A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
Reviews this month cover an exciting spectrum of recent guitar-led releases...
Album of the month
BRIAN SETZER’s ROCKABILLY RIOT! Surfdog/Cargo Records The King of modern Rockabilly is back with a corker of a live album and DVD recorded in Japan this year. Backed by drums, bass, keys and guitar this is the stripped-back Setzer, sans his big orchestra resulting in a more strutting rock and roll sound. Armed with his trademark Gretsch guitars, brown-faced Fender Bassman amp and a dash of slap-back echo, Setzer’s guitar tone is woody and wirey, recorded wonderfully here. As it’s a live gig, one expects some of his classics so it’s great to hear Stray Cat Strut, Rock This Town, Sleepwalk and Rumble In Brighton in all their glory. As for solos, standouts include the pull-off and bending rawness in Stiletto Cool and his tribute medley, Gene & Eddie crams in pretty much all the best double-stop, Bigsby dips and pull-off moves so beloved in the genre. Closer, Seven Nights To Rock features him and the band chugging like mad while his guitar wails magnificently. A riot indeed! Janet Robin Take Me as I aM Little Sister Records Janet is a busy woman with a new band project release, The String Revolution (four-guitar line-up) and this new solo album, Take Me As I Am. The latter is a vibrant pop-blues-rock release featuring 10 songs stuffed with guitar tones and ‘executive produced’ by John Carter Cash (Johnny Cash and June Carter’s son). A blend of electrics and acoustics drive the opener, I’m A Rich Girl, a blues featuring an infectious groove and Pentatonic guitar lines. The Baritone guitar riffs and acoustic strumming in Leave It To Me hark back to the ’70s; Janet’s time touring with Lyndsey Buckingham has been a good influence. The upbeat groove and rich rock riffing of On My Feet nods towards guitar pop while the unison bends, hammer-ons and tremolo picking add energy for the solo. Janet’s got broad chops as her short solo acoustic piece, Prelude To A Dream shows; it’s full of busy strumming and precise riffing pull-offs. Her early lessons with Randy Rhoads have sure paid off! Jeff Healey HoldIng on Provogue Healey was an immense musician with unique style and a great voice, so this new album should appeal to fans of killer guitar! Comprising five outtakes from his 1996-98 ‘lost’ album Heal My Soul and 10 live track from a 1999 concert it’s a riveting listen. Kicking off with a full-tilt blues-rocker, Love Takes Time, Jeff’s guitar is passionate and searing with one of the most arresting bending and vibrato approaches ever. One of his most appealing aspects was rhythmic authority, both as a soloist and as a riff creator; Every Other Guy has a Beatles-meets-SRV feel while the double-tracked riff and strummed acoustic in All That I Believe is very appealing. As for the live tracks, he’s on fire with a cracking take on Dust My Broom, a laid-back How Blue Can You Get and a fun Stuck In The Middle With You with its slick slide solo. If you hanker for more Healey guitar at the end, See The Light is full of bluesy blazing! Willie and tHe bandits sTeal Jig-Saw Willie Edwards (vocals, guitars), Matt Brooks (bass) and Andrew Naumann (drums) are known for their stunning live shows. And as Steal’s opener Miles Away kicks in with Willie’s acoustic lap-slide and dirty bottleneck electric, you get the feeling that they mean business. While neither straight blues nor rock, this album ticks a lot of those boxes, but with the added element of strong social awareness in the lyrics. Hot Rocks is a riffy, Stonesy, number, while Scared Of The Sun is underpinned by a gorgeous moody riff from Brooks’s six-string bass and a heartfelt slide solo from Willie. On 1970 Edwards leads with a fingerpicked electric riff, while Our World’s acoustic guitar, congas and five-string double bass lend a cooler vibe. Filled with light and shade throughout - including Deep Purple’s Don Airey adding keys on three tracks - it was recorded ‘live in the studio’ to capture the group’s legendary live feel. If you like your blues on the dirty side this is a great listen from start to finish.
JOHN Mayall Talk ABOUT THAT Forty Below Records
Since the mid ’60s Mayall has been at the forefront of British blues. He’s introduced us to Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor - and that only accounts for about four years of The Bluesbreakers! Mayall may be 83 but you’d never guess it from this new release. On Talk About That, he’s joined for a couple of tracks by another legend in the form of Joe Walsh, who said of the experience: “It has been a bucket list item since 1970 to play with John Mayall… finally got the chance.” The two tracks concerned are The Devil Must Be Laughing and Cards On The Table - probably the guitar high spots of the disc, with Walsh adding six-string footnotes to Mayall’s tortured lyrics. Other guitar duties fall to the immensely capable Rocky Athas. Look out for live dates at Ronnie Scott’s in April. GORDON GILTRAP THE LAST of england Angel Air Gordon’s latest project sees him team up with multi-keyboard player Paul Ward, who adds sensitive orchestration to the 14 tunes on The Last Of England. The first seven pieces make up The Brotherhood Suite and are based around Pre-Raphaelite paintings, some of which hang in Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. Gordon has huge fans in the rock world including Pete Townshend, Brian May and Ritchie Blackmore – the latter nominating Gordon as, “one of the best acoustic guitarists in the world”. We can almost hear his fans nodding in agreement. As you would expect, the tracks are intensely melodic with touches of an almost baroque grandeur here and there. You’d expect a bit of the GG fretboard wizardry and there’s plenty of that in evidence from his ‘plectrum and fourth finger’ picking style, but above all what you get here is sensitive, beautiful mastery.