Pete Herzog is not just a professional musician and artist; he is much more than that, he is a storyteller, singer/songwriter, excellent guitarist, who is devoted to the music he loves. To come up with something as brilliant and unique as a blues opera one must be interested in not only music but also in people, their history and ups and down in life, and then being able to combine all these things and express them through music with the help of an instrument, in this case a steel guitar. In this story the listener will follow a steel guitar as its being played by its different owners and how it is passed down through generations. This is not just a story about a guitar; it is also a story about, (as Pete writes in the liner notes) “love, loss and the pursuit of happiness with a little gamblin and ramblin thrown in”. If you love the sound of a steel guitar and if you love blues music, then this is something you will like. When I was listening to the blues opera, it was like watching a movie in my head, a movie filled with events that one might encounter in real life and the most important thing of all, the good music.” - Roger Molinder


Over my 6+ years of doing reviews, I have come across many creative ways in which Blues artists have done their albums, but I must say that one of the most creative to date is Pete Herzog's "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera". "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" is my 2nd introduction to Pete Herzog, the first being his critically acclaimed 2008 release, "Homestyle". Pete Herzog is no stranger to the Blues as he started playing at the age of only 8. "He learned the slide and playing using all the harmonics and overtones he could wring out of an instrument. During the folk revival he switched to a regular guitar, but eventually was drawn to playing bottleneck in various open tunings." Pete usually uses several Guitars for his shows, all tuned a little differently. "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" is a 2 disc release, and tells the story of a Steel Guitar via 27 Tracks of spoken word and 22 Tracks of songs, all written and performed by Pete Herzog. Over a series of generations, "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera", traces the history of one Steel Guitar as it is stolen, bought, won, purchased, stolen again, and so on, in no particular order. Pete does this by mainly telling stories of the people who have the Guitar in their possession and how they not only acquired the Guitar, but also in some cases how they lost it, or had it stolen and how the Guitar affected those that had it. Pete Herzog is an extremely intriguing and well versed Storyteller, whom has no problem immersing us in each of the tales throughout this album. "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" comes across as an album you would just like to curl up in front of a warm fireplace and contently be taken away to another world with. As of the writing of this review, Pete Herzog is still contemplating whether or not to develop and release a DVD of "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera". I personally think that that would be awesome. Pete currently tours with "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" as a one man show of which he recently said, ""Steel Guitar" is a performance piece, best done in a theater type environment, not to be confused with the regular show that I do that is just music that I play in wineries, restaurants, festivals, etc." "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" is a very rare, creative, and intriguing work of musical art, one in which I doubt we will see the likes of again, for a very long time, if ever. "Steel Guitar - A Blues Opera" enthusiastically gets my highest rating of 5*****. Highly Recommended and Thoroughly Enjoyed... Review by John Vermilyea (Blues Underground Network) John Vermilyea - The Blues Report (Feb 2, 2012) ” - John Vermilyea

The Blues Report

I can almost guarantee that you've never hear anything like Steel Guitar: A Blues Opera. Composed and performed by Oregon bluesman Pete Herzog, the opera combines storytelling and original songs on two discs. Herzog has been playing the blues since he was eight years old and has always been drawn to Delta and country blues. He has been presenting this project as a one-man-show at various venues around the U.S., mostly on the west coast and Hawaii, and has received rave reviews for his performances. Steel Guitar traces the history of one guitar as it's bought, stolen, won, purchased, and handed down from generation to generation. According to Herzog's narration, the guitar's sound is colored by each person who plays it and, in return, each musician absorbs the history of the instrument itself. The 22 songs, all written by Herzog, link the stories of the lives of the various characters that come into contact with the guitar over the years. Herzog has a smooth, easygoing style both as a narrator (recounting the stories of each character, along with background about the guitar and the music itself) and as a singer and guitarist. The story moves along quickly and you feel genuine sympathy for the plight of most of the characters. Herzog always keeps things in focus though, stopping the character's story when the guitar leaves their possession (even though sometimes you find yourself wanting to know what happened to them). It's an entertaining story from start to finish. As mentioned, Herzog has been presenting the opera as a one-man-show, though his original intent was that it could be performed either by one person or a group of musicians. It will be interesting to see how this concept develops over time. Herzog is undecided on whether to release Steel Guitar on DVD, but hopefully that will happen one day. In the meantime, visit his website to find out more about this fascinating CD. Graham Clarke - Blues Bytes (Sep 1, 2011) ” - Graham Clarke

