The Unsung Heroes of Americana – Lloyd Maines, Producer & Multi-instrumentalist

Being the father of Natalie Maines, lead singer for The Chicks (previously the Dixie Chicks) may, in itself, be enough to qualify Lloyd Maines as an Unsung Hero of Americana but that’s not what earned him a Grammy or made him one of the first three members of the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, alongside Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan!

Lloyd Wayne Maines (born June 28, 1951) is an American country music record producer, musician and songwriter who was born and raised in Lubbock, also the birthplace of Buddy Holly, of course, and is now based in Austin, Texas.

Maines is, perhaps, best known in the UK (by those that do know of him) as a producer. In his native US, he’s recognised as a particularly fine pedal steel player but he is a multi-instrumentalist who has performed, and recorded, playing electric and acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin, lap steel guitar, and banjo. If it has got strings, there’s a good chance Lloyd Maines can play it!

Lloyd Maines has been particularly important for Texas music. It’s quite phenomenal the number of Texan musicians he has produced and, when you add to that the number he has played with, or contributed sessions for, it’s fair to suggest that there can be few Texan recordings since the 1970s that don’t have some connection to this outstanding musician. He has toured and recorded as a member of the Joe Ely Band almost as long as Joe Ely has had a band! He has also played with Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, Jimmie Dale Gilmore…..and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! He started out in The Maines Brothers Band, with his younger brothers Kenny, Steve and Donnie. In fact, they were the second generation Maines Brothers Band, the original having been started by their father and uncles. The band did record, releasing eight albums between 1978 and 1991 and, at one point, had a contract with Polydor Records, but the band never really broke through in a big way. Maines had started to play with Joe Ely’s band while still part of The Maines Brothers Band and playing with other bands, plus session work and his growing reputation as a producer meant he would, eventually, call it a day with his own band (though the Maines Brothers Band have performed at a number of reunion concerts, the most recent being in 2015).

Maines began producing by working on some of his own music and with local, minor country artists but people really started to take notice of him as a producer with Terry Allen’s seminal 1979 album, “Lubbock (On Everything)” and, since then, he has gone on to produce for many artists though, surprisingly, only one Maines produced album has ever been Grammy Award Nominated – the Dixie Chicks 2002 album, “Home”. It’s appropriate that, if he only ever wins that one Grammy, it should be with the Chicks. Not only is he Natalie’s father, but he was instrumental in bringing that breakthrough line-up together and he found the Susan Gibson song, ‘Wide Open Spaces’, that has become their signature tune. It should be clarified that “Home” didn’t just receive the one nomination – it received six and walked away with the Grammy for four of them – including Best Country Album.

All Music lists no less than 1,536 recording credits for this man, starting back in the early 1970s with his first session as a steel player, with Texan country band Bob Fuggs’ Country Revue and coming right up to this year’s outstanding new Flatlanders album “Treasure of Love”, where he’s not only the record’s producer but is also listed with the following credits – Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Dobro, Mandolin, Guitar (Bass), Pedal Steel, Vocal Harmony, Mixing & Mastering! Lloyd Maines is that rare beast – a Jack of All Trades who seems to master everything he takes on.

Perhaps the great talent of Maines as a producer is that he always lets the artist shine through. He’s known to be the master of the low-budget production – all those years working with small Texan bands has obviously helped him to develop a cost-effective approach to creating great records – but he’s also very good at letting the artist establish their own identity. The likes of Daniel Lanois and T-Bone Burnett are great producers, their track records speak for themselves, but the music they produce often reflects their signature sound rather than the natural sound of the artist. That’s not a criticism. Artists seek these producers out because they like the sound they produce and want to go in that direction, but an established, award-winning producer who doesn’t want to promote their own signature sound and would rather help the artist find the sound they’re looking for, is a rare thing. Maines summed up his approach to producing in an interview with Lone Star Music editor, Richard Skanse – “You know, there’s a few things that I strive for. I try to get everything in tune, for sure. That’s kind of a given, but I just try to make sure that everybody has their instruments tuned up to 440. And I try to help the singers — I mean, Terry Allen doesn’t even consider himself a great singer, but he can deliver his songs as well as anybody — I try to help everyone sing in tune and in a listenable fashion. But as far as any kind of Lloyd Maines feature? I just try to treat every artist as an individual, so I try to approach every project with a clean slate. I don’t go in with any kind of pre-conceived notion to bully my way into a sound. I just try to listen”. It’s a great philosophy from a man whose motivation always seems to come from the music, not the money.

In recent years Maines has become closely associated with another Texan singer-songwriter, Terri Hendrix, producing her albums and touring as a member of her band or as her sole accompanist on individual gigs. Maines has never stopped being a musician first and foremost; something else that makes him a great producer.

Lloyd Maines – musician, producer, and Unsung Hero of Americana.

About Rick Bayles 354 Articles
Now living the life of a political émigré in rural France and dreaming of the day I'll be able to sing those Cajun lyrics with an authentic accent!
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