Har­ri­son Marsh looks at the melodic slide style of Mid­dles­bor­ough’s bril­liant artist, Chris Rea.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Many peo­ple as­so­ciate Chris Rea with Driv­ing Home For Christ­mas and Road To Hell but be­yond this is a 25-al­bum ca­reer, with sta­dium tours and multi-plat­inum sales. Su­perb song­writer and more than ac­com­plished gui­tarist, Chris Rea came to gui­tar at the rel­a­tively late age of 20, ini­tially in­flu­enced by the early blues of Charley Pat­ton and the slide play­ing of Joe Walsh and Ry Cooder. In 1979 he was Grammy nom­i­nated in the US for best new artist, and by 1987 he was sup­port­ing Queen and sell­ing out Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. But the big­gest break­though came with num­ber one al­bum Road To Hell in 1989, which went on to be­come six times plat­inum in the UK.

Slide has al­ways been a main­stay of the Mid­dle­bor­ough born gui­tarist’s play­ing. Though best known for driv­ing AOR bal­lads, since se­ri­ous Ill­ness in 2001 Rea has con­cen­trated on his blues in­flu­ences re­sult­ing in a change of mu­si­cal di­rec­tion, start­ing with the Down The Stoney Road al­bum that brings his slide play­ing even more to the fore. The Cooder in­flu­ence is ap­par­ent with wide, taste­ful vi­brato, and full use of the fretboard (and be­yond) a real sig­na­ture for Rea along with im­pres­sive speed and melodic lines. Although his later al­bums demon­strate an in-depth knowl­edge of tra­di­tional blues phras­ing, slide gui­tar also fea­tured heav­ily in some of Rea’s big­gest hits; Road To Hell and rock bal­lads like I Can Hear Your Heart Beat show his abil­ity to cre­ate sin­gle-note slide melodies that com­ple­ment songs that of­ten break away from the stan­dard I-IV-V chord se­quences that fea­ture so heav­ily in slide gui­tar. Rea’s in­to­na­tion when mak­ing use of Har­monic Mi­nor lines and sub­tle semi­tone phrases is fault­less (he says it’s the vi­brato that helps ground his in­to­na­tion).

Rea is most fa­mously as­so­ci­ated with a red Strat called ‘Pinky’ but these days of­ten plays slide on his Italia mod­els. Chris has al­ways favoured open E tun­ing though more re­cently uses a capo to great ef­fect to ex­plore a range of keys. Equally at home with a fin­ger­style ap­proach or a plec­trum, some­times even in the same song, the cry­ing, melodic blues tones here show the decades of prac­tice and im­mer­sion in the blues style.

NEXT MONTH Har­ri­son looks at the ever-tune­ful style of slide’s First Lady, Bon­nie Raitt

chris has al­ways favoured open e tun­ing though more re­cently uses a capo to great ef­fect to ex­plore a range of keys

Chris Rea with the gold sparkle Italia he loves for slide

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