Blues Bytes

“Rock Opera” was transformed from an abstract term into evocative reality with the release of The Who’s album “Tommy.” Even lukewarm rock fans will never forget the saga of a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who becomes a modern messiah -- while playing pinball! Few musicians have attempted to follow in The Who’s footsteps and write “operas” of their own, even if they wouldn’t meet the traditional definition of the word. Nevertheless, the Northwest's Pete Herzog has taken this bold step and creatively composed “Steel Guitar: A Blues Opera.” In it, Herzog combines 22 original songs with libretto, or storytelling, tracks. Together, these selections tell the tale of a timeless, traveling steel-bodied, chrome-finished acoustic, resonator guitar (a National brand?) and how it enriches the lives of those who play it. It’s a one man show easily holding attention as Herzog proves adept at guitar and warm and rich in vocals and narration. Always focused on the guitar, the story moves at a quick pace. “Steel Guitar” tells the story of this instrument as it is passed from owner to owner. As it journeys, we meet colorful and lifelike characters, such as “Too Slim, Clyde, Willie, Stella, and The Sheriff.” The guitar is purchased and then, variously, is stolen, won in a card game, and inherited by later generations of players. According to Pete Herzog's website “Through its travels, the resonator sound is enriched by each person who plays it. Herzog’s 22 original songs are the glue between the stories and the lives of these characters, filled with love, loss and the pursuit of happiness, with a little rambling and gambling thrown in!” Herzog's take: Listeners "will hear [my] songs give a flavor of blues history. [I] include musical styles that showcase elements of blues roots and development of different styles. I have often thought about vintage instruments I have played and wondered at their history and felt all those who had played them had colored their sound.” Pete Herzog started playing at age eight on a lap steel. He learned the slide and playing using all the “harmonics and overtones he could wring out of an instrument. During the folk revival he switched to a regular guitar, but eventually was drawn to playing bottleneck slide. Pete discovered blues, bluegrass, and other roots-type music. Not knowing better at the time, he learned to play with a flat pick, not traditional but giving him a different style and sound. When he first heard the blues he was taken with the style, so similar to Hawaiian music in approach yet so different in sound and effect. Both types of music use the instrument as another voice, using all the harmonics and overtones to make the guitar sing." As for “Steel Guitar,” it’s not exactly on par with “Tommy” (there are no songs as addicting as “Pinball Wizard,” for example), but it’s noteworthy in its concept and execution, and it’s perfect for making miles go by on car trips or a relaxing evening at home! Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 32 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection. Rainey Wetnight - Blues Blast Magazine (Jan 26, 2012)” - Rainey Wetnight

Blues Blast Magazine

Steel Guitar, A Blues Opera, By Pete Herzog Pete Herzog's Steel Guitar, A Blues Opera, tells the story of one guitar as it passes through different hands over its lifetime. It's purchased, stolen, won in a card game, and handed down through generations. "I have often thought about vintage instruments I have played and wondered at their history and felt all those who had played had colored their sound," Herzog explains. That curiosity about whose hands have graced a guitar and where it has traveled sparked the idea for the new album. Steel Guitar, A Blues Opera, features 22 original songs. The music, a combination of acoustic blues and folk, is only part of the album. In between songs, Herzog narrates the story of the gamblers and lovers who are linked by the guitar. The backroad characters include Too Slim, who starts off the tale by having the guitar stolen, and Clyde, who loves but loses a gal named Stella. Herzog's affection for them and the others who populate his blues opera shine through. His own bio is just as colorful, reading that he started playing lap steel at age 8 and worked on the railroad, where he learned call-and-response songs while driving spikes into wood ties. The album showcases Herzog's picking style and smooth, lived-in voice. His relaxed, autumnal way of spinning a story recalls Greg Brown, maybe Utah Phillips, but with less folk and more blues. The two-disc album would be good to take on a long road trip when you have time to listen and digest the entire piece. Herzog would be fine company. On the other hand, more casual listeners may be put off by the narrative storytelling breaks that come quickly and often between songs. As a result, it is important to know that this is a performance piece and not a straight-ahead music album. Herzog has been performing the work as a one-man show, but he wrote the material with the idea that it could be performed by a number of people. Donna Kimura - (Jan 29, 2012) ” - Donna Kimura

