A selection of new and reissued guitar releases, including Album Of The Month
Latest guitar CDs reviewed and rated.
Doyle Bramhall II Shades Provogue Records ✪✪✪✪✪
If you know Bramhall as Clapton’s ‘upsidedown southpaw’ sideman but have not yet checked out the Texan’s solo output you’ve a treat in store should you put this in your player. Opening with the dark ‘Nirvana meets
Beatles’ Love And Rain with its stunning backwards guitar, there’s no let-up. We kick straight in to Hammer Ring, a festival of sound with great vocals, a fine Doyle solo and powerful production from Bramhall himself. The top-quality influences come thick and fast: Everything You Need could have come from Innervisions-era Stevie Wonder and features no less than EC on guitar. If for ‘Texas guitarist’ you instantly read SRV then think again. This goes way deeper. The sounds are amazing, evoking all the aforementioned but also Fleet Foxes, CSN&Y and more, but with Doyle’s powerful writing, singing and guitar taking centre stage. Top mentions also go to Searching For Love featuring Norah Jones, and Going Going Gone powered by the mighty Tedeschi Trucks Band. Texas blues it ain’t – absolutely stunning stuff it is!
Plini Sunhead Plini ✪✪✪✪✪
Instrumental electric guitar is going through some interesting changes; there are the shredders who play rock (or neo-classical) very fast, riff based Djent metal stylists who favour gained-out seven and eight-strings, fusion players that link jazz with other styles (rock, funk etc) and ambient progressives who favour timbral texture over never-ending note streams. In some ways, 20-something Australian guitarist Plini embraces all these with a style that can be aggressive then uplifting and ambient. Blend Wayne Krantz, Nick Johnston and Animals As Leaders for an approximate observation. Sunhead is his new four-track EP which follows an album, three previous EPs and various singles. Welding a headless Strandberg guitar, there’s an intriguing beauty amid his
fluidity and syncopations that sets him apart. Opener, Kind flows through various intensities with sophistication that belies his age. Salt & Charcoal is the big one though; strong, operatic riffing with clipped note cascades enhanced by syncopated melodies and joyous harmony. Killer solo too. The ragingly beautiful title track features a guest solo from US legato legend, Tim Miller; both play great on this. Watch out for Plini - Steve Vai has already clocked that the Australian is definitely refreshing!
Ben Poole Anytime You Need Me Manhaton ✪✪✪✪✪
Having transcended the ‘most promising’ label this third effort of effortlessly cool pop-blues ensures Poole is now a fully-fledged contender. With his breathy voice and R&B harmonies luring you in, the blissed out guitar work is almost unassuming until it explodes on the soaring lead of Found Out The Hard Way, while Dirty Laundry’s choppy tones giving way to a real exploration of six-string histrionics. As we rush into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, there’s still time for this to cement itself as your late summer soundtrack. If you like Jonny Lang and John Mayer this will definitely appeal and, come to think of it, you may even prefer it!
Billy F Gibbons The Big Bad Blues Snakefarm Records ✪✪✪✪✪
Few guitarists haven’t heard of ZZ Top; the hugely iconic blues-rock band has cultivated a huge fanbase for over 50 years! For those that love the band’s blues-rock style (Tush, Just Got Paid, etc) this new release by frontman Gibbons is a corker as the 11 tracks are full of groove and gusto. Divided between originals and older blues classics, Billy growls and sings with real flair while his guitar swaggers, shuffles and slides with timeless amp tones. Opener, Missin’ The Kissin’ is a real foot-tapper; slower than ZZ’s classic, La Grange but certainly in that ballpark. My Baby Rocks is infectious with its wide groove, harmonica licks and a laid-back solo. Muddy Waters songs occur twice; Standing Around Crying (a great slow blues with tasty solo) and Rollin’ And Tumblin’ (rollicking tempo, greasy solo) which add to the album’s panache. To close, Bo Diddley’s Cracking’ Up is a great ’50s rocker with three chords, a rolling rhythm and clean reverbed guitars. If you’re looking for new summer blues music for highway driving, this could be hard to beat!
Gordon Giltrap Heartsongs Psychotron Records ✪✪✪✪✪
This 20-track compilation from one of the UK’s finest and best-loved acoustic guitarists kicks off in awesome style with a 1993 remake of Gordon’s biggest hit, Heartsong. Featuring a mind-blowing cast including Brian May, Steve Howe and Midge Ure, keysman Rick Wakeman, and bassist Neil Murray it’s a fantastic reworking of a super tune. Wakeman, Howe and May all get to shine and Giltrap’s playing is flawless as ever. If you want to hear Gordon’s take on the blues then Five Dollar Guitar (inspired by Clapton talking of his hero Robert Johnson), takes it to places you never thought possible. It’s blues, Jim, but not as we know it! Simply stunning playing throughout, with Lazy Sunday, Simply Margaret (rather James Taylor-ish chords), the hymnal Forever Gold, and Em’s Tune among the favourites. Not a duff track here and a great Sunday morning listen to boot!
Clutch Book Of Bad Decisions Weathermaker ✪✪✪✪✪
It’s no shame being unfamiliar with the consistently best rock band of the 21st century, but now we’ve brought them to your attention and as they clock up their dozenth outing, there really is no excuse. Album 12 presents plenty of musical invention to unwrap and examine if you can prize yourself away from the dance floor. The funky rhythm section make the hard yards only for Neil Fallon and Tim Sult’s riffs on the riotous Gimme The Keys and rocking celebration of standout track How To Shake Hands, to steal the limelight. Even the more familiar swanky blues rock of In Walks Barbarella stands apart from the usual clichés due to Fallon’s endlessly intriguing storytelling. Not only is resistance futile, it’s an act of lunacy.