Though he’s also a songwriter and an agreeable singer, the appeal of Pete L’Angelle’s music is in his guitar-playing. The key to being a great soloist—on any instrument in any genre—isn’t just skill and technique but style. The blues, as a genre, is often performed by musicians who tend to overplay, wringing out too many notes too quickly without much sensitivity or tact. This isn’t a problem with Pete L’Angelle, who values control, simplicity and room for breath.
“This gives the listener a chance to think about it,” he says. “You go right there, and you make [a] statement, with simplicity. Sometimes it can be just one note. It takes a long time to get to that point where you can say what you need to with just one note, but it’s better than just being busy all the time.”
Though he’s a blues guitarist, L’Angelle is also influenced by early Sun Records rockers like Carl Perkins and jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino. These other influences can be heard in the harmonic expansiveness of L’Angelle’s playing and in the crisp and clear tone of his guitar.
“Before you play anything,” he says, “you deal with your tone. The tone of your instrument is your voice.”
L’Angelle is originally from the Reno area but now splits his time between Reno and Los Angeles. The balance works well for him.
“I tend to write more up here in Reno,” he says. “There’s fresh, clean air, and I have a lot of extra energy. You’re lucky to survive days in L.A.” The music scene in L.A. is, of course, very competitive but also, says L’Angelle, very inspiring. “It keeps you energized, and it keeps you honest.”
One way that L’Angelle stays connected with the L.A. scene is with his cable television show, City of Music. L’Angelle hosts and conducts interviews on the show, which covers L.A.'s blues, jazz and country scenes. L’Angelle got involved with the show after a brief stint working as an actor, mostly in low-budget indies.
“They always cast me as a detective,” he says. “I’ve played a lot of detectives. And once, a biker.”
L’Angelle has a new CD out on Sunburst Records, Americana Blues. The title is as fitting as it is literal because it’s a blues album with hints of Americana—jazz, country, Western swing and rockabilly. The album is all originals and was recorded in Carson City with engineer Bill Sparks and a number of different players. “I never have a regular band,” says L’Angelle, “I like to pull in specific players for each tune. It keeps things fresher.”
The album opens with one of its strongest tracks, the instrumental “Low Moon,” a jazzy, noirish sleepwalker, and then evolves through a number of different styles to higher energy blues numbers like “I’m Telling You.” The album features stripped-down arrangements and minimal accompaniment. It’s essentially a showcase for L’Angelle’s guitar and voice.
“The feel is a must," L’Angelle continues. "It’s all about feel, not huge arrangements. It takes a long time to really develop it. But that’s the thing about the blues: you get better with age. You really get down to the meat on the bones."