I have been listening to an interesting release called STEEL GUITAR a blues opera by Pete Herzog. Pete has put in an incredible amount of work on this 49 (22 songs) track forage into his thoughts about where an ancient guitar may have been prior to his coming to play it. Pete tells tales of possible journeys, events and life experiences that the instrument may carry as he accompanies himself on guitar and sings songs. Pete has a good voice for this type of playing and has good command of his instrument, The release is well thought through, interesting and well played. Nice job Pete! Bman - Bman's Blues Report (Jan 29, 2012) ” - Bman

Bman's Blues Report

I wrote about Pete Herzog's ambitious project a few months ago. Herzog has composed a blues opera, called Steel Guitar, that is one of the most original ideas I've heard in quite some time. Herzog tracks the history of one guitar as it's passed from owner to owner, whether stolen, won in a card game, purchased or passed down from one generation to the next, using narration and music to illustrate the journey. As the guitar passes through time and through different hands, as the liner notes state,".....its sound is colored by each person who plays it and they feel its history." Herzog's songs give you a sense of the guitar's journey, incorporating various styles...all rooted in the blues. It's an interesting journey and one worth taking if you're a fan of the blues or blues guitar. Herzog recently released a double CD version of Steel Guitar, which can be purchased at his website, either as a CD or mp3. You can also listen to samples of the tracks there. He has a nice, easygoing style whether narrating the entertaining back stories or singing the songs. Hopefully, in the future, he can get it released in DVD format as well, but in the meantime, give Steel Guitar a listen. Graham Clarke - Friday Blues Fix (Sep 9, 2011) ” - Graham Clarke

Friday Blues Fix

Monday, January 31, 2011 No Fat Lady Opera: It's a Blues Odyssey At first sight Pete Herzog may resemble a typical bearded biker (or back-woods hippie) guy with a bottle of whiskey sitting on a stage, guitar in hand. Standard stuff, right? You will be thinking twice once the blues-opera "Steel Guitar" gets underway. This man's presence commands respect, the sort of respect you'd offer to your grandfather, one of his friends or even a fun uncle you've had the occasion to have a few drinks with. For the most part, those of us in younger generations do not expect a song, or album, to tell us a story. We're used to booty-shaking fluff. By definition "opera" means telling a story through music. Your attention will be immediately garnered and held with the very idea of a story told through music via a "Steel Guitar". It's one fantastic way to tell a story, if you ask me. Pete Herzog's album and performance of his opera "Steel Guitar" does just that, tells the story of one guitar's owners with a range of upbeat blues simple-life songs to tales of love lost. To speak to a neighbor during the telling of a story from a wise and talented member of the music community would be a remarkable disrespect. You do not want to miss a thing in the journey of this shiny metal guitar. It captivates in the way blues should captivate.; not the powerful vocal blues, but the sort of blues that tell a real story. In this case, the tale of one guitar's soul as it passes through time from hand to hand; if guitars have souls. In today's society, you will not be sitting in a smoky room crammed with a degenerate rough-and-tumble sort of crowd., though, it is fun to imagine such an atmosphere while in attendance. Pete Herzog's performance puts you in that place; minus the rowdy crowd and toxic air. Should you have the opportunity and craving for a story and/or a sip of whiskey (both?), or you're a blue guru; you will not be disappointed by this Oregonian playing, singing and telling the stories of hard working men, no-good gamblers and regretful hearts reminiscing over the one woman that got away; all told with the character and personality of Pete Herzog and the accompaniment of one very special "Steel Guitar". It does not matter whether you are 75 or 25, if you enjoy a plot, music and a relaxed atmosphere; you WILL enjoy your night out with Pete Herzog.” - Dawn Hatchard

