While I'm on the subject of a songwriters songwriter, Steve Gillette is a name you may or may not be familiar with even though he has been writing and playing music for over 40 years. Gillette grew up in Southern California in a musical household. In high school he got ahold of a banjo and a copy of Pete Seeger's book on banjo. He played bluegrass in a band on the campus of UCLA. Eventually he switched to the guitar and to folk music. He met up with Tom Campbell and began writing music. In 1966 they got their first big break when Canadian folkies, Ian & Sylvia, recorded their song "Darcy Farrow". Gillette turned to music full time, touring with the duo Bud & Travis as a supporting musician and later with Judy Henske. In 1967 he recorded and released his first solo album which never made the hit he expected. During the 1970s he recorded a string of albums, one with Emmylou Harris' backup band, one produced by Graham Nash, while all received critical acclaim especially from other musicians, none brought stardom. In more recent years he has toured and recorded with his wife, Cindy Mangsen.
Although he never achieved stardom as a performer, Steve Gillette is one of the finest songwriters of the later folk era. His songs have been recorded by Ian & Sylvia, Gordon Lightfoot, Garth Brooks, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, and Kenny Rogers. With his smooth, comforting voice and superb writing skills it has always been a mystery to me why he never made it in a commercial way. Perhaps it is better that he didn't get picked up by a major label in the sixties. If one looks back at most of the over-produced, commercialized folk-pop albums of the period, perhaps we are better off with the unadulterated music of this true folk icon.
Steve Gillette - Always a Train in My Dreams.mp3 Steve Gillette - Grapes on the Vine.mp3 Steve Gillette - A Little Bit of Solitude.mp3
These cuts are from the 1992 release "The Ways of the World". Steve Gillette's CDs, solo and with Cindy Mangsen are available from Compass Rose Music
. The duo's "Live in Concert" and their latest release "Being There" are outstanding recordings.