pages of interesting listings through which to browse, study, use as a reference, or just enjoy. Joe's new album and book can be obtained directly from Joe Goldmark at 2259 14th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94116. The album is a must for all steel players and fans that like Rock and Soul Music. The book is a valuable reference for collectors of steel guitar recordings."
Mike Perlowin, Steel Guitar World Magazine, 1995
"Joe has released his seventh edition of the discography. The new edition has sections for: Pop & Country, Hawaiian and Dobro. The new edition also has a cross reference after each section. This is useful when you want to know who played steel or dobro with a particular band. In case you're wondering this book tries to list every steel guitar and dobro instrumental ever released, on any speed or format. The book is 227 jammed-packed pages of steel guitar information."

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