Dawn of the Whatnot

One of the great things I've discovered about the blues over the years is that the possibilities are endless for ways that artists can express them. For years, it was mostly accessible by means of listening to records or juke boxes or radios or seeing artists performing live. Today, there are so many different ways to experience the genre. Most artists now have DVD's available for purchase, so you can see them perform in the comfort of your home (which is not the same, I'll admit, but for those who don't live within driving distance, it's pretty handy). Also, you can download tunes via the internet and iTunes or some other service, or even watch a performance via the internet......Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale had a link for a while that allowed you to view their performers on selected nights (unfortunately, it's no longer available). Still, those options can be considered pretty mainstream. There are other ways to experience the blues....ways that you might not have expected. For example, take Oregon blues guitarist Pete Herzog. Herzog has been playing the blues since he was 8 years old and has spent most of his life around the genre. All of his life, he's been attracted to the blues, especially the delta and country blues. Over the past year, Herzog has composed an opera, called Steel Guitar. It's a one man show with 22 original songs that tell the story of a guitar as it is passed from owner to owner, whether it's bought, sold, stolen, or won. According to Herzog, the guitar's sound is colored by each person who plays it and in return, the musicians absorb the history of the instrument, and the blues itself. The songs provide the link between the stories of the lives of the various characters and the guitar. Here's a couple of selections from the performance. Even though Herzog is currently performing Steel Guitar as a one man show, he composed the opera with the idea that it could be performed by either one person or by a number of people. The possibilities are endless with this sort of concept, provided enough people are aware of it. So far, Herzog has performed the piece primarily on the West Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington state) for the past nine months, working out the kinks, and will be traveling to Hawaii later this month. He's hoping to work his way east later this year to Austin, New Orleans, and, hopefully, Mississippi. Pete Herzog In December, Mr. Herzog sent me a copy of a performance from late in 2010, plus a CD of the songs. He plans to release the "official" CD in late winter/early spring, but is undecided on when (or if) he will release a DVD. Watching the performance that he sent me, it's obvious that he has a solid grasp on delta and country blues. It's a nice, relaxed performance that could only be better if seen in person. If you'd like to hear more about Pete Herzog, please visit his website and check out his clips at YouTube.” - Graham

