Bruce Langhorne was one of the most significant session guitarists to emerge in the early years of folk rock at the start of the sixties. He is best known for playing on some of Bob Dylan’s most ground breaking records, notably 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan’s transitional excursion from folk into folk rock. Langhorne did, however, play with countless other musicians during the sixties, including Richie Havens, Gordon Lightfoot, on Richard and Mimi Farina’s two Vanguard lps, Eric Anderson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, on Joan Baez’s Farewell Angelina and, most memorably in conveying Langhorne’s own exquisite style, on Tom Rush’s The Circle Game. Langhorne’s distinctive style evolved through his use of an acoustic guitar with a pick up, fed through a Fender Twin Reverb amp that he originally borrowed from another renowned guitarist, Sandy Bull. Langhorne’s sound is a blend of the acoustic and electric, using a tremolo effect in time with the song, a technique influenced by Roebuck Staples of The Staple Singers. His unique minimalist picking style is also shaped by him having a foreshortened finger on one hand (strangely a theme that is obliquely echoed in the script of The Hired Hand) His mood music beautifully enhances a film that is by turn trippy, surreal, downbeat and sad, the images underpinned by Langhorne’s melancholy score using guitars, tonal effects, fiddle, banjo and sitar. His score predates by nearly 30 years the work of David “Papa M” Pajo and Will “Bonnie Prince Billy” Oldham and even manages to match Ry Cooder’s sublime Paris, Texas score for its winsome evocation of high plains drifting.Langhorne’s finest hour with Dylan is throughout the Bringing It All Back Home lp, and most tellingly on She Belongs To Me and Love Minus Zero/No Limit. The other defining track is Mr Tambourine Man, which Dylan notes in the booklet to the Biograph Box Set: “Mr Tambourine Man, I think, was inspired by Bruce Langhorne. Bruce was playing guitar with me on a bunch of the early records. And he had this gigantic tambourine. It was like, really big. It was as big as a wagon wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in my mind. He was one of those characters…”
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