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If you take a look at the music recorded in the last 30 years, there’s a good chance you’ll come across the name Greg Leisz. A marvelous pedal steel player, Leisz has some of the most tasteful playing and impactful tone.
Leisz has played on countless recording sessions over the years, and a look through his credits will astound any music fan.
He has played on so many noteworthy productions, with so many great artists, that to say he has been influential in modern music is probably an understatement.
With his ability to add texture to the music, and unconventional sonic expressions to the music, his playing feels like putting the final piece into a puzzle.
Check out these 7 songs that feature Leisz’s fantastic pedal steel playing…
“The Game of Love” – Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Release Date: 2013
This track will really take you on a ride into the sonic frontiers, and Leisz shows just how much expression the pedal steel is capable of.
Any kind of musical style or production can probably be enhanced one way or another with a touch of Leisz’s pedal steel, and this track is no exception. The pedal steel can be so atmospheric, and Leisz provides the perfect blend for the listener.
I love how unconventional Leisz’s pedal steel has been on many recordings. He’s help put the pedal steel on the map of countless areas of music that it probably had never been before.
Versatile and musically accommodating, Greg shapes up many tracks with his pedal steel playing. This track has such a sweet groove to it, and Leisz adds just the right ambience to float with it.
“The Shortest Day” – Bill Frisell
Album: Guitar in the Space Age!
Release Date: 2014
One of Bill Frisell’s favorite musicians to work with, Greg has such a characteristic style of playing and it always shines with Frisell.
He’s added so much great pedal steel playing to Frisell’s albums over the years, that listening to Frisell’s work is perhaps one of the best ways to learn what the pedal steel is capable of in Leisz’s hands.
While Frisell’s guitar playing is unique and bends genres in its own right, Leisz complements this so well. These two have such a great melodic sense, and their instruments weave in and out of each other to create a beautiful tapestry of sound.
The first couple minutes of this track display how well these two musicians can create soundscapes within songs.
“Through the Morning, Through the Night” – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Album: Raising Sand
Release Date: 2007
This is a great album all around, with world class musicianship. Every instrument and musical note seems to fall right in place, with great sounding timbres, and Leisz’s pedal steel is no different.
Leisz has been a top-call session musician in the L.A. area for many years, so it’s no wonder he got the call to do work on this production with such fantastic artists.
This track is beautiful and Leisz’s pedal steel comes in almost right away. It sets the tone for the rest of the track, seguing smoothly into Alison Krauss’s vocals.
Leisz’s tone is crystal clear on this one, and is captivating.
“Country Down” – Beck
Album: Morning Phase
Release Date: 2014
This song is a great example of how tasteful Leisz’s playing can be. At sparse moments in the song, his pedal steel playing adds so much emotion to the music.
Pedal steel is a great accompanist instrument, but Leisz shows how much a simple sound can add so much depth to a piece of music.
You wouldn’t think of Beck as an artist to employ pedal steel much, but when you hear the sonic space that Leisz fills within his music, it’s understandable why any musician would want to utilize him.
His playing on this track sits well in the mix with a tone that hooks the listener. Leisz is playing subtly, yet the sound he creates enhances the track nicely.
“Anyway” – Keb’ Mo’
Album: The Door
Release Date: 2000
This track features mostly acoustic guitar and vocals, and the pedal steel is so smooth. Around the 1:32 mark, Leisz’s beautiful harmonics grace the listener in the higher frequencies.
The pedal steel has an uncanny ability to add so much to any recording, especially one that features a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. Leisz has such a great melodic sense, and this song has it on full display.
This is one of those songs that I can’t imagine without Leisz’s pedal steel. It complements it so well.
“Three Days” – k.d. lang & The Reclines
Album: Absolute Torch and Twang
Release Date: 1989
In the earlier stages of his career, Leisz played and toured often with k.d. lang, adding pedal steel to this Grammy-winning album. Leisz enjoyed collaborating with her for nearly twenty years straight, and this musical dynamic is always worth listening to.
This track kicks off strong with Leisz’s pedal steel at the forefront. It’s got a great honky-tonk sound, and Leisz shows how at home he feels playing pedal steel in a more traditional context too.
I love how much of a drive this song has, it just makes you want to dance under some neon lights. At the 2:44 mark check out Leisz’s cool harmonic lick that echoes the vocals.
“You’ve Got It” – Bruce Springsteen
Album: Wrecking Ball
Release Date: 2012
When legendary artists head into the studio nowadays, there’s a good chance they’ll have Leisz play steel on the production. Although this track has Leisz on lap steel, I couldn’t help but include it!
Adding distortion to the lap steel, Leisz gives so much personality to this Bruce Springsteen track. Leisz is no stranger to rock n’ roll, and always has the ability to add grit and bite to songs.
Leisz’s ability to add whatever a track needs always feels natural and timeless at the same time. He has an uncanny ability to always connect with the listeners’ ears.
Time and time again, Leisz shows that his ear is always adept to the present musical situation he finds himself in, creating in the moment. This is an invaluable ability for sessions, where the musician often has to hear and learn the music on the spot for the recording.
Leisz has an amazing ability to generate sounds that the pedal steel isn’t usually associated with. He stays genuine with the instrument, while still allowing its breadth of expression to add value to each recording.
It is always a pleasure to hear Leisz’s playing. There are so many great recordings with him playing, and listeners have plenty to treat themselves to.
For more ideas on utilizing the pedal steel sonically, check out the page below…