Friday Blues Fix

By Mike Oxendine Ashland Daily Tidings September 25, 2009 Pete Herzog is finally living the life he dreamed of when he was in high school — except the part about the money rolling in. Since he recorded "Homestyle," his debut album, in June 2008, the solo acoustic blues artist who lives in Trail has been up and down the West Coast playing at venues familiar but mostly strange, meeting lots of new friends and sharing memorable moments with old ones — then loading up and doing it again and again. This summer had a particularly busy schedule, which he dubbed The Bad Decisions Tour because of its spur-of-the-moment planning. It's mostly been the man and his music, full-time, with many friends and admirers, new and old, to meet and greet along the way. "I didn't really want to come home," he said. Live performance is the origin of the blues, Herzog said, a tradition that inspires his music. If you play by yourself, it almost seems sinful," he said. "You get a reaction from your audience and you feed off that, and that sort of colors the way you play. You go back to the tradition — I love busking. I love playing on the street corners. It's not the money, it's kind of keeping score." So when Herzog sat in Wednesday with his shiny, metal resonance guitar to play three songs at the Tidings Café in front of a handful of enthusiastic listeners, he was plenty accustomed to the small setting. He graciously accepted turkey and Swiss on wheat and video clips on and (where his performance can be viewed) as his "tip." He played "Woman That I love," the lead track from "Homestyle," and a pair of new tunes, "Gamblin and Ramblin," based on one of the characters in Herzog's next recording project, a blues opera, and "One-Eyed Jack," a folk-influenced blues he recently put together. Homestyle" is exactly what the title promises. It was recorded live "among friends, to insure that homestyle, back porch feeling" at Hartkop Studios in Central Point. It has 18 tracks, including 15 originals and a unique take on "House of the Rising Sun." About half the songs that are on it, once I found out, I wrote those in about a month's time," he said. "Some I'd been kicking around longer, but a lot of them I got real inspired — (the opportunity to record) opened up the faucet." Herzog's down-home blues is rooted in the tradition of Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt — he is masterful in his use of the glass bottleneck slide — and at the same time he subtly twists in the folk styles of singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan and Greg Brown. He is also heavily influenced by Blind Willie Johnson, an early 20th century musician who combined blues with spirituals. Of this not-often-heard form of 20s and 30s, a blending of American and European styles and played in minor keys, Herzog said: "The blues I listen to are a lot more than the standard 12-bar, three chords." His fondness for spirituals goes back to childhood, when he learned guitar playing on Hawaiian steel lap. Even though it would seem very different, the philosophy of Hawaiian slack key guitar is similar to blues in that it tries to mimic the voice of the singer, Herzog said, adding: "It's sort of my musical touch stone." His flat-pick style is unique because the types of guitar music he plays are normally performed finger-style: using a thumb for the bass line and the other four fingers to pluck the strings. "So I pick really fast because I'm trying to get all those notes that you would get playing with four fingers," he said. He also spends a lot of time working off the different harmonics, trying to get a full sound and fit all the different notes he can into a space, and in that way, his guitar playing is heavily influenced by Leo Kottke, he said. Of "Woman That I Love," one of his slide-heavy, traditional blues tunes, Herzog said: "I just kind of liked that galloping bass line, so then I needed to think up some words to go along with it. And I'm partial to blues love songs. Blues doesn't always have to be about hurting and crying. It can be about all kinds of things." Gamblin' and Ramblin'" was written from the standpoint of a mythical bluesman who does a lot of, well, you guessed it, gambling and rambling. The blues opera project was inspired by a one-man show, with Guy Davis, son of the late actor Ossie Davis, Herzog saw at the Unitarian Center in Ashland. I wanted to play venues where people would listen to me," Herzog said. "I'm not really the kind of musician that plays at a bar. I'm happy to, but most bars don't want to hire solo musicians. I'm trying to expand my career, and that was sort of a vehicle to do it. It was just sort of a project that would be fun to do." One-Eyed Jack," with its poetic lyrical imagery, is typical of Herzog's singer-songwriter influenced blues. He'd never had to write down a title, so he didn't have one before he played it Wednesday, he said. More often than not, I will develop the music first and then say, 'Well, that sounds good, now I need some words,'" he said. Mike Oxendine is the Daily Tidings page design editor. He can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 229 or” - Mike Oxendine

Ashland Daily Tidings

Now, if I can pull you away to meet one last artist. Over here where all of the commotion is, Pete’s telling stories again. I want to introduce you to bluesman Pete Herzog from Trail, Oregon. I have to confess this artist has stolen my heart with his back porch blues and honest vocals. (Plus I’ve always been a pushover for a full beard!). His “Pretty Mama Take Me Home” may not have the polish of my husband, Ron Franz’s “Mama, Put a Slow Record On” (a tune that keeps me happily married to this singer/songwriter), Pete Herzog’s song has a tender honesty and delicate guitar that just grabs me. But even his slide blues tune, “Jump On Blues,” has my foot tapping and, though written about the Pacific Northwest, have the feel of the Delta. Pete picked up the lap steel when he was eight and changed to guitar as a teenager, learning blues, bluegrass, and all manner of roots music, not with finger-style techniques but with a flat pick. He soon discovered harmonics and open tunings and, of course, slide. Pete worked on the railroad earlier in his life and soon picked up a lot of steel driving songs, including call and response styles. This helped color his musical life and soon began to influence his own songwriting. He once said, “I’ve lived most of my life in the country on a dirt road and spent countless hours pickin’ guitar on the back porch. To me the blues have always been more than three chords and twelve bars, sometimes one chord is plenty to tell the story and convey the feeling I’m trying to put out. The blues is mostly about a man and woman, the yin and yang, the light and dark, the tension and release, but it doesn’t always have to be sad.” Though Pete has played in a lot of bands over the years and even did some solo work, he spent a number of years just picking on his porch, making music for himself and his friends. Today, he’s back touring in support of his new CD, Homestyle, a sweet collection of roots blues from the real deal! [See his exclusive Q&A on the Skope SonicBids page.] Well, that’s the lot this month. They’re all great talents. Why don’t you check out some of their websites and have a listen to some of their CDs. For me, I’m going to sit with Pete Herzog a little longer. And, don’t worry, Ron, I’m be home where that slow record is playing real soon! By Janie Franz –” - Janie Franz