Richard Bennett
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January, 2005

Opening Axe

Had Richard Bennett been the usual A-list session ace - he's played with Liberace, Barbra Streisand, and Billy Joel - he wouldn't have rated a mention here. But upon moving to Nashville from Los Angeles, Bennett produced and played on Steve Earles' Guitar Town, and in the process defined modern "twang."

Interestingly, the road from jack-of-all-trades to country specialist was quite natural for the guitarist. "Some of my earliest musical memories are of hillbilly music," he says. "It's always been some of my favorite music. When I moved to Nashville in the '80s, the people there hadn't quite come out of country, so they thought I sort of reinvented white bread!"

Guitarists known particularly for their picking - Mark Knopfler, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill, and Duane Eddy - regularly call Bennett to enhance their creations. When he first began working with Knopfler, Bennett remembers asking, "What am I going to bring to this party?" But he quickly found the answer: "It's Mark's spotlight, but there is some pretty creative second-banana-ing going on, too. Sometimes it's only adding rhythm guitar, but that's my favorite thing to do."

Bennett's first solo record, the evocative instrumental workout Themes From A Rainy Decade, reflects his love of songs in general - whether they be in pop, country, or movie soundtracks. in addition to the complex harmonies, the disc offers some noirish ambience, which was added after the fact. "I would cut the tunes as naked as I could; that way, there's no hiding," he says. "Then, later, when we added some reverb, it sounded glorious." Never a fan of notey riffs, the tasteful Bennett adds, "Just give me three notes and a melody."

-- Michael Ross