Observations: A tribute to Rainer Ptacek - the lost genius of slide guitar


Chris Mugan
Thursday 06 September 2012 14:19
Rainer Ptacek
Rainer Ptacek

He was never a household name, yet before his untimely death, slide-guitarist Rainer Ptacek counted as fans Robert Plant, PJ Harvey and Evan Dando. Now his own rarely heard albums are set to enter circulation once more.

Based in Tucson, Arizona, Ptacek's often self-released recordings gained fitful coverage, yet Led Zeppelin's former frontman – who blown away by a rare London live appearance, immediately secured him as a session player. When the guitarist fell gravely ill in 1996, Ptacek's old mate and collaborator Howe Gelb of alt. country veterans Giant Sand organised benefit album The Inner Flame to help pay his medical bills. Plant guested on one track and ensured its release on Atlantic Records.

Ptacek collaborated with some of the artists involved and heard the finished product before he died a year later, though Atlantic failed to prioritise an album that fell into obscurity until Gelb was able to wrestle back the rights on behalf his dear friend's family. Fire Records has agreed to reissue Ptacek's back catalogue, following the re-release of The Inner Flame, after Gelb secured extra contributions from the likes of Lucinda Williams, Grandaddy and Calexico. Such effort helps gain deserved recognition for a unique artist and fine human being, he explains. “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.'”

'The Inner Flame' is out now on Fire Records

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