Michael Messer

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British bluesman, one of the U.K.'s leading figures on both the steel and slide guitars.
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b. 1956, Middlesex, England. Alongside Bob Greenwood and Steve Phillips, Messer is the pre-eminent UK guitarist to incorporate the National steel guitar, as well as slide guitar, into his acoustic performances. Messer spent some time in Nashville as a young man soaking up the sounds in the home of country music. He returned to England in the late 70s and bought his first National steel guitar in 1979. His work on the UK blues circuit brought him into contact with singer Mike Cooper, resulting in session work for Cooper and Ian A. Anderson’s 1984 release The Continuous Preaching Blues. During this period Messer also began working with rhythm guitarist Ed Genis, a partnership that would endure into the new millennium.

The Michael Messer Band was formed in 1985 with Messer (guitar/vocals) joined by Ed Genis (guitar/vocals), Andy Crowdy (bass/vocals) and Jeffro Robertson (drums). Messer made his debut three years later with the acclaimed Diving Duck. His name was soon being championed in the UK blues press and in 1991 he won the UK Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year award, sponsored by British Blues Connection, though this was as much an endorsement for his capacity for incorporating styles other than the blues into his playing. Musical ideas borrowed from Hawaiian slide guitar, reggae, jazz and King Sunny Ade’s worldbeat sound all illuminate his playing. The latter style was particularly evident on the breakthrough album that won him his initial strong notices, 1990’s Slidedance : ‘If you look at what was happening in this country, and also what I was doing at that time, there’s a big world music influence, which we were all very into - I was also, at that time, producing tracks with S.E. Rogie and with Ted Hawkins ... I intentionally made the album so it wasn’t a blues album.’

The same description could equally apply to Messer’s 1993 collaboration with singer-songwriter Terry Clarke (who had appeared on Slidedance) and the Lubbock, Texas, guitarist Jesse Taylor, entitled Rhythm Oil. The tour that accompanied its release saw Messer experiment further with elements including house and reggae, with a version of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s ‘Worried Life Blues’ offering an outstanding distillation of blues and contemporary music. Further evidence of his standing came when Newtone Strings launched a new brand of strings with Messer’s name attached, specifically aimed at the national guitar. The ambitious 1995 release MOONbeat featured scratching by DJ Louie Genis (son of Ed Genis) over a fusion of world music and blues. The follow-up National Avenue was recorded with musicians including Ed Genis and Terry Clarke and was given an extremely limited production run.

Messer marked the start of the new millennium with the release of the successful compilation album King Guitar. His next studio album Second Mind featured backing vocals by soul singer Ruby Turner and the return of Louie Genis behind the decks. The album was widely acclaimed and greeted as a more successful update of the formula Messer had first attempted on MOONbeat. In 2005, Messer signed a new recording contract with Cooking Vinyl Records. He made his debut for the label the following year with Lucky Charms.