Widely known to possess some of the hottest guitar chops--not to mention the sharpest trousers--in Portland's throbbing-with-talent roots-rock scene, New Mexico-born Lewi Longmire has graced local stages great and small in recent years, supporting some of the best songwriter-led bands on the home front. Little Sue, James Low, Casey Neill and many others have tapped him to plug into and electrify their ballads and rockers. Now, after sharing the spotlight with so many stellar songwriters, Longmire is ready at last to put his own songs and singing out front on his first-ever album as a bandleader, If I Live to Be 100.
The album, which sounds so warm and natural it seems as though it somehow recorded itself, collects tunes Longmire has written since relocating to Portland late in 1997 with the other members of his Albuquerque band, Apricot Jam, a group that had visited the Northwest several times on the jam-band tour circuit. Following the move, the Jam stopped jelling, and Longmire found himself cut loose in a wet new world. He took some time to adjust, then began taking jobs as a hired ax for Oregon musician friends he'd made along the road. He backed up folkfest favorites Adam + Kris and Eugene's Peter Wilde at the Green Room. The whole package--fly sideburns, flashy pants, well-worn Tele spouting raging rhythm and biting lead licks (not to mention irrepressibly dumbass between-song banter)--lifted those acts' acoustic grooves to a new level, instantly making him a hometown guitar-hero. And watching him throw down on the bass during the same period as part of an early incarnation of I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, I learned that it was not only the prowess with his main instrument but his very presence on stage that helped infuse the band with over-the-top fervor.
Somewhere along the way, Longmire decided that this X factor was perhaps his most signature contribution to his collaborations with fellow players. "There's this certain kind of energy that I really hear in my head, a certain way that you hear a groove or feel the music move you," he says. "A lot of the people I play with come in and out of that phase a lot--they touch upon it constantly in their music, and that's one of the things I love about playing with Sue, and with James' band. I started to wonder if there was some way to maximize where that vibe sits and wanted to see if I could to that." Judging by the homey sound of his new album, the experiment's going exceedingly well.
The Lewi Longmire band is playing with Hillstomp and Morgan Grace on Saturday, Nov. 27, at the White Eagle, 836 N Russell St., 282-6810. 9:30 pm. $6. 21+.