Fire Records Announces Reissue Various Artists‘The Inner Flame (A Tribute to Rainer Ptacek)’
Out October 6th 2017
Marbled coloured 2LP / 2CD
Robert Plant & Rainer ’21 Years’ audio:
Outside, it sounds like there’s a twister of phased guitar sludgily invading the atmosphere. It’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant erupting from the stereo of a beat up pick up that’s just arrived. It’s their contribution to ‘The Inner Flame’, an album put together by Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb to help cover some of the hospital bills when his original Sand compadre Rainer Ptacek fell gravely ill in 1996. Sadly Rainer succumbed a year later but his music lives on. ‘The Inner Flame’ had a roll call of real music lovers; fans, aficionados, friends and foils.
Within those 18 tracks there’s the groggy Lucinda Williams, the masterful Chuck Prophet, a wonderfully petulant PJ Harvey and Jonathan Richman trading guitar licks. There’s Madeleine Peyroux’s take on ‘Life Is Fine’ with Rainer’s modal rolls sounding like someone teetering on the edge of an eloquent rejoinder on the subject.
On ’21 Years’ Rainer allows Robert Plant to sound like the devil-bought-his-soul at the crossroads, a bluesman searching for forgiveness as he spars on riffs from a rattling steel. By contrast the late great Vic Chesnutt with wife Tina sound like they’ve rented a room at the adjacent motel and shucking it up on ‘Where That’s At’.
The album resonates with an eclectic array of performers who were touched, inspired and in many cases recast in a new light courtesy of Rainer’s distinctive slide on dobro or National Steel. The original album, which was later extended is re-issued this year to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of Rainer’s sad passing following a brain tumour.
As Andrew Gilstrap put it on PopMatters; “The German-born, Chicago-raised, Tucson-residing Ptacek was as responsible as anyone for the ramshackle, dust-swept sound that we associate with bands like Calexico and Giant Sand. Specializing in the Dobro and the National steel guitar and finding his own unique blend of folk and blues, Ptacek exhibited a rare feel as a guitarist and songwriter.”
Howe Gelb recalled ten years ago to The Phoenix New Times, “while he had brain cancer he wrote a song called ‘The Inner Flame,’ which is really amazing, because it came right after he had to teach himself how to play the guitar all over again. When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, it came with a seizure. He had to start the cure of radiation and chemo. It affected his brain in a way that he couldn’t remember how to play guitar. And he had to start all over again. I watched him — I witnessed him — not only getting to the point where he was at beforehand, prowess-wise, but he surpassed it.”
The Independent reported in 2007 on the albums new extended version, that these 18 tracks “deserved recognition for a unique artist and fine human being,” to which Howe Gelb concluded: “There was always something so positive about his presence. Like in his final interview, someone asked why we are here, and he said: ‘To love away the pain’.”
Dave Henderson May, 2017
1. Giant Sand & Rainer – The Inner Flame
2. Lucinda Williams – The Farm
3. Robert Plant & Jimmy Page – Rude World
4. Emmylou Harris – The Good Book
5. John Wesley Harding – Story Teller
6. Evan Dando – Rudy With A Flashlight
7. Victoria Williams & Mark Olson – Something’s Gotta Be Done
8. Grandaddy – Junkpile
9. PJ Harvey, John Parish & Eric Drew Feldman – Losin’ Ground
10. Chuck Prophet – Limit To It
11. Vic Chesnutt & Tina Chesnutt – Where’s That At?
12. Madeleine Peyroux – Life Is Fine
13. Robert Plant & Rainer – 21 Years
14. Chris Whitley – Powder Keg
15. Jonathan Richman – Broken Promises
16. Kris McKay – One Man Crusade
17. Howe Gelb & Sno Angel – That’s How Things Get Done
18. Rainer, Joey Burns & John Convertino – Be Prepared
Featured Photo Credit : David Larussa