BARRY SLESS – guitar, pedal steel guitar
Born in Baltimore, MD, Barry began his career as a touring musician playing guitar and pedal steel with the Maryland based western swing band, Cowboy Jazz. Their two album releases on Rounder Records became favorites of the legendary Northern California radio station KFAT, whose generous airplay in the San Francisco Bay Area led to regular West Coast touring. After jamming at a San Francisco club with Kingfish founder Matthew Kelly, Barry was invited to join the group. Touring with Kingfish introduced Barry to other Bay Area based bands and in 1994, he became a founding member of the David Nelson Band. DNB caught the attention of Phil Lesh who included Barry and other members on shows with him at The Warfield Theater in 1999. Barry became a regular member in most of Lesh’s touring lineups from 2005 through 2008 and continues to guest with him periodically, having played well over a hundred shows with the various formation of the band. In 2007 he joined Roger McNamee’s new group, Moonalice. The group’s 2009 CD release was produced by Grammy award winning producer T-Bone Burnett.
Additional musical endeavors include California Kind, with longtime bandmates Pete Sears and John Molo as well as keyboardist Rob Barraco and singer/songwriter/guitarist Katie Skene, and Rattlebox- a unique collaboration featuring Lorin Rowan on acoustic guitar and vocals, Doug Harman on cello and vocals, and Barry on pedal steel guitar.
Barry’s pedal steel can be heard on selected tracks from three Chris Robinson Brotherhood albums (“Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel” and “If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now”, both released in 2016 and “Barefoot In The Head” released in 2017).
During his career, Barry has also shared the stage and traded notes with Carlos Santana, Bob Weir, Bill Kruetzmann, Mickey Hart, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Cassidy, Warren Haynes, Jimmy Herring, John Scofield, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Larry Campbell, Chris Robinson, Joan Osborne, Ryan Adams, Jackie Greene, Peter Rowan, Jeff Sipe and others.
Barry’s playing combines elements of many different genres, and can evoke styles reminiscent of artists from the western swing of Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys and the twang of the Bakersfield classic country sound, through the psychedelic and free wheeling improvisational styles of the Grateful Dead. He maintains a strong sense of song, melody, phrasing and taste, while creating his own unique sound. With roots planted in Americana, hints of jazz and Motown and a dose of psychedelia, he’s at home backing up a singer/songwriter or making a quick left turn, leaving the script and soaring into cosmos of free form improvisation.