These days, you can easily be discouraged by the 24-7 news cycle. Often highlighting the worst aspects of society, it can be a constant wave of bad news that can wear down a person’s will and optimism. When Jeff Plankenhorn wrote the mellow “Love is Love,” he meant, in some form or fashion, to combat some of those destructive unpleasantries.
Found on Plankenhorn’s forthcoming album, Sleeping Dogs, “Love is Love” is an unhurried reminder of the good and pure. There’s a touch of soul in Plankenhorn’s delivery that nudges that easy-going melody along with a satisfying bounce.
“‘Love is Love’ was inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s speech/recited poetry at the 2016 Tony Awards following the Pulse Night Club shooting in Florida,” Plankenhorn tells Wide Open Country. “He said those words over and over; Love is love is love—and it meant so much and affected me so deeply I had to attempt to put love is love to a melody so people could sing it. My modest attempt.”
That pure and simple approach pays off for Plankenhorn on the Randy Newman-esque ballad. You’re not forgetting the chorus anytime soon. For Plankenhorn, that’s the whole point — it’s a reminder that love conquers all. He emphasizes that resilience needed in life.
“The song has taken new life as so many songs do when they ‘leave the nest’ and go out into the world, and it means so many things to so many people,” says Plankenhorn. “All of it has been love. I hope whoever you are when you hear this song, you know your love is cool, no matter what anyone tells you.”
Slide Guitar Prodigy
Plankenhorn, who’s been a high-in-demand guitarist for years in the Austin music scene, has a long list of sideman credits. Over the years, he’s contributed his impeccable touch to albums by the likes of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Joe Ely, Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson and Hayes Carll. As expected, Plankenhorn’s prowess on all stringed instruments — dobro, guitar, pedal steel, and “the plank” lap steel (an instrument he created) —is all over Sleeping Dogs.
But make no mistakes, Plankenhorn’s songwriting is on par with his playing. Sleeping Dogs isn’t just an excuse to show off his virtuosic chops at lap steel. All that experience playing with others, it’s helped mold his own songs. He not only has a sharp awareness of what to play, but when to play as well. He lyrics breathe and be just as potent as his slide guitar.
Plankenhorn recruits some of his longtime collaborators for Sleeping Dogs. With co-producer “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb and engineer Pat Manske as the mainline band, Plankenhorn recruits some of his longtime collaborators for Sleeping Dogs. The likes of Hubbard, Patty Griffin and Emily Gimble all contribute vocals.
“I miss the songs of John Lennon and Marvin Gaye, and am so inspired by new songs penned by Mary Gauthier and Gary Nicholson,” says Plankenhorn. “When you can sing along to a simple melody that says so much; that’s a kind of song I aspire to write.”
Sleeping Dogs is out